Johannesburg - The second South African mining lekgotla started on Tuesday at the Sandton Convention Centre under the theme “Competitiveness and Transformation for Growth”.
The Chamber of Mines of South Africa, in partnership with the Department of Mineral Resources and the National Union of Mineworkers, facilitated the lekgotla.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe delivered the keynote speech and applauded the organisers for providing an opportunity for key role-players in the mining industry to share their views on problems that continue to afflict the industry.
Motlanthe lambasted what he said were discriminatory practices by big mining companies that saw “super profits being reaped from the super-exploitation” of mineworkers.
He said the mining sector remained central to South Africa’s job creation and economy, contributing 6 percent of the gross domestic product, but was ridden with unfair practices against miners that needed to be dealt with.
“The scar that needs immediate attention is the migrant labour system, which has seen mineworkers working for 12 long months, with only a few days of Christmas break. Eighteen years after the country attained democracy, there has been no overhaul in the migrant system at all.”
Motlanthe said the failure to build workers’ nuclear families encouraged HIV infection, which in turn resulted in higher absenteeism.
“Sadly, the mining sector is a prisoner of its apartheid past,” he added.
He encouraged the industry to improve the working conditions of miners.
“Workers have a contribution to make; the more mines thrive, the more workers should be remunerated.”
This echoed the sentiments of a group of demonstrators who gathered outside the lekgotla venue, holding placards with messages such as “You profit from our suffering” and “Scrap the Minerals Act”.
The picketers were from the newly formed Mining Affected Communities United in Action, comprising people living in mining communities.
Motlanthe said the government had no intention to micro-manage mining companies, but was committed to join hands with organised labour and business to ensure the rule of law, an end to violence and conflict, and the elimination of bad policies.
He drew the lekgotla’s attention to last August’s Marikana shootings. He said the incident was a tragic loss of life that could have been avoided.
“We have hope that the Farlam Commission of Inquiry will get to the bottom of this tragedy so that we can address all social determinants which resulted in this tragic event.”
The lekgotla will run until Thursday. - The Star