COSATU Free State deeply saddened by the disaster in Jagersfontein

COSATU Free State is deeply saddened by the disaster that unfolded in Jagersfontein, a small town in the Xhariep District’s Kopanong Local Municipality. Tragedy struck on Sunday, the 11th of September 2022, after a slime dam collapsed near the open-pit mine, causing a mudslide and flooding in several areas in the town. The disaster comes at the time when we are preparing to honour the history of this mining town by commemorating the 9th of January 1914, a day when the mineworkers in the area took action to resist exploitation by their employer.

A COSATU team visited the town yesterday to assess the situation, alongside the Local Structure in the area. The extent of damage is devastating as some residents are grappling with loss of property and are misplaced. Our team witnessed how some households lost everything they owned and worked for. The substation allocated to the area has completely submerged and as a result, there is no electricity supply. The water supply has also been disrupted. The impact of the disaster will be felt for years and decades to come.

The residents of Jagersfontein are already battling with high unemployment numbers and poverty. They need urgent assistance and support to begin to rebuild their lives. As the Federation we would like to call on all the stakeholders to desist from scoring political points from this disaster, but to rather work jointly towards a speedy restoration of normality in the area.

We condemn the approach taken by the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, pronouncing that the mining house should take full responsibility. The statement implies that the Ministry is so complacent and oblivious to the mining company’s non-compliance with mining legislation. They should have ensured that a rehabilitation fund was established to address eventualities of this nature. For the ministry to make radical statements at this stage when they have failed to secure the fund is disingenuous to say the least. As workers, we voted for the government and inherently the ministry, to protect the interest of the poor, not to make radical heroic statements that are detached from reality. The ministry should simply do the work they have been appointed and handsomely paid for!

We will ensure that the mining house takes responsibility and actively participates in developing Jagersfontein. All the losses incurred should be restored and the livelihood of the community and that of workers should also be restored. We will also be engaging with the local businesses to keep workers in employment during this period. There is a need of some form of Temporary Employment Scheme for the affected workers. On this part the Department of Employment and Labour should play its role once full assessment has been completed.

Environmentalists should review the situation and advice of possible health outbreaks which need to be mitigated. This will help the Department of Health adequately cope with any eventuality!

The standard of living before the disaster can never be an acceptable normal in the view of the Federation. We will never accept conditions where the community, despite the experiences and the losses incurred, is still subjected to high levels of poverty and unemployment. We need a better solution where all the plans by the national, provincial and local government should come to fruition and turn fortunes of this community around.

We also call upon all government officials and business who will participate in the rebuilding of Jagersfontein to resist looting and corrupt activities during this period. This disaster should not provide an opportunity for the theft of public funds.

As we continue to identify needed interventions, we call on all sectors of the society to join hands in rebuilding the lives of the people of Jagersfontein.

The struggle continues!

Issued by COSATU Free State

Enquiries Provincial Secretary Monyatso oa Mahlatsi @ 051 447 5499 or 076 115 9923