I'm no hero - Mathunjwa

Rustenburg - To his supporters and followers Joseph Mathunjwa, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is a hero, but he regards himself as a failure.

"I am not a hero. I am a failure. I failed to save the lives of 34 mineworkers. I failed to convince them to leave the koppie," Mathunjwa told about 12 000 people at Nkaneng informal settlement in Wonderkop , Marikana.

They had gathered to mark the deaths of 34 mineworkers killed in a clash with police during a strike on 16 August 2012.

The surprised crowd had earlier praised him, calling him "hunger buster" and the "appointed son of God" to deliver them from poverty.

They lauded his ability to have negotiated a wage agreement that increased their salary by R1 000.

The agreement was signed in June this year, after a new strike that lasted five months at Lonmin, Impala and Anglo American platinum mining companies near the North West town of Rustenburg.

Mathunjwa commands respect amongst his followers. When he arrives they all want to shake his hand, or take a cellphone picture. When he speaks, they listen attentively.

On Saturday Mathunjwa shared with them what he thinks of himself.

"I regard myself as a failure, not a hero," he said.

Mathunjwa was once expelled from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and went on to form his own union, Amcu, which dethroned NUM as the dominant union along the platinum belt.

He told the crowd that 16 August 2012 reminded him of how he had failed to pursued mineworkers to leave the koppie they had gathered on during a wildcat strike in 2012 where Lonmin mineworkers held out on their demand for an increase to R12 500 per month.

"I knelt as a symbol of respect. I pleaded with them to leave there," he said, pointing about 500m away at the foot of the koppie.

"But they were defiant. They said they wanted management to come to them with answers to their demands."

Ten people had already died in the preceding week - among them two policemen and two Lonmin security guards.

But not long after he spoke to them, 34 people were shot dead when police opened fire on them.

The Farlam Commission of Inquiry is currently piecing together the events of the days before the 16 August, and on the day of the shootings, taking evidence from a range of witnesses from policemen to the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time.

Mathunjwa said he could not sleep peacefully when he thought of the families of the dead mineworkers and what the future held for them.

His union donated R2m to start a trust fund that would help widows and families of slain mineworkers, many of whom have said they are struggling to make ends meet.

Sphiwe J Sibanyoni 2014-08-16 10:49:36 PM
Joseph Mathunjwa you killed those 34 people, and some are blind to see that you responsable for the killing
Johan 2014-08-16 10:54:40 PM
Your right. Your a tsunami washing away jobs and food from the tables of poor children. People like you prey on the poor illiterate people. Shame on you and then you utter the word apartheid. Your organization are 1000x worse
Seth 2014-08-16 10:59:45 PM
Viva joseph mathunjwa,we must organize another strike this time in the diamond and gold sector
Lekoadi Aaron Temane 2014-08-16 11:06:24 PM
We're waiting for u at OR Tambo int airport,
Hloni Matli 2014-08-17 12:30:14 AM
black life is cheaper than a white suit....whites will always find à way to eliminate us blacks every chance they get...unfortunately using ppl like us bocyril for one to do so....viva Dali Mpofu viva...Modimo ha se setlaela u r one amongst a few to save lives rather than have billions nd yet ruthless ....
sechaba.thabo.39 2014-08-17 01:07:18 AM
Simon there is no use to write bombastic words like this beacuse they are non existing in the minds of mine workers .would you please stop cretesizing people who are trying to make deference to the lives of mine workers.beacuse you sound like somebody highly educated honestly what are you doing to try to improve lives of your fellow human beings
Johann Enslin 2014-08-17 01:08:15 AM
If this is the calibre of your leaders you are in bigger trouble than you know.
Johann Enslin 2014-08-17 01:15:00 AM
Let's not forget the people who were hacked to death before these miners were shot. The police might have been incompetent but that does not absolve the Marikana group from their actions. They were the agressors. They are not saints. They showed a total disregard for the people they hacked to death or for those who wished to work. Hero? No. Villain.
Mageba 2014-08-17 01:21:23 AM
Now who the hell had said this guy Mathunjwa is a hero???
John Bass 2014-08-17 05:17:09 AM
You got that right Joe. You are a wanna be big time loud mouth who can't keep his ridiculous promises.