Insight: South Africa mine union revolt shows cracks in ANC rule
By Ed Stoddard and Sherilee Lakmidas
MODDER EAST/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Shaking his fist and surrounded by angry colleagues, South African gold miner Chres Manyaka raged against 'fat cats' getting rich from the sweat of the workers.
But he was not talking about managers of the Gold One company, which had sacked him and several other fellow workers for an illegal strike at the mine east of Johannesburg.
Manyaka's tirade was against bosses of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a pillar in the trade union alliance that brought workers to the fight against apartheid and helped carry the African National Congress (ANC) to power in 1994 in the continent's largest economy and No. 1 platinum producer.
"If you go and see the NUM people you can see the big stomachs. NUM now is like management," 28-year-old Manyaka said outside Gold One's entrance, fringed by the blue gum trees whose timber has been used for beams in South African mines.
Complaints that the NUM, which remains a buttress of political and electoral support for the ruling ANC-led alliance, is not defending the interests of its rank and file have put the legendary labor grouping under siege.
Aggressive upstart unions have been poaching NUM members in often violent turf wars waged from the shantytowns ringing the world's largest platinum mine to smaller gold producing pits.
The ANC, which has governed since the end of white rule in 1994, starting under the magnetic leadership of Nelson Mandela, still looks unrivaled in the political sphere.
But the groundswell revolt against the NUM is tapping into the same popular discontent with poor government delivery of services that is confronting the ANC. Continued...