South Africa moves to stabilise mining

18 June 2013

Key players in South African mining, during a meeting chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in Pretoria at the weekend, agreed on a draft plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector.

In terms of the draft plan, the parties agreed to speed up transformation in the mining sector to ensure that ordinary workers see real change, with the government committed to speed up the process of upgrading human settlements in mining towns and improving infrastructure to support growth in the sector.

Mining management committed to managing miners’ issues more constructively, to take measures to protect staff members from violence and intimidation, and to develop protocols for security and law enforcement.

And labour committed to manage workplace conflicts by identifying and dealing with root causes, while also educating workers on labour relations and the bargaining process.

The meeting was convened amid heighted tensions between rival mining unions with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over bargaining rights at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, where 44 people died during labour unrest last year.

The government has committed to increasing police visibility after two fatal shootings involving mineworkers were reported in the area recently.

After the Marikana tragedy, President Jacob Zuma appointed a judicial commission of inquiry, currently under way in Pretoria, to probe the circumstances that led to the deaths.

“The parties recognise that the mining industry is central to South Africa’s economy, job creation as well as the need to strengthening the mining sector in these difficult global conditions,” Motlanthe told reporters after the meeting.

With the annual wage talks looming, Montlanthe said that, for the next two weeks, the parties would engage in a consultative process to determine how best to avert potential conflicts.

Motlanthe said there was broad commitment from all parties to achieve industrial peace and ensure that the mining sector continued to play a central role in South Africa’s economy.

“All parties will work jointly to identify sustainable support measures required by the sector. Government will ensure that legislative and regulatory programmes provide stability and certainty for the industry,” Motlanthe said.

The government would undertake an assessment of economic and social conditions in the mines and would take steps to prevent the abuse of workers by unscrupulous micro lenders, including reviewing regulations on garnishee orders.

In the draft framework agreement agreed to on Friday, the parties acknowledge that the rule of law has been lacking in the mining industry, leading to some of the conflict which they all said could have been avoided.

“The parties commit to restore industrial peace and that where there are disputes, those disputes are resolved through engagement, and with the support of government,” Motlanthe said.