NUM president Piet Matosa, secretary general David Sipunzi and his deputy William Mabapa brief media on retrenchments in the mining sector. Picture: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesburg - Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, under whom the industry continued to bleed jobs, was the worst minister the country had had since the dawn of democracy in 1994, the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) said on Monday.

The union said it had ''no working relationship'' with Zwane and reiterated its call to President Jacob Zuma to fire him.

''We do not have a relationship with doesn't exist. The minister has decided to work with other people he works with, whom we do not know. He has decided to embark on a number of changes in the department without even sensitising us as a union,'' Num president Piet Matosa told reporters in Johannesburg.

''We have worked well with all ministers in the department since 1994. We can confirm that the relationship with Minister Mosebenzi Zwane is the worst that we have ever had as a of the problems is that he is never available, when you meet him in activities of the movement [ANC] he behaves as if he had been looking for us and everything is well. We're about to ask the President to remove him as a minister...he is not assisting the country and the industry.''

Zwane, alleged to have close ties to the controversial Gupta family, took over from Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who was moved to the public service and administration ministry in 2015.

Num secretary general David Sipunzi said retrenchment notices being received by the union increased by the day, and that Zwane's decision to put a moratorium on new mining applications, placing restrictions on the granting of new mining and permitting rights and transfer of mineral rights between companies, would worsen the situation.

''We are of the view that such moratorium will negatively affect our members through job losses, since there would be no section 11 approvals taking place on the change of ownership and new mining prospecting rights,'' said Sipunzi.

''The proposed actions by the minister, unfortunately, emanates from his very own court agreement of withdrawing the implementation of the charter with Chamber of Mines, thus the union will be submitting to the department to desist from implementing the moratorium with immediate effect.''

Over 20 000 workers in the country's mines faced retrenchments. The union leaders said they had received section 189 notices from AngloGold Ashanti and Bokone Platinum, who plan to retrench 8 500 and 2 651 workers respectively. 

An additional 3 000 contract workers would also lose their jobs at Bokone, increasing the figure to over 5 000.

Sipunzi said the industry had shed 80 000 jobs over the past five years, and blamed the owners whom he said focused on making profits on mechanisation, and not on workers' job security and the re-training of retrenched workers. 

However, the fight to save jobs was not made easy by Zwane, he added.

"We are facing mining companies who are not willing to save jobs...and at the same time we're facing a minister who everyday comes up with a story justifying what mining companies are just does not know what else the minister will say tomorrow that will further destabilise the industry. The future is bleak.''

The union has called for a job summit to deal with ongoing job losses in the sector. It called on companies to ''revisit their position'' on retrenchments.

"Given the research that shows one mining job supports around ten people, thousands of families will be affected by these job losses. The planned retrenchments will create more unemployment, increase poverty and create ghost towns with no hope and human dignity,'' said Sipunzi.