SA cannot afford another Marikana

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IOL sep 17 lonmin vs police REUTERS (File photo) A protester sings as police officers stand guard to prevent marchers from proceeding in Rustenburg.

Pretoria - South Africa cannot afford another Marikana, as the shooting has created a plethora of problems for the economy, a legal expert said on Wednesday.

“The effect of Marikana on the economy has been devastating. Its cost on the economy is estimated at over R10 billion in lost production,” said Peter Leon, a partner at law firm Webber Wentzel.

“The GDP (gross domestic product) growth is estimated this year at only two percent. We are actually moving backwards. We cannot afford another Marikana.”

He called for more interventions to prevent a repeat of the August 16 shooting at Lonmin's mine in the North West, in which 34

striking miners were killed during a confrontation with police.

“(President Jacob) Zuma has appointed the commission of inquiry to look at the matter, but much more needs to be done. There needs to be more direct and more effective interventions,” Leon told the annual 2012 Transformation Indaba at the Innovation Hub, east of Pretoria.

Leon said the Marikana shooting revealed that workers had rejected collective bargaining.

“When Marikana happened the resolution of the labour dispute was mediated by the SA Council of Churches and not by the National Union of Mineworkers or the Amcu (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union). The collective bargaining did not work in that situation and it was by-passed,” said Leon.

A “new deal” was needed for transforming South Africa’s mines, Leon said. Transformation of the mining sector, as defined by the mining charter, was not confined to ownership of mines.

Ideal black economic empowerment would include employee share ownership, community development agreements, and radical changes to company law.

“People often lose sight of this; the mining charter isn't only concerned about ownership. It is also concerned about procurement, enterprise and skills development, beneficiation, housing and living conditions, and human resource management.”

Leon said there was an overemphasis on ownership to the detriment of other aspects of the mining charter.

Many mining companies benefited the same connected individuals at the expense of mineworkers and people living around the mines.

Another panellist at the indaba, Peter Temane, chairman of the SA Mining Development Association, said most mining companies paid lip service to transformation regulations.

“Marikana was a manifestation of the frustrations of workers. If you go to almost any major mining area you find big mining operations and squalor around it. There is unwillingness by the major, foreign companies to stick to transformation.

“Transformation is going to happen, it may end up being imposed on the industry. If the mining companies are not willing to accept transformation, they will be forced to. Unfortunately we don’t have much time on our side.”

Temane said the intentions of the BBE regulations were noble to transform the South African economy, but the legislation was bedevilled by implementation problems.

“We are now having unintended consequences due to lack of adherence to the policies and the unwillingness of multi-national companies to accept that they need to share the wealth of this country with the people.

“I am of the view that the mineral wealth of this country must bring in the greatest benefit for citizens. Instead of creating one or two billionaires, why not create 1 000 or 2 000 millionaires?” he asked. - Sapa

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