Jobs for pay worsen plight of Marikana youth

Community members of Wonderkop in Marikana, collect water from a nearby water tank, the is lack of service delivery in the area. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspaper.

Community members of Wonderkop in Marikana, collect water from a nearby water tank, the is lack of service delivery in the area. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspaper.

Published Mar 7, 2024


The road leading to the infamous koppie in Marikana in the North West, where 34 miners were mowed down by police during a wage strike on August 16, 2012, stretches between shafts of mines belonging to Sibanye-Stillwater.

On the right hand side, there is a makeshift driving school preceded by a piece of gravel land where dozens of children with pieces of spring tied around their waists to keep their pants from falling off, are playing soccer.

Scores of unemployed youth sit around all day long watching the children playing soccer.

The smoke from the mine gives an impression that the people who live in the community of Wonderkop, surrounded by the Marikana mine, have jobs.

Only the roads within and leading up to the mine vicinity are properly tarred, but as you enter the untarred township mottled with patches of water and dust, you realise that this small but important part of the areas sad mining history has not realised the dream of economic freedom.

In fact the situation has worsened for many since that fateful day in 2012, when the miners were gunned down while protesting for a salary of R12 500 per month.

Worse is the recent announcement of the Section 189 process set to affect about 3700 workers.

In October last year, South Africa’s largest employer of mineworkers, Sibanye-Stillwater, announced that it would enter into Section 189 consultations to retrench over 4 000 workers amid the company’s restructuring.

The pending retrenchments come barely three years after the platinum mining giant in 2021, announced a R4 billion investment to refurbish one of the shafts acquired from Lonmin Platinum in Marikana, with the intention of creating thousands of jobs.

Even where jobs are available it’s an uphill battle. A young man who did not want to be named, said to get a job at the mine required one to have access to money as getting jobs at the mine cost R5 000 to over R10 000.

“The mine is the only hope for most of us here. If you do not work at the mine, your dreams are as good as dead. However, for that to happen you must have money. It will cost you at least R5 000 to be put on the list of those who will be earmarked for a job opportunity. You must remember that every step of the recruitment process costs money.

“People are forced to borrow money just so that they can put food on the table and have access to opportunities that come with being employed. With the mine said to be retrenching, we wonder how some of us will ever find meaningful work,” the youth said.

The once rich mining community is a shadow of its former self with most of the young people who spoke to The Star bemoaning the lack of training and job opportunities.

“It is not that we are not talented. We are talented. Young people want to do something with their lives but there is no one to help us,” Jacob Sekobane, said.

Tebogo Mabesi, a youth leader from Eskomplaas, has lost all hope of ever being employed because of the scarcity of jobs, and the corruption accompanying available jobs.

“It's a crying shame… we are all unemployed here. We even start unemployment forums but to no avail because we can, for years, look for employment here without any success.”

Mabesi decried the age criteria of the mine, saying it employed youth over the age of 18 but younger than 35.

“When you reach 35, then you are too old and you are on your own… I’m over 35 now which means I’m never ever going to work in that mine. Now that they are retrenching it is worse

“This mine has no benefit for the community. With the unemployment rate here, you can be number one on the list for four years and you would never get a job.

“Bribes are rife here at the mines. People pay R10 000 and they get a job. It’s hard. Those people are mostly coming from the Eastern Cape and Lesotho while we would be here waiting for that employment, but because they paid we lost that job,” he said.

Mabesi said the mining company does nothing to help the local community.

“I have so many questions. I’m a leader of an organisation called Siphelele Youth Development, that deals with the development of the youth.

“We have been asking the mine to at least provide us with an office to operate from but they seem not to care.

“There are a couple of derelict buildings belonging to the farm that we can fix and use as an office but the mine refuses.”

The CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater Neal Froneman said the latest job cuts were unavoidable due to declining commodity prices, requiring “significant restructuring” of the sector.

“We certainly can’t run unprofitable shafts, and our cost structure is probably the lowest in the industry. So if we have loss-making shafts, of which we have a few, they will have to be closed, and I say this with all the sensitivities on potential job losses,” he said.