The shooting at Lonmin's Marikana mine, in Rustenburg, was a reminder to the government of its responsibility to monitor the treatment of mine workers, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
“Given that this industry is the backbone of our economy and has a long, bright future, we have to ensure that its growth also benefits workers and communities it operates in,” he said
“In terms of the Mining Charter, all mining companies are required to implement measures to improve the standard of housing and living conditions of mine workers.”
Zuma was speaking at a lecture commemorating former African National Congress president James Moroka, in Mmabatho, North West.
He said that according to the charter, mining companies were supposed to convert or upgrade their hostels into family units, ensure that only one person occupied a room and facilitate home ownership options for workers by 2014.
“Last year, the ANC government conducted audits on compliance with the Mining Charter for all platinum mines in the North West region,” Zuma said.
“In terms of the 2012 scorecard, the improvements of hostels to attain the one person per room upgrade and into family units is only 50 percent. Some companies have plans in place and have achieved some of the targets, such as housing for employees.”
He said other companies were falling behind on compliance.
“One company has a hostel block accommodating 166 employees, who have to share four toilets and four showers amongst them,” Zuma said.
“We urge the industry to take this matter seriously. Mine owners are aware that sanctions for non-compliance with the charter include the cancellation of mining rights or licences.”
Last week, the platinum mining company's rock drill operators in Marikana embarked on a protest in which 10 people, including two security guards and two police officers, were killed. The protests culminated in clashes with the police on Thursday, in which 34
miners were shot dead, 78 were injured and 260 were arrested.
Zuma visited the mine on Friday and announced he would set up a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the incident.
He also visited mine workers on Wednesday to hear their side of the incident.
“When I went to Marikana the first time when the incident had just happened, I met with the police and also met some of the injured miners in hospital,” he said.
“Earlier today, I again visited Marikana and obtained a report from the striking workers. I have now listened all sides, but I will not prejudge the incidents.”
Zuma told striking mineworkers on Wednesday that he would speak to Lonmin about their demand for a R12,500 salary.
He said at the lecture that the commission was being established.
“The judicial commission of inquiry that we are in the process of establishing will uncover the truth about what happened in Marikana. It must tell us how the industrial dispute degenerated into such a tragedy.
“We should be able to announce members of the commission and other information before the end of the week.”
He said the mining sector was important in the country, especially since estimates suggested that mineral resources were “expected to be exploitable for over a century to come”.
“It is for this reason that the ANC will discuss mining at length at the national conference in December, to see how we can derive greater benefit from the sector.”
Zuma said he was raising the Marikana issue at the lecture because “we are commemorating an ANC president whose presidency was characterised by the transformation of the ANC into a very militant organisation”.
“What we are seeing in our country is a continuation of a strong culture of freedom of expression which was nurtured and developed by the ANC,” he said.
“We just need to ensure that we go back to the basics, and promote peaceful protest, as it is more effective.” - Sapa