Mineworkers continue to risk their lives toiling underground for meagre wages – despite the changes made to the discriminatory laws that enabled mine bosses to make “super-profits drawn from the super-exploited”.
So says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, in a tone suggesting that he might be losing patience with the slow pace of transformation in the mining industry.
“As you are aware, the mining industry has for all these years thrived by relying on a raft of discriminatory legislation that enabled it to make super-profits drawn from the super-exploitation of unskilled workers and an archaic migrant labour system. Today, workers still experience some of the same problems,” Motlanthe said yesterday.
He was addressing delegates at the Bench Marks Foundation conference in Kempton Park.
The conference was to debate whether mining, in as much as it had contributed to developing South Africa, also had negative social, economic and environment consequences.
President Jacob Zuma has charged Motlanthe with the task of leading the government’s mission to stabilise the mining sector and the economy in general.
This followed the weakening of the rand and lower investor interest because of the recent wave of crippling industrial action.
Motlanthe said exploitation of workers had continued despite positive changes to labour policy and legislation.
To emphasise his point, he quoted founding ANC secretary-general Sol Plaatje’s description of the working conditions of mineworkers in the country nearly 100 years ago.
Plaatje had said then: “Two hundred thousand subterranean heroes who, by day and by night, for a mere pittance, lay down their lives to the familiar ‘fall of rock’.
“And who, at deep levels… in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miner’s phthisis and pneumonia.”
Motlanthe praised the Bench Marks Foundation for fighting for the rights of miners and poor mining communities. The Bench Marks Foundation is an independent orga- nisation comprising NGOs, religious and other community-based organisations across southern Africa.
He said the foundation’s research methodology was invaluable as it provided evidence-based research for measuring responsible business reaction when addressing the problems.
“Your policy… states overarching principles that call for a sustainable and equitable system of production and distribution (and) preservation of the environment for present and future generations.
“It also calls for participation by the most affected and afflicted communities (and) the general promotion of life and freedom for all.”
Motlanthe said the government was already making progress to reduce the high rate of co-infection of TB and HIV, which are more prevalent in informal settlements in and around the mines.
He stressed the importance of eradicating the migrant labour system by providing integrated housing units and recreational facilities.
Motlanthe called for collaborative partnerships between mine bosses, organised business, labour and the government to root out the problems in the mining sector.
In July, these parties adopted the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry in a bid to restore the rule of law, peace and stability in the ailing sector, and to help provide proper housing and sanitation in the troubled Rustenburg platinum belt. - The Star