Sibanye-Stillwater mineworkers stage underground sit-in protest at Kroondal mine



Published Jun 5, 2024


A sit-in protest by more than 200 mineworkers has erupted at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Kwezi Shaft in Kroondal, Rustenburg, although the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) claimed that its members were being forced to remain underground by other employees.

As many as 211 employees remained underground starting the morning of June 3.

At another shaft, K6, there was further disruption to the night shift, with about 250 employees “gathering in a central waiting place” on the surface, according to Sibanye-Stillwater, which confirmed the protest actions.

“This unfortunate turn of events transpired following the annual payments made to beneficiaries of the Rustenburg and Marikana employee share option schemes (Esops) on Friday, June 1, 2024,” Sibanye-Stillwater said in an emailed statement.

“The striking Kroondal employees are reportedly aggrieved to not have received Esop payments, despite Kroondal employees not yet qualifying for any Esop payments.”

NUM and rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), are the major unions representing employees at the operation.

Amcu did not respond to a request for comment from ‘Business Report’ yesterday.

However, NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu, in an interview, said their members at the affected shaft were being forced to remain underground against their will.

“What we can say on record is that there is an underground sit-in that is unfolding at Kroondal mine,” Mammburu said.

“As NUM we can put it on record that we have members in that group of mineworkers who are underground and we are informed that our members are being held against their will.”

Mammburu added that the NUM workers that were underground at the Kroondal Shaft were “being intimidated” to participate in the sit-in protest, although he would not disclose who was forcing the members to remain underground.

According to statements from NUM and Sibanye-Stillwater, the company and workers’ unions had agreed to a provision under the 2023 Kroondal wage agreement for management and unions to explore the feasibility of introducing the Rustenburg Esop for Kroondal employees once the acquisition of the Kroondal Pool and Share Agreement (PSA) by Sibanye Rustenburg Platinum Mines (SRPM) had been finalised.

Several engagements between the company, organised labour, and employees regarding the proposed Esop, as per the provision, had taken place, with the parties agreeing that Kroondal employees would be included as beneficiaries of the Rustenburg Esop.

Sibanye-Stillwater said this was supposed to be effected following the conclusion of the pool share agreement transaction, which is expected before the end of this year.

“The current illegal and unprotected strike is disappointing and we appeal to all stakeholders, including employees, to follow the established grievance procedures and to refrain from illegal acts,” said Richard Stewart, chief regional officer for Southern Africa region at Sibanye-Stillwater.

“We are currently engaging with all relevant stakeholders to end this illegal action.”