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.
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 COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794