The current Mining Indaba taking place in Cape Town is another reminder of the cynical collusion between government and mining sector against workers and South Africans in general. The mining sector is using this platform to continue to demand that government reward it, through tax incentives and other concessions, for making money for themselves and their shareholders.
Government has been giving the mining sector what it wants. They continually praise the mining companies, while all the evidence shows that corporate handouts have been proven ineffective at creating the promised jobs or boosting the economy. This is tantamount to subverting basic democratic principle of fairness.
The Mining Indaba has become a platform where the mining elite meet to reinforce each other’s positions and where nothing ever changes for the poor mineworkers and the mining communities.
We should not forget that most if not all of the people who annually take the pilgrimage to Cape Town are steeped in neoliberal ideology that has done so much damage to the poor. They get there and only pay lip service to issues like unemployment, health, and safety and the reckless use of technology and ecological ruin.
They do not go there to talk about how rampant capitalism destroys the lives of the poorest people ,and how the inequalities of this system have led to South Africa becoming the most unequal country in the world.
We are disappointed but not shocked that nothing has been said about the three Lily Mine workers Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi, whose bodies are still trapped underground six years after their container was buried underground.
We find it deplorable that an economic sector that has made trillions, thanks to the commodities boom, on the back of workers has not lifted a finger to help the families recover the bodies of their loved ones. The Lily Mine tragedy Marikana stands as a shameful symbols of how government and the mining sector have failed the mineworkers for over a century in this country.
We still see no improvement in the health and safety in the mining sector, and workers are still massively retrenched without being retrained or assisted to start some income generating projects. Those who are still employed in the sector are still paid slave wages, while continuing to carry the economy on their backs.
The mine owners and executives who are part of the Mining Indaba in Cape Town are focused on extracting more concessions and incentives from a pliable administration.
The sixth administration which has been running a corporate welfare state over the last three years is also indifferent to the plight of workers. Government is prepared to placate every demand from a mining sector that is not paying serious attention to job security and job creation.
The Mining Indaba is about profit maximisation, government concessions and increased mechanisation of the sector. They do not want to talk about how new technology is imposed with no regard for local economies and with no consideration for the misery it brings to those who are pushed aside by it.
Mineworkers still do not have access to educational, housing, and other facilities, and they still receive inadequate training and limited opportunities for promotion. Mine bosses and directors continue to receive big pay rises, while workers are sinking deeper into debt and poverty.
The surrounding communities that host mine operations are still not benefitting. They are only left t deal with the consequences of environmental damage that this sector has inflicted on this country. There is no improvement in how mine closures are managed, and we still see many mines recklessly abandoned, resulting in the development of acid mine water that threatens many communities.
Government has failed to do more to monitor the implementation of the current financial assurance policies that are meant to help with the rehabilitation of closed mines. This has spawned the tragic phenomenon of illegal mining that according to the 2009 South African Human Rights Commission report revealed that these illegal miners were under the control of criminal syndicates. What makes matters worse is that the report also showed that these syndicates were working with the so called legitimate companies, who buy the illegally mined gold and other commodities.
Despite many mining companies receiving tax credits for training, they are not interested in re-skilling workers. The current law is very generous to companies because it makes the re-skilling of workers optional. The country needs to change the labour and tax laws in order to address negative effects of technology on labour and on consumers.
It is for this reason that the Federation is calling for the Department of Labour to amend the law in order to require all retrenchments to be referred to CCMA for approval than merely notification and consultation.
There is nothing developmental in what the mining sector does. This is the same sector that was accused by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development of under invoicing the South African government for over R1,2 trillion between 2001 and 2014, and yet the government continues to bend to the will of the mining sector sacrificing both the workers and the economy.
Workers can only expect their situation to be worse after the Mining Indaba in Cape Town.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794