AMCU Calls Out Mining Minister Over Mine Safety

5 March 2019

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) criticises the Minister of Mineral Resources for his comments regarding health and safety at the mines. The Union repeats its submissions that mining bosses should be prosecuted for fatalities while it also slams the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its affiliated trade unions for being in alliance with the ruling party. AMCU repeats its calls for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA).

AMCU is not shocked by the latest remarks of Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, showing his lacking concern of the health and safety of mineworkers. These views were exposed by the President of AMCU during the media briefing on the Mine Health & Safety Statistics held on 1 March 2019.

President Joseph Mathunjwa, who attended the event, criticised the mining bosses for avoiding spending money on safety measures at their mines, instead choosing to give themselves hyper bonuses and hyper increases to their already mammoth basic salaries. They also refuse to pay their workers a living wage, which is why AMCU is currently on strike for more than three (3) months at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations in the Free State and on the West-Rand.

President Mathunjwa directly pointed out that mining bosses should be held accountable for deaths and injuries at mines. He indicated that these are not mere statistics, and that each number represents a breadwinner. He said that, until such time as mining bosses are prosecuted for this, the killing of our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters will never be stopped.

President Mathunjwa again repeated AMCU’s campaign that mine fatalities must be treated as culpable homicide, reminding the audience that AMCU has consistently campaigned for the amendment of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) to include prosecution of mining bosses.

AMCU exposed the true colours of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) when we called for prosecution. Immediately Minister Mantashe cited possible damage to businesses, telling AMCU not be emotional about the fatalities. It is clear that the Minster was presenting himself as a minister who has been co-opted by Capital, and who has forgotten the plight of workers.

It is becoming more and more evident that, unless the working class redefines itself as a true working class, Capital and the State will continue to collude against our struggle. AMCU is convinced that the continuation of union federations aligning itself with government as an alliance seriously compromises the progress of the working class in South Africa. While we respect the long history of the tripartite alliance, it must be recognised that it has led to a serious detraction from its original goals and objectives.

For us to deal with the inequality and injustice committed by Capital and the State, which undermines the plight of the working class, we must review our alliances and associations. COSATU and its affiliates places great limitations of the voice of the workers by still aligning itself to government.

When AMCU first called for amendments to the MHSA, it did not gain any traction from any other trade union or federation, not even to mention the government. Still, government exposed its neoliberal and capitalist agenda by being quick to amend the Labour Relations Act (LRA) to undermine AMCU. The only changes to the LRA have been those designed to frustrate AMCU, and to stop us from changing the lives of our members.

Ironically, COSATU and its affiliates were part of these talks at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). They turned a blind eye to all these concessions. If this fact doesn’t dawn on the minds of these groupings, and how their alliance is not progressive especially after the post-1994 compromise, it will surely never dawn upon them.

We need to put together the pieces as the working class, in order to save the nation at large, because the future lies between Labour and Capital. How will we be able to counter monopoly capital, if federations and their affiliates are waiting patiently for the crumbs of their masters to fall from the table? We need to open our eyes and see the truth for what it is. Let us narrow the gap which divides the working class.
AMCU repeats its call for urgent amendments to the MHSA, so that mining bosses can be held accountable, coupled with maximum compensation for those injured and killed at the mines. The maximums shouldn’t be based on the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) scales, as mineworkers still work slavery wages. Rather, compensation should be based on the socio-economic needs of workers.