About 10 percent of South Africa’s 400 000 mining employees come from neighbouring countries. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
About 10 percent of South Africa’s 400 000 mining employees come from neighbouring countries. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Return of foreign miners will be delayed

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jun 22, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – The Minerals Council South Africa has flagged that the process of facilitating the return of foreign mine workers as the lockdown restrictions were eased would take longer than expected due to delays at the Mozambique and Lesotho border posts.

Nikisi Lesufi, the council's senior executive for the environment, health and legacies, told Parliament’s portfolio committee on minerals and energy on Friday that about 3 500 employees from Mozambique and about 8 500 from Lesotho were prepared to return to work. 

“The border posts in Mozambique can only process 400 employees a day. We are going to take two to three weeks to process the employees in Mozambique. In Lesotho, there are close to 8 500 employees and three border posts. Each one of them can only take 130 employees a day. It will take much longer to process employees in Lesotho over a 20- to 25-day period to bring the workers back,” said Lesufi.

He added that the plan would be endorsed by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure. 

On arrival in South Africa, the mineworkers were expected to be quarantined for two weeks. Lesufi said last month that the council would embark on a three-month process of facilitating the return of 9 500 mine workers from neighbouring countries as of next week. 

He said about 10 percent of South Africa’s 400 000 mining employees came from neighbouring countries, particularly Lesotho and Mozambique.

About 260 000 mineworkers had been screened and had returned to work. The mining industry has recorded 1 289 positive cases and three deaths, while 484 employees have recovered. Mining production took a 47.3 percent knock in April due to the lockdown restrictions.  

Council chief executive Roger Baxter told the committee that the industry accepted that the prime responsibility for ensuring the effective implementation of measures to ensure healthy and safe working practices rested with management. 

“The industry has been doing a huge amount of work together with its partners, organised labour and the government, to manage the pandemic. The fact that we have done a lot more testing and screening means that our systems are working. The quarantine systems are working, and the tracing and tracking systems are working,” Baxter said.

Tebello Chabana, the council’s senior executive for transformation, said the industry was helping to sustain communities through, among other things, the provision of food and water. “The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities that exist in our society. Mining companies had to come to the rescue of our mining communities,” said Chabana.

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