Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Jimmy Gama. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

THE union at the centre of the five-month platinum strike, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), says its members are interested in buying assets being sold off by Anglo American Platinum.

Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said on Sunday that workers had said they were keen to own the mines in which they worked. Mr Gama was quick to point out that it was members themselves, and not the union, who were interested in buying the mines.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) last month unveiled plans to sell its Rustenburg and Union mines, as well as two joint ventures, as it is focusing on more profitable, mechanised mines.

It also announced a sharp drop in interim profits, owing largely to the protracted strike by Amcu.

Unions getting involved in business is not unusual. Most Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) affiliates have investment companies.

Unions owning companies in which their members work is also not uncommon, with the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union, through its investment company, last year buying Seardel’s troubled operations with a loan.

Mr Gama said workers had invested a lot in their provident funds, which could be used as security for financing.

"One of the options that could be explored is that workers utilise that money and buy a significant stake in these mines in order for them to benefit.

"We need to explore various ways that will benefit the workers because the emphasis is that there should be no employees who will lose their jobs after this transition," he said.

If it was "viable and made good business sense", nothing should stop workers from buying and owning those mines themselves.

"There is no formal conclusion about whether that would be the road to take, but workers have been saying we need to now start owning these mines." Amcu will hold shop-steward councils to canvass members’ views.

The Union and Rustenburg mines account for 600,000oz of Amplats’s production of 2.3-million ounces of platinum a year, and the mines employ 27,000 of Amplats’s 50,000 workers.

Cosatu said in its statement commemorating the anniversary of the Marikana massacre on Saturday that the move by Amplats strengthened its argument in support of strategic nationalisation.

"Amplats’s decision also gives the government the opportunity to use the new state mining company to buy the mines the company is selling and use them as a model for the policies envisaged by the African National Congress," it said.