South Africa’s expelled youth leader Julius Malema urged striking miners Monday to bypass labour unions, stirring frustrations as new violence was reported in the strife-hit mining industry.
Malema told striking miners at a Gold Fields mine west of Johannesburg, where 12,000 workers have been on an illegal strike since Wednesday, that they should bypass the main mine union if their needs were not met.
“Leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) should know that you can’t act for workers without consulting them, and don’t take workers for granted,” Malema was quoted by the local Sapa news agency.
“If they fail you, you must lead yourself.”
The company has said the strike is due to an internal dispute within the NUM, the country’s biggest union and an ally of the ruling African National Congress.
On Monday, it said it had lost production over three night shifts and two day shifts so far.
The youth leader, who was axed this year by the ANC over ill-discipline, has capitalised on the mining unrest to push his radical views. Last week he was quoted telling workers to make mines “ungovernable”.
South Africa’s key mining industry has been rocked by strikes and related clashes, with police on Monday saying that four people were injured at a Gold One mine east of Johannesburg where fired workers attacked reinstated colleagues.
Deadly union rivalry at the Lonmin Marikana mine last month claimed 44 lives after police gunned down 34 striking workers.
Workers have refused to call off their illegal strike until management gives in to their wage demands.
A fierce supporter of nationalisation of mines, Malema said the gold miners’ stayaway was not threatening foreign investment.
“We are threatening profits gained by greedy shareholders,” he said after arriving in a black Merdeces-Benz to workers wielding sticks and singing songs.