In response to media misrepresentation: WASP wholeheartedly supports the AMCU strike for R12 500

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) here responds to some media reports which, whilst raising some of the key concerns over the situation in the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) that WASP together with members of workers- and AMCU shopsteward committees have raised, unfortunately also distorted the fundamental position we are putting forward, if not through quotations torn from their context, then through outright omissions.

The false impression created, for example in the Mail & Guardian Online, is that WASP is opposing the strike or AMCU itself. We want to restate categorically that we are emphatically supporting the strike action which began in the platinum industry today, Thursday, and also remain committed to the building of AMCU as a worker-controlled, democratic and fighting mass trade union for the workers in the mining industry.

What WASP has done is to raise concerns that as we enter this strike, the most burning issues which have undermined the credibility of the union and eroded its authority in the eyes of certain layers of the mineworkers in the recent period. Amongst others, these concern the defeat of the Amplats strike against retrenchments, the imposition of head office decisions on workers, the undermining of democratically elected shop stewards’ structures, the absence of regional structures, offices etc, the apparent protection of shop stewards implicated in corruption, the intimidatory climate that are not only not being addressed by the AMCU leadership, but arrogantly disregarded to the detriment of the strike and of AMCU Itself. The leadership of the union has not only failed to tackle these issues, but vilified, ostracised and brutally suppressed anyone trying to highlight them and their detriment to the cause of the looming strike, unity of the mineworkers and the future of AMCU. The shopstewards we hosted for Monday’s press briefing are amongst victims of this authoritarianism.

Some may question the timing of our public statements and open critique of Mr Mathunjwa and his dictatorial clique in AMCU, given that they are the foremost leadership of the impending strike against the bosses for the R12 500 living wage. Shouldn’t every socialist and working class fighter subordinate everything else to this – the most important battle in the unfolding class war concentrating the minds, efforts and forces of both the capitalist ruling class and the working classes today and line up behind the mineworkers and their leadership?

WASP’s answer to this question is an unequivocal yes and that is precisely what informs every position and effort on our part. If anyone is taking defeatist position and ‘shooting generals on his own side’ it is Mr Mathunjwa. His malicious public vilification, open incitement of mob violence and now alleged dismissal, without even the pretence of a kangaroo disciplinary inquiry this time, of the most militant, courageous and authoritative leaders of the mineworkers is nothing less than a decapitation of AMCU shop-stewards committees on the eve of this epic battle – a treacherous defeatist position and effective sabotage of the strike and of mineworkers.

WASP has found it imperative to raise alarm at this point precisely because of the threat to workers’ unity that is posed by the conduct of Mr Mathunjwa and the AMCU leadership. We have in other words gone public on the divisions within AMCU because of the threat they pose to the unity and victory of this very strike, and also to protect the worker leaders who have unfairly been labelled traitors by Mr Mathunjwa and who are now living under the  threat of death.

The AMCU leadership’s failure to tackle the pertinent issues such as those workers who lost their jobs in spite of Mathunjwa’s promise, on calling off last year’s Amplats strike against mass retrenchments,  that ‘no one will lose his job’, the contract workers who were compromised to ‘save permanent jobs’ and many others demonstrate the impotence of this leadership. This is the biggest threat to the unity of the mineworkers, which is indispensable for the victory in this strike and, indeed, for the sustainability of AMCU itself. Equally so, it is a problem of a lack of a clear strategy, and fighting plan to rally the broadest possible support, including those workers who currently do not feel they have a stake in the present list of demands or those feeling vulnerable as they are on temporary contracts, or parties to last year’s NUM settlement, and also mineworkers across the industry, and in other industries, the residents of poor mining communities, that can ensure victory in this battle. The humiliation of NUMSA president Andrew Chirwa at last Sunday’s AMCU rally in Rustenburg is a tragic example of this (NUMSA had been invited by the Amplats branch committee, with the consent of the AMCU national leadership, to offer its support for the strike, but once Chirwa was on stage and had been announced as a speaker, AMCU treasurer Jimmy Gama intervened to withdraw his right to speak). WASP appeals to NUMSA and other trade unions, fighting community and youth organisations to offer their support to the AMCU strike – a victory for one is a victory for all, especially on the critical question of a living wage.

Despite the concerns raised above, WASP has not changed its position to support the strike and the building of AMCU. WASP has absolute faith in the capacity of ordinary AMCU members and shopstewards to overcome these challenges during the course of the strike and to assert their rank- and-file power to ensure that the union is genuinely worker-controlled, that decisions on the strategic and tactical issues of this strike are taken democratically, that workers are united and their fighting capacity strengthened to smash poverty wages and the slavery of SA’s cheap labour system.

To this end, WASP calls for the election of representative strike/workers committees, regular mass meetings for open and democratic debates on the strategy to win R12 500 and to rally the entire working class behind the mineworkers’ cause.

Workers and Socialist Party will be campaigning particularly in communities of the North West and Carletonville, in the whole trade union movement and throughout the country to raise support for the strike and its demands.

For WASP’s previous statement on the strike and the threat of divisions within AMCU, please see