The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) convened its Extended National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Cape Town from 1 to 3 December 2021. This Extended NEC meeting for 2021 had numerous challenges to mull over in charting the way forward. In this regard, several critical points were discussed and the NEC pronounced as follows:
1. The deepening crisis in South Africa
The NUM NEC is deeply concerned by the deepening crisis in South Africa. The gains of the 1994 democratic breakthrough are fast withering away under the weight of deepening inequality and mass unemployment.
While it did not need COVID-19 to lay bare the depth of the social, economic and political crisis facing South Africa, the pandemic has certainly made everything more stark. No country or state can sustain a society where almost 50% eligible people to work are unemployed. Nor is it possible to talk of a united single nation where just 10% of the super-rich own 90% of the wealth. And no society can develop where a woman is raped on average, every 25 seconds or is killed on average every 8 hours by an intimate partner.
A spiral of economic decline is underway and might well precipitate social collapse on an unprecedented scale. The July unrest indicates just how dire the situation is.
Moreover, billions of Rands are lost to corruption and other forms of profit shifting, including the central role of “western civilized” transnational corporations. This is some of the money that the state should be investing in social renewal, creating decent work and reindustrialising the economy for a wage-led low carbon development path.
The NUM has noted that the crisis of mass unemployment gets worse each and every quarter. This is a result of a stagnant economy caused by an investment strike undertaken by big business and systematic disinvestment from the South African economy. Government austerity, the favouring of privatisation through Public Private Partnerships and conservative monetary policies imposed by both the South African Reserve Bank and the Treasury have significantly contributed to the widening of inequality, where the poor are becoming poorer and a tiny elite masses extreme levels of concentrated wealth.
The decision to close mines in Mpumalanga and Power Stations will not assist the situation at all. We can’t have a country where the majority of our people are relying on social grants. The closure of mines and power stations will have devastating consequences; the NUM will not allow an imperialist agenda to be imposed on our people. The view of the NUM is that the agenda of closing these mines is an agenda that seeks to collapse the economy of our country. The NUM will undertake a programme of mass action to fight against the closure of mines and power stations.
3. ESKOM Challenges
The NUM NEC has noted with dismay the ongoing crisis at ESKOM. While corruption, state capture and mismanagement have contributed to the crisis, its origins lie in the corporatization of ESKOM and a set of neoliberal policies, which have under-funded the utility and prevented it from investing in building new power plants to meet growing demand. Consequently, the country and the economy are faced with constant load-shedding and the death-spiral of a utility, which was the envy of the world.
The attitude that is portrayed by the ESKOM management, the Board and the shareholders in uncritically implementing capital’s agenda of unbundling ESKOM, without consulting the NUM and other unions that organise at ESKOM, represents an attack on our members and the labour movement, more generally.
Unbundling and the privatisation of ESKOM will not address ESKOM’s functional and financial crisis but simply accelerate its death spiral, with serious consequences for ESKOM workers and the working class more broadly. Moreover, the privatized renewable energy programme will not be able to meet the challenges of ensuring a secure and cheap supply of electricity. The introduction of an electricity market will only contribute to making electricity more expensive.
The NUM has decided to march to ESKOM Head Office Megawatt Park on the 11th of December 2021 as part of a rolling programme of mass action directed to stopping the unbundling and privatization of ESKOM. The NUM is calling on all trade unions, trade union federations and the broader society to join the march to Megawatt Park. We are going to demand the disbandment of the ESKOM board; the resignation of the CEO, the resignation of the COO and the conditions of service of our members must be immediately reinstated.
4. NUM Rejects the R131 billion so-called Just Energy Transition (JET)
We note the so-called just energy transition agreement signed in Glasgow at COP26, by which ESKOM will obtain concessional financing to accelerate the decommissioning of its coal fired power plants. We have noted the complete lack of transparency regarding this agreement and we are certain that part of the reason is that the loans are attached to conditionalities, which will further undermine our energy and economic sovereignty.
The closure of the power stations in Mpumalanga must never be unnecessarily rushed to JET as it has a devastating socio-economic impact. South Africa must continue following the Integrated Resource Plan based on an energy mix appropriate to the development needs of the country. The NUM is not opposed to renewable energy and believes ESKOM should be involved in its development, which can give rise to a low carbon industrial path where the inputs are produced locally.
Developed countries have been using fossil fuels over the years to build their economies. They are responsible for the climate change crisis that we are now facing. It cannot be the responsibility of South Africa to sacrifice our economic development so they can continue to pollute.
South Africa has an abundance of coal reserves. It will be very irresponsible for South Africa to stop the use of coal, unless and until we are fully compensated by the rich industrialised countries.
The NUM in its policy conference agreed to the continued use of coal in a responsible way. We need to start building environmentally friendly power stations and investigate all technologies, which can reduce the pollution of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon capture and storage.
