The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is calling for the resignation of the CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, after another three (3) mineworkers have been killed. Initial reports are that the three (3) mineworkers were crushed at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix operations after a load haul dump machine crashed into the platform they were working on, and subsequently drove over them.
“Our condolences go out to the families and loved ones of these three fallen comrades”, said AMCU General Secretary, Jeffrey Mphahlele. “We pray that God will give them healing and comfort after this horrific event which will change their lives forever”, he said.
These three mineworkers are workers number sixteen, seventeen and eighteen killed by Sibanye-Stillwater in the year to date. Just this morning, AMCU reported on worker number fifteen’s death at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Khuseleka Shaft in Rustenburg, and now another three mineworkers are killed.
“That is four breadwinners in one day”, exclaimed Mphahlele. “It must be some kind of record. As our President said in his statement this morning, as AMCU, we are left speechless and we don’t know what to do anymore. We have written letters upon letters, but nothing helps. The mines don’t care and the DMRE [Department of Mineral Resources and Energy] don’t care”, he said. “To kill eighteen workers in eleven months cannot be right. This company (Sibanye-Stillwater) must take do something now”, Mphahlele added.
AMCU has previously written to Sibanye-Stillwater’s CEO, Neal Froneman about the escalating deaths at his mines, but this came to naught. The Union then wrote to the Sibanye-Stillwater Board of Directors, asking for an urgent engagement, but the Board refused to meet with AMCU. AMCU wrote several letters to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) about the issue of record deaths in the mining sector, but these letters were not even responded to.
“As AMCU’s national leadership, we now call on the CEO [of Sibanye-Stillwater] to admit that he has failed to ensure the safety of workers at his mines, and for him to resign with immediate effect”, said Mphahlele. “Just like he [Froneman] said our President Joseph Mathunjwa must resign in 2019 for there to be sustainability and investor confidence in the mining sector, we say that he must resign immediately to stop this senseless killing of black breadwinners”, he said. “AMCU also calls for the disbandment of the Board [of Sibanye-Stillwater] with immediate effect, because they have failed to perform their fiduciary duties to ensure ethical business conduct within the socioeconomic realities of South Africa”, Mphahlele said.
“We also call on the State President to separate the Department of Mineral Resources from the Department of Energy, as it was before. It is clear to us that the DMRE has lost their focus and they spend their time and resources on the wrong issues”, Mphahlele said. “They focus on business developments in the energy sector, while black breadwinners are killed in the mining sector on a daily basis”, he added. “This [splitting the department] will help him [the Minister] focus on the mining sector as a major employer in our country, as this truly needs a dedicated minister”, said Mphahlele.
The issue of Trackless Mobile Machinery (TMM) was also taken up by AMCU earlier this year, as TMM are one of the major causes of accidents and fatalities in the mining sector. On 3 March 2021, AMCU wrote to the Chief Inspector of Mines, David Msiza to obtain clarity about the issue. The Union expressed its concern about the devastating effect on mine safety caused by employers requesting exemption from the regulations governing the utilization of Trackless Mobile Machinery (TMM), as gazetted on 27 February 2015 in terms of chapter 8 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA). The letter also requested information in order to empower AMCU to play its rightful role as watchdog when it comes to mine health and safety. However, in his response to AMCU, the Chief Inspector refused to give the information and denied any knowledge of such exemptions.
“The TMM regulations say that these vehicles should have systems which make them brake automatically before hitting mineworkers”, explained Mphahlele. “If only Sibanye-Stillwater had invested the small amount of money to install these systems, these and many other comrades would not have been killed”, he said.
“As AMCU, we are very disappointed in the way that the DMRE is neglecting their duties when it comes to safety in mining”, said Mphahlele. “It seems that we always have to remind them that they serve all social partners, and not only organised business. To us it is clear that the DMRE is captured by the mining bosses”, he said.
The Union previously made submissions for amendments to the MHSA to hold mining bosses accountable, and it continuously repeats this clarion call. AMCU also recently called on the DMRE to lead an inquest into the rising mining fatalities this year. The total number of fatalities for 2021 currently stands at 70, by far surpassing the fatalities of 2020 (60) and 2019 (51) at year-end.
“To repeat, we call on the immediate resignation of [Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal] Froneman, and also for the disbandment of the Board [of Sibanye-Stillwater]”, he said. “It is the only honourable thing they can do when they realise that they have failed to invest money in workers’ safety while they made huge profits and paid themselves millions in bonuses”, Mphahlele concluded.
For interviews: AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa