NUM in the Free State region strongly condemns gender-based violence and sexual harassment of black women taking place at Phakisa Mine based on racial prejudice

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the Free State Region is dismayed and upset by the series of disheartening events which seem to take place year in and year out without ceasing at Phakisa Mine in the Free State Region. Phakisa Mine is an operation owned by Harmony Gold. These events are a clear demonstration of how specifically black women, in particular, are being handled and treated within the working environment at Phakisa mine.

“It is also upsetting to notice that the employer instead of combating and dealing decisively with this behaviour continues to watch while all these incidents are taking place. The perpetrators of such violence and sexual harassment are being treated like kings and given leeway even to justify their actions. The company is expected to provide a safe working environment for all its employees including black women free from all forms of racial discrimination,” said Puleng Rothetsa, NUM Free State Women Structure Secretary.

It is disheartening to report that some of these events took place at a crucial time when the country was celebrating women’s month. The NUM is calling upon Harmony Gold to immediately introduce measures seeking to bring to an end all acts of violence and sexual harassment perpetrated against women at that mine.

There are series of events that took place for three consecutive years, during women’s month in 2019 a black woman was physically assaulted by a white male at Phakisa Mine, and concurrently in the same year, the company conveniently called in South African Police Services (SAPS) to perform humiliating and degrading body search to all underground employees. It is understood that during the body search SAPS personnel used their fingers to poke and fiddle with women’s private parts without any guilt or shame whatsoever citing that they were instructed by the employer to perform such a search. The following year in 2020 a white male used a racist slur by calling a black woman a “Kaffir’’ within the workplace with impunity with no consequence for such conduct.

 As if all this mistreatment of black women in the previous year’s weren’t enough during the year 2021, a black woman repeatedly pleaded with a white man who is an (on setter), a person controlling a cage to go and change during her menstruation cycle and her pleadings fell on deaf ears because he demanded that she take off her clothes to prove that she was indeed going through her menstruation cycle. The lady had to take off her clothes in full view of everyone who witnessed blood on her clothes. The incident was reported and subsequently, the white man was suspended and there was hope from the victim that justice ultimately was taking its course, unfortunately, her hopes were turned into a nightmare when the employer unilaterally decided to uplift his suspension unconditionally even before the investigations could be concluded.

 As NUM in the Free State, we oppose all forms of violence and harassment perpetrated against black women. We reiterate our position to Harmony to institute harsh disciplinary measures against anyone who perpetuates these inappropriate behaviours in the workplace and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of Gender-Based Violence. The struggle towards woman empowerment and gender equality must be intensified across the colour bar where we organise.

For more detailed information, please contact:

 Puleng Rothetsa, NUM Free State Women Structure Secretary, 081 071 8250.

Tshepo Molibedi, NUM Free State Regional Secretary, 066 901 9205