5. Petrol Price
The NEC is deeply concerned about South Africa’s high fuel prices. The pump prices are piling on the pressure for working class households that are already struggling financially.
Fuel costs have skyrocketed making it difficult for workers to move from the mines to see their families. Rate hikes make life unbearable for ordinary poor workers driving thousands into shack life as they can no longer afford their houses while the price of basic food is unaffordable, sending millions into starvation. We call on the government to subsidize public transport in ways that recognize the costs workers and the poor bear for being forced to stay in townships on the peripheries of our economy.
6. Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
The NEC has called on all citizens of this country to put a STOP to all forms of GBV by observing and monitoring 16 Days of Activism against women and children abuse daily. The day should not only be commemorated in November and December but is an all-year programme designed to completely transform the consciousness of those men who are entrenched in sexism and misogyny. The NEC further called upon all men in the country to respect women and support all efforts intended at fighting the abuse of women and children.
In South Africa, the abuse culminates in a woman being killed every 4 hours. Most women killed in South Africa are killed by their partners or ex-partners and many of them suffer months or years of domestic abuse before their death.
7. Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination
The NUM continues to support the vaccination drive by our government; however, we are against mandatory vaccination of workers. We will defend this right with all the means we have to ensure our members are not discriminated against because of their constitutional right to exercise their beliefs. The NEC is deeply worried that some mining companies have been forcing workers to vaccinate for Covid-19 and enforcing proof of vaccination when entering their premises.
The NEC is strongly opposed to the decision taken by Sibanye Stillwater to introduce a mandatory vaccine from February 2022. From the start of February 2022, any person entering Sibanye workplaces in South Africa will require proof of vaccination or a valid test showing they are negative for Covid-19. Given the costs of such tests, it is effectively a mandatory policy.
Further, non-vaccinated employees must submit negative PCR test results and the costs associated with such PCR tests will be for the employees’ own accounts. This NUM rejects with contempt.
8. Local Government Elections
The NEC noted that the ANC fared very badly in the last Local Government Elections. This is a call for the ANC to do self-introspection and deal decisively with the causes of the decline of the standing of the ANC amongst voters.
The NEC of the NUM noted that our glorious movement, the ANC, encountered a decline during local government elections; some of the factors have to do with internal political squabbles fueled by competition to be the preferred ward councilors.
However, we are of the view that the poor election results for our movement is rooted in the failure to implement the Freedom Charter and play the leading role in ensuring the redistribution of wealth to ensure a better life for poor and working people. The implementation of neoliberal policies and promotion of black elite has created social distance between the political elites and the mass of our people.
Furthermore, the low turnout contributed to the poor showing of the ANC. It is urgent that if the ANC is going to regain its standing among our people it must go back to basics and drive policies for transformation as the leader of the society.
The ANC must now focus on service delivery; this will help the movement to gain trust and confidence from the masses of our people.
9. Fatalities in the mining industry
The NUM NEC has noted with anger the ever-increasing fatalities on the mines including the death of mineworkers at Impala Platinum and Sibanye Stillwater’s Beatrix operation. The NUM strongly believes that drastic action is needed to compel the mining industry to comply with safety standards and procedures.
We hope the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) comrade Gwede Mantashe and his inspectors will hold the industry fully accountable for its failures and adopt a no-nonsense approach when it comes to mine deaths. The NUM would like to convey its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families, colleagues, and friends of the deceased during this difficult time.
The NUM is of the view that one death in the industry is just one death too many, production should not and must not be at the expense of mineworkers’ lives.
8. World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day is highlighting the need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world. Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks AIDS continuing to devastate working class communities for many decades to come as well as contributing to a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic with spiraling social and economic consequences.
UNAIDS issued a stark warning that if leaders fail to tackle inequalities the world could face 7.7 million AIDS-related deaths over the next 10 years. UNAIDS further warns that if the transformative measures needed to end AIDS are not taken, the world will also stay trapped in the COVID-19 crisis and remain dangerously unprepared for the pandemics to come. The warning comes in a new report by UNAIDS entitled Unequal, unprepared, under threat: why bold action against inequalities is needed to end AIDS, stop COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics.
9. Sibanye Stillwater
The NUM has observed with disappointment the attitude of Sibanye Stillwater on the wage negotiations for the poor offer tabled for more than five months and NUM resolved to seek for legal opinions on the basis that if Sibanye indeed they don’t have money, they must agree with labour to put their company under Business Rescue to assist them to better manage the company. NUM will take a view of applying for Business Rescue after our three legal opinions sorted can advise us to do so.
For more information, please contact:
William Mabapa, NUM Acting General Secretary, 082 880 4439
Livhuwani Mammburu, NUM National Spokesperson, 083 809 3257
Luphert Chilwane, NUM Media Officer, 083 809 3255