Gold One Mine: Miner says gripping hunger forced them to abandon four-day sit-in

Men standing outside a mine

More than 400 workers at Gold One East Operations mine emerged on Monday after spending four days underground. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers.

Published Dec 12, 2023


As more than 400 mineworkers emerged from an underground shaft at the Gold One Mine in Springs on Monday, some of the miners who participated in the four-day sit-in said they did not have food during their stay in the shaft.

The delicate situation which played out at the gold mine, east of Johannesburg, was previously described as both a hostage situation and a labour-related sit-in as some of the miners were acting in solidarity with the 50 workers that were retrenched for their involvement in another sit-in in October.

Some of the workers who emerged from the shaft on Monday said they were demanding that their colleagues who were fired or suspended after the October sit-in at the mine be reinstated immediately.

One of the miners who stayed underground for four days, Vuyolwethu Makwenda told journalists at the mine that they did not have food, and hunger forced them to end the sit-in.

More than 400 workers at Gold One East Operations mine emerged on Monday after spending four days underground. File Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

“This is the first time I am eating in four days. I feel a lot better now, because it was very hard. We only had water underground. That is all we had,” said Makwenda.

“What made us come to the surface today - it is hunger. Hunger had gripped us so much, we could not go on. There were some people who were ill and they did not have their medication. They were not allowed to bring their medication. It was so bad.”

On Monday morning, IOL reported that the more than 400 mineworkers had remained underground amid allegations that the workers were being forcefully held against their will, while some of the miners are being stripped and routinely assaulted.

In an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, Victor Ngwane regional organiser of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said there was no voluntary sit-in being staged, but a hostage situation characterised by severe flogging of the workers underground, with racial bias.

“What we know is that everyone who is underground is being held hostage now. There is no management managing the situation,” Ngwane said in the interview.

“The latest (information) is that it has now escalated to a racial issue. There are white miners underground who are being humiliated,” he said.

“They are undressed, and they are being whipped from time to time. The perpetrators say if they beat up these white guys, management and government will listen to them.”

Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). File Picture: Tracey Adams/Independent Media

Ngwane said over the weekend, a severely beaten up “white miner” emerged from the shaft.

“The white miner who was brutally beaten and came to surface, he was naked. He came to the surface naked. They beat him up and left him by the station, they (perpetrators) called for the cage to come down and he was returned to surface,” he said.