Optimum supplies coal to Eskom Holdings. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says workers at the Gupta-owned Optimum and Kroonfontein mines in Mpumalanga have not been paid their salaries for the past two months, laying the blame on the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) overseeing the operations.

A South African consortium called Project Halo won a bid to buy Optimum Coal Mine, Koornfontein Mine and Optimum Coal Terminal for R3.05-billion from Tegeta Exploration and Resources, a mining company which is linked to the controversial Gupta family and is under administration.

In a statement, NUM Highveld regional secretary Tshilidzi Mathavha said the mines had taken a questionable stance that "there is no cash flow to sustain the business after their commitment that for as long as there is production, the business can be sustained until the process of rescuing the business is finalized."

"As we begin 2019 employees will be going for the third month without being paid their salaries as the BRPs gave unlawful instruction that employees should not report to work," Mathavha said. 

"This becomes a burden to workers whom by nature and character survive by selling their labour to their employer. What is of great concern is the fact that BRP's always gave false hope to the union as if the situation was under control only to find that there is no money."

Mathavha said the NUM was not convinced that BRPs were working in the interest of rescuing the businesses from their financial constraints. 

"To our surprise, BRPs preferred Project Halo to take over Optimum and Kroonfontein," he said. "Project Halo has no financial muscles to sustain the business and further to that they have no mining license which clearly indicates that BRP's are undermining the creditors and all they want is to further suffocate the business."

NUM called on its members "not to listen and be misled by demagogues and shenanigans who want to hijack the struggle and project themselves as messiahs".

"The deliberate sabotage by these BRP is a clear indication of the brutality of capitalism, in its nature and character, it is exploitative, careless and rapacious," Mathavha added.

African News Agency (ANA)