About 700 mostly NUM regional leaders will this week discuss proposals‚ at its central committee meeting between June 8 and 9‚ aimed at returning the union to its heyday as South Africa’s dominant mining union. These include capping subscription fees at R250 per month‚ to stem the loss of members forced to pay significantly more than the proposed threshold by virtue of holding senior positions that pay higher salaries.
The union will also hold a rally in the Rustenburg platinum belt on June 10‚ emboldened by the apparent closure of rival‚ the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s (AMCU) office at Lonmin.
Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa did not respond to a request for comment.
The Rustenburg region was NUM’s largest before 2012 but the union experienced a reversal of fortunes with the entry of Amcu‚ which was perceived to have been independent of management influence – whereas NUM was accused of being in cahoots with them.
NUM deputy general secretary William Mabapa said that a new internal administration system put the union’s membership at 176‚232 but added that NUM had not captured the details of members employed in more than 100 companies because the union was not sure whether these companies actually existed. He said a final correct figure was still to come.
The union had previously relied on an external company for administration purposes‚ including updating membership details. That system indicated that NUM had about 193‚000 members.
NUM had 312‚000 members going into 2012.
“The resolution proposes that the capping of the membership fees be R250‚ meaning that if my 1% [membership fee] is above R250 then I must pay the subscription at R250. We may take it that we fought for black [economic] empowerment and there are a lot of people from within our ranks who have been empowered‚ that are now in higher positions and earning living wages but many times we lose some of them because you may find that their 1% [is more costly]. It is within that spirit that there must be a discussion to see whether we can’t manage this because experience has taught us that we are losing the majority of these members and we think that an organisation must be an organisation that caters for the needy as well as those who can still afford higher fees that may come across as highly punishable‚” said Mabapa.
“The proposal is informed by people who go to higher ranks‚ like managerial positions‚ but are discouraged from joining NUM because‚ in paying the 1% of their basic salary‚ it becomes too much to an extent that‚ instead of them being NUM members‚ the subscription discourages them against being members of NUM.”
Mabapa said NUM was wary of losing highly-paid members to the likes of Solidarity and Uasa‚ because they capped their subscription fees‚ particularly in the energy and mining sectors.
“In certain unions‚ membership [fees] is capped. If you look at the dominance of Uasa and Solidarity‚ the membership is capped and those are the areas we are talking about. Majority of people we are talking about are in those levels where you have that opportunity to either join Solidarity or Uasa but it is mostly in sectors like Eskom and mining. It’s not much in construction. Those are the sectors that have members that have a 1% [subscription] that is more than R250‚” he said.
Andre Venter of Uasa confirmed that all the union’s members pay a uniform fee of R108.
“Our membership fee is consistent throughout at R108 but there are certain benefits within that amount‚” he said. The central committee will also discuss the possibility of amending the constitution to increase the term of office for office bearers from three to five years as well as the number of terms leaders may serve but Mabapa cautioned against what he called the “Mugabe situation”.
Said Mabapa: “It is something we think that in maturing the organisation‚ we must look at … extending the term and whether we must have a time-frame of the terms. It gives you [as a leader] time to implement resolutions and learn the organisations but we need to manage the ‘Mugabe situation’‚ that we don’t create a situation where certain things become like Mugabe. One will be comfortable that while we increase the terms‚ one is not allowed to go more than three terms. Those are things the central committee will have to grapple with.