The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is concerned and worried about the increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases in the mining industry and Eskom in South Africa especially mines in Limpopo. Some mines in Limpopo have become hotspots where the virus is spreading at an alarming rate. Two big mines around Burgersfort in Limpopo have registered a big number of COVID-19 positive cases in one week. The first mine to have reported positive cases of COVID 19 was Marula Platinum Mine with 19 confirmed cases in a space of 24 hours. The second is Dwarsrivier mine that has 30 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 so far.
On 29 April 2020, the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy (DMRE) Minister issued directions in terms of Regulation 10(8) informed by the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002. According to the Directions, in implementing Regulation 11K of the Amendment Regulations every employer conducting mining operations and activities in connection therewith at a mine, is required to implement appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of employees in respect of COVID-19.
The NUM is extremely worried about the negative impact that COVID-19 will have in mining communities. It is clear that mining companies are not complying with COVID-19 regulations. The regulatory department must deal harshly with those mining companies that are not adhering to the regulations.
The problem that is happening now in the mining industry and Eskom is a consequence of electing a government who relate to employers as donors to be gently chatted up rather than employers who need to be forced into respecting even the most basic entitlement to health and safety, dignity and security in the workplace. Employers must be forced to respect the COVID-19 regulations in this country. It cannot be employers doing whatever they want and trampling on the rights of the workers.
The NUM is aware that workers are being bullied and threatened with retrenchments since the lockdown started by the arrogant and brutal employers. The NUM will fight tooth and nail for their dignity and respect against employers who do not care what the law says and who knew that justice can take months if not years to deliver.
Eskom has reported a total of 20 COVID 19 cases nationally. The majority of the cases are reported in the Western Cape in line with the national thread. The Western Cape has 14 out of the 20 cases. The NUM is concerned with how Eskom is treating the COVID-19 cases. The company is very secretive. We are still waiting for the Department of Health to investigate whether Koeberg Nuclear Power station if it has followed the correct regulations when dealing with the COVID-19 cases at Koeberg. It is still our view that Eskom is prioritising production above the safety of our members. We are again calling on the government to investigate the Koeberg situation.
We are still very concerned that Eskom is using the lockdown as a time to unilaterally implement changes that affect our members negatively. We are also aware that the plan to retrench our members is at its final stage. We are calling on the company to stop all these shenanigans and follow the Labour Relations Act. We have also seen media reports that Eskom is planning to close 3 powers stations which are Hendrina, Grootvlei and Komati. As the NUM we want to put it on record that we are opposed to the closing of power stations. Eskom cannot be closing power stations while the country is faced with a chronic shortage of electricity.
The so-called restrictions of electricity supply through rotational bases in black townships is load shedding designed for the poor. We call on our government to stop this madness. The lockdown does not mean that Eskom must do as they wish. We have seen the reversal of transformation by Eskom during this lockdown. We are opposed to the employment of only white people at the executive level.
The NUM is facing numerous challenges after the mines have been allowed to operate at 50%.
The NUM is not happy with the criteria that are used to call employees back to work following a decision that was taken to allow mines to operate at 50%. The NUM is not consulted, and the challenge we have is to answer questions from our members, wherein other benefits are not paid to those who are not called to come to work. Employers did not consult us as NUM on the reasons why they are not paying workers salaries. We are engaging the employers every day, some responses are positive while others are so arrogant and brutal to workers. We understand the frustration of our members, the situation is very complex.
The Coronavirus is a way more dangerous than just the flu and it is killing thousands of people around the world. Many countries have declared war on the virus including South Africa.. The whole world is grappling with the coronavirus crisis. NUM members and other workers cannot be sacrificed for profits during the crisis. We expect all mining companies in South Africa to adhere to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus in their operations. The NUM calls on its members to refuse to work in mines and operations where necessary strict measures are not put in place to protect them from the virus. The NUM will not hesitate to name and shame mining companies that are not adhering to the strict health and safety measures in fighting the virus.
For more information, please contact:
David Sipunzi, NUM General Secretary, 082 883 7293
Livhuwani Mammburu, NUM National Spokesperson, 083 809 3257.