'Mine is starving striking workers'

Family and friends can no longer bring food to their striking relatives at LanXess Chrome Mine in Rustenburg. PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Family and friends can no longer bring food to their striking relatives at LanXess Chrome Mine in Rustenburg. PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

A group of 142 mineworkers has staged a three-week-long sit-in underground to demand the dismissal of management they accuse of corruption.

They accuse senior managers at the mine of conflict of interest where their own companies were providing services where they work.

The mineworkers from Lanxess Chrome Mine in Rustenburg, North West, refused to resurface from underground after attempting to meet the mine's CEO to express their grievances on February 13.

Last year close to 300 disgruntled mineworkers at the same mine staged a protest underground for nine days, demanding that an official accused of a sex-for-jobs scandal be dismissed.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said a week ago the mine had stopped families and colleagues from delivering food to the workers underground.

"There are 142 of them. They can't leave until the mine decides to meet us and settle the issues of corruption that have made it difficult for us to work things out but they're being arrogant and stubborn," said Numsa shop steward Pule Majelenyane.

He said an additional 126 mineworkers were on the surface and on the premises of the mine and refusing to leave until their demands are met.

"There are 1,500 workers and 52 companies contracted to this mine to provide services such as engineering, mining and logistics. These companies have hired their own people who perform redundant duties because employees attached to the mine are also providing those services," Majelenyane said.

"You find three people doing the same thing - one from the mine and two others from different companies - yet they're not paid the same amount. We're demanding that the mine absorb those people and do away with contractors because they exploit our people.

"Some of these companies are owned by members in senior management positions. They are getting their own salaries and getting money for the companies that are servicing the mine. It's not fair."

Abby Motsumi, one of the mineworkers who has refused to leave the mine's property, said although they had access to food and clean water, they felt sorry for their colleagues who were still underground.

"This mine is 100m deep so they're not struggling with ventilation. The problem is food. The mine doesn't want us to give them food. The mine is giving them 'Phakamisa', instant porridge in a sachet. That's not enough for them to live. The mine is starving them," Motsumi said.

Lanxess CEO Leon Richardson said they verified contractors before appointing them.

"This process involves ensuring that the contractor is a legal entity... While this is the case, it must be noted that contracting companies are independent legal entities that are responsible for their own statutory requirements and should be held accountable if they don't fulfill these requirements," Richardson said.

He said the mine had consulted with nutritional specialists and decided to supply the striking miners with an approved balanced diet.

"The food supply commenced on February 28. As a health and safety measure, Lanxess also ensured that independently prepared food is no longer allowed underground," he said.

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