Workers hold up placards expressing their frustration following ongoing tension at RBM
Picture: Bongani Mbatha
Workers hold up placards expressing their frustration following ongoing tension at RBM Picture: Bongani Mbatha

Richards Bay jobs on line over protests

By SAKHISENI NXUMALO Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Durban - KwaMbonambi residents believe that government officials, politicians and traditional leaders are benefiting from the money allocated to the community by Richards Bay Minerals (RBM).

This is according to one of the traditional leaders, Sizwe Ngema, who said that residents were demanding the chieftaincy be finalised, as they had been without a chief for over a decade. They claimed that this had made them vulnerable to corrupt officials.

“People want to be under the rule of our chief. If there is no chief, that means there is no leadership in the community.

“The money allocated to the community by the mine just disappears and does not reach residents; if we had a chief there wouldn’t be corruption. They are taking advantage of us,” said Ngema.

Rio Tinto, the company that owns RBM, halted mining operations at the beginning of the month over escalating violence in the community. RBM, which contributes over R6.2billion to the province’s economy annually, halted operations after employees were shot and injured during last month’s protests. Ngema said the community had vowed not to allow the mine to continue operating on their ancestral land while they had not been compensated for it.

He said that after chief Sibusiso Mbuyazi died, they called for the government to recognise the queen, Sthembile Mbonambi, as leader of the Mbuyazi clan, but the calls had been ignored.

Last year, the community received R74 million in development funding from RBM as compensation for their land.

According to Ngema, a number of community members had not yet benefited from the land compensation fund that was given to them after their houses were damaged.

“The current leadership is victimising the community and must be removed. The company allocated R74m, plus R70m from the KZN government, but no one from the community has benefited.

“All we want is that there must be something that is done about our traditional councils, and corrupt officials must be removed. We have agreed that the provincial leadership will visit the community to speak directly to them. The violence won’t stop until all these issues are resolved, as the community wants what belongs to it,” he said.

Jobs of about 1900 permanent employees, and more than 2500 workers from 200 contractors, are on the line as workers have not been at work since the beginning of December.

Workers protested outside the uMhlathuze Civic Centre in Richards Bay yesterday, while premier Sihle Zikalala and other government officials met with Rio Tinto officials.

According to one of the workers, the work stoppages had led to the entire workforce being placed on leave.

“I’ve been employed in this company for years, and I have never felt this threatened about losing my job. I have a family depending on my income to survive,” he said.

“As we won’t get paid, I don’t know how my children are going to go to school next year. The government must do what they have to do for the community, so that we don’t lose our jobs.”

Zikalala said they were concerned about the violence.

It was endangering the lives of workers and staff and had the potential to sabotage the economy of the province and the country.

“These developments are impacting negatively on the image of our province and have the potential to thwart our efforts to boost and inspire investor confidence.

“The challenge facing RBM does not augur well for the investment attraction efforts of the government of KZN and the country.

“If people are claiming that their properties were damaged, the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs is going to lead the verification process.

“What we stand for is the growth of the economy of the province and that is why we will support each and every investor,” said Zikalala.

The Mercury

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