South African government says it intends to de-register AMCU union

Striking AMCU workers. (Image from archives)

South Africa’s labour registrar said he intended to de-register the militant AMCU trade union for breaking rules on how unions should operate, a move which could reshape the balance of power on the country’s platinum belt.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), one of the largest trade unions in South Africa’s mining sector, has thousands of members at mines operated by companies including Sibanye-Stillwater and Lonmin.

The union, which is known for its uncompromising stance after leading bruising strikes, rose to prominence during labour unrest which led to the 2012 killing of striking mine workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

If the labour registrar goes ahead with his threat to de-register AMCU, it would not be able to operate as a trade union. That would be a victory for the rival National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), with is aligned with the governing African National Congress (ANC) party.

The de-registration could also spark unrest in mining communities if AMCU members protest. AMCU originally started as a breakaway from NUM.

“I, Lehlohonolo Daniel Molefe, Registrar of Labour Relations,…give notice of my intention to cancel the registration of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union,” a notice in South Africa’s government gazette published on Wednesday said.

Giving reasons, Molefe said: “The trade union has ceased to function in terms of its constitution and the trade union is not a genuine trade union as envisaged in the Act.”

An AMCU spokeswoman said the union’s leader, Joseph Mathunjwa was not available for comment.

A spokesman for the labour ministry said labour registrar Molefe had found that AMCU had violated its own rules by not holding a national congress for more than five years. That means its senior officials have not been elected as they should, he said.

Last week AMCU ended a five-month walkout that cost Sibanye-Stillwater more than $100 million in lost revenue.

(By Alexander Winning and Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia/Mark Heinrich)

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