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SOWETAN | Gold One must play open cards

Mine workers outside Gold One Modder East Operations in Springs where more than 500 workers were allegedly held hostage underground.
Mine workers outside Gold One Modder East Operations in Springs where more than 500 workers were allegedly held hostage underground.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

The swift action taken by Gold One mine against 34 of its employees suspected of being behind a hostage situation that unfolded underground two weeks ago must be welcomed.

We’re still disturbed by allegations that over 500 workers had been held underground against their will because of a standoff between the mining company and rival unions. There have been conflicting reports of this alleged hostage taking, with some workers claiming it was a voluntary protest.

The move by the company last week to suspend 34 of its employees amid claims that it has evidence of their misconduct related to the incident will put this conflict to rest.

According to Gold One mine, the disciplinary proceedings against the suspended workers are expected to start this week. The hearings will offer the company a chance to put its version on the table and produce evidence of what it alleges happened when 500 workers spent three days underground.

The source of the impasse was apparently the loss of confidence by workers in the National Union of Mineworkers and their demand for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to be recognised as a majority union. The workers were well within their rights to demand that whoever can best serve their interest represent them.

However, what they were not entitled to is to veer into criminality by holding their colleagues hostage as alleged by the company. If true, this was not only an act of breaching the company’s rules but also a criminal act, which ought to be punished by the justice system.

That the company is yet to lay criminal charges against those it claims to have camera footage of their criminal act is of grave concern. Equally, if the company is found to have no proof about the alleged hostage taking in its mine, we must question what its motives were for making such a claim.

It is not unreasonable, therefore, to expect that the company will return to the public and report on the outcomes of its disciplinary hearings as it has done with its actions even if the outcomes are in favour of workers.

That would be a true measure of its commitment to transparency and the true course of justice, which we are all yearning for in this case.

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