THE possible 14000 retrenchments at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) was a "drop in the ocean" and should prompt the government to nationalise the financially strained multinational, Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said yesterday.
Workers downed tools in an illegal strike on Tuesday evening after the announcement of plans by Amplats to mothball shafts, shut plants and sell a mine.
They returned to work last night, after Amcu leaders told them to do so, urging them to follow legal processes when withdrawing their labour.
Mathunjwa, addressing a media briefing yesterday, said the planned job cuts at Amplats were "just the beginning".
He urged the government to intervene after nationalisation was removed from the table at the ANC elective conference in December in favour of "strategic state intervention".
"If Anglo persists to close [operations] ... it is a window for the government to close that mine, to take over that mine ... to start to see how nationalisation works on a small scale," he said.
He warned that as long as key sectors of the country's economy were run by "foreigners", there would be no end to the impasse in the mining sector.
Multinational mining companies remained in Zimbabwe even after the state took over 51% of their business – and that should be a lesson to South Africa.
The government and the ANC had been punting the National Development Plan as the panacea to South Africa's economic woes but the plan was long term, Mathunjwa said.
Amcu claims to have 26000 members at Amplats and continues to fight for recognition rights.
A mass meeting with workers would be held tomorrow to chart a way forward, after talks on the workers' future were set to commence at the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation yesterday. – Additional reporting by Allan Seccombe