'Give workers stake in firms'

        Wonderkop Mine at Marikana where 36 mineworkers were killed. 
TRAGIC SITE: Wonderkop Mine at Marikana where 36 mineworkers were killed. PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

South Africa should consider discarding social labour plans in favour of community development agreements, if the country wants to avoid labour unrest like in Marikana.

This is the view of Peter Leon, a specialist in mining in Africa at law company Webber Wentzel.

Community development agreements force mining companies to consult communities where mine operations are based, to come up with an agreement that will suit both parties before the government could issue a mining licence.

The development agreements have been implemented in Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Mongolia and Sierra Leone.

"The social labour plans have done little to benefit local communities, hence we have had situations like Marikana," Leon said at the 2012 Transformation Indaba in Pretoria yesterday.

The conference sought to find ways the mining sector could drive transformation.

Leon proposed that mining companies should give workers an empowerment stake that would transform their lives. In addition, mining companies should afford workers more voice on how the companies should be run.

Leon said this could be done only if South Africa considered adopting a two-tier board system that is currently being used in Germany.

The system results in a company being run by the executive and a supervisory board. South Africa only has an executive board system.

A supervisory board is composed of operational workers and plays an oversight role to the executive board.

"A supervisory board makes workers on the ground feel that they are part and parcel of a company's every decision-making process," he said.

Peter Temane, the president of South African Mining Development Agency, said it was hard for the mining sector to reach its transformation objectives because companies lacked a willingness to empower workers and the communities in which they operated.