Gwede Mantashe should stop selling out to mining sector - COSATU

Federation says minister lacks commitment to the zero harm principle

Minister Gwede Mantashe should stop selling out to the Mining sector

4 March 2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) denounces and rejects the statements by Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe that prosecuting the mine bosses will collapse the mining sector. The minister has also downplayed the deaths of mine workers by comparing this year's fatality statistics to last year’s numbers. We agree with our affiliated union the NUM with their assertion that “One mine death is one too many”.

The minister seems to have forgotten that behind these numbers, there are real people who are leaving their families behind with no source of income. It is, therefore, deeply troubling that while many workers are dying like flies, the Minister is busy sending love letters to the mining bosses, instead of holding them accountable.

This can only be interpreted as a sign of a lack of commitment towards zero harm by the minister. It is the federation ’s conviction that holding mining bosses accountable for safety is the only solution that will help bring down the death rate in South Africa's mines. 

The Minister is ignoring the fact that many mining companies use threats and punishments to force workers to work faster and take more risks. If workers stop because the workplace is not safe, they may get charged and sometimes even fired. The fear of punishment forces workers to take more chances and when workers take more chances they have more accidents.

COSATU is of the view that section 23 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) which grants mineworkers the full right to refuse to work in dangerous operations needs to be strengthened. Currently, workers stand the risk of being charged by supervisors for failing to execute a lawful instruction.

We reiterate our call for the Mine Health and Safety Act to be amended to allow for the prosecution of mine bosses if workers are killed underground. Mine owners must be held personally liable for lives lost underground. This is the only way to end mine fatalities.

Mineworkers should not be treated like glorified slaves. They sell their labour and not their lives.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 4 March 2019