Anglo American at loggerheads with EFF over 'return to work' request during lockdown

31 March 2020 - 15:42
By Zingisa Mvumvu
Sishen mine has permission to operate with half of its staff. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images Sishen mine has permission to operate with half of its staff. File photo.

Anglo American has summoned mineworkers back to work at the Sishen iron ore mine in the Northern Cape after getting approval from the minister of mineral resources and energy. 

The move has irked the EFF in the province. The party accused the company of being reckless with the lives of employees.

In an internal communication seen by SowetanLIVe's sister publication TimesLIVE, the company said it was cleared to have 50% of staff members at work.

Some of the workforce were requested to “prepare to return to work” during the lockdown.

“On March 23, President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement announcing a national lockdown,” read a letter by Sihen mine general manager Andre Roux.

“Kumba Iron Ore issued a statement on March 25 in reference to the lockdown as well as the announcement made by the minister of minerals and energy stating that the government was considering exemptions for companies that produce for export markets.

“Kumba has since been granted approval to continue operations at 50% staff capacity.

“As a consequence, we would like to appeal that part of the workforce should prepare to return to work during the lockdown period to ensure that we successfully and safely resume operations. The exact date of return will be communicated to affected employees and service providers through their line managers.”

The EFF said the move lacked consideration for the safety and lives of workers.

“This action by Anglo American really shows no remorse nor safety towards our people, who are expected to travel and be on duty during the lockdown,” said EFF provincial secretary Shadrack Tlhaole.

“These employees have families and relatives, and by taking the risk to go out to work there could be infections [of] all those surrounding them.

“If we cannot be allowed to attend funerals of our own mothers and fathers, how does Kumba expect our people to risk their lives with production shifts that can be adjusted in the future?”

Anglo American is yet to respond to questions sent at midday on Monday.