JOHANNESBURG – Members of South Africa's AMCU mining union are ready to strike for a year if necessary and would bring the platinum belt to a standstill if Impala Platinum carries out plans to cut up to 13 400 jobs, the union's president said on Thursday.
Joseph Mathunjwa, who led a five-month strike in 2014, was speaking at a televised memorial marking the sixth anniversary of the "Marikana Massacre" when police shot dead 34 workers taking part in a strike at Lonmin's platinum mine there.
"No-one scares us, five months was nothing," said a visibly angry Mathunjwa before thousands of his members, adding that nothing would move during the strike in the platinum belt, home to one of South Africa's most important industries and location of the majority of the world's reserves of the precious metal.
"I'm telling you, we will do it for 12 months and these mines will not be operational, they will be at a standstill, nothing will happening here in South Africa, the revolution is imminent," Mathunjwa told the event at Marikana, 110 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.
South Africa's platinum belt is a flashpoint of labour and social unrest rooted in community grievances over jobs, revenue flows and conflict between rival unions.
Mathunjwa warned last week of unspecified industrial action by his Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at Implats over its plans to cut around a third of its workforce, in a bid to return to profits in the face of depressed prices and soaring costs.
Unemployment in Africa's most industrialised economy stands at more than 27% and job cuts are a hot political issue ahead of national elections next year.
Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe lashed out on Thursday at Gold Fields' plans to cut 1 100 permanent jobs at its loss-making South Deep mine, blaming the operation's performance on poor management.
CE Nick Holland said he had no plans to step down in the face of the criticism from Mantashe, a gruff former trade unionist and chairman of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).