Below is a brief interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Stephanie Naidoo had with the Health and Safety Secretary for the National Union of Mine Workers, Erick Gcilitshana. Gcilitshana gave further context to the death of 18 sub-contracted mine workers on Tuesday morning, and the Union’s request for a Fund to assist the families of the employees who died.
Interviewer: Could you please provide us with a bit more context about what happened?
Erick Gcilitshana: The crash occurred on the Badplaas Road, about 3 km outside Machadodorp on Tuesday morning. The mineworkers were working for Nkomati and Frank Sub-Contractor, on subcontract at the mine. There was a collision between two twenty-two seater Kombi’s and a truck, when one of the Kombi’s tried to overtake, and there was disturbance. It resulted in a head-on collision which killed eighteen of the miners, and hospitalised six.
At the time of the accident, were the mine workers using transportation provided by either the mine or the sub-contractor?
The transport being used by the miners at the time was transport provided by the mine to transport the workers. I am not sure if the vehicles are hired out by another company because I am not on the ground. But it is property which is used by the mine.
Has there been feedback, and what has been the response to the NUM’s request for the Fund to be established, considering that the mine workers were using transportation provided by the mine/the sub-contractor?
NUM is taking the issue up with employers, because the employers know very well that sub-contractors are poorly-paid people. This is why NUM is saying that the principals, the company and the sub-contractor must ensure that those people are buried with dignity. The must provide funds for the funerals and they must also assist the children not to drop out of school, but to continue with their studies. They should also support the beneficiaries to ensure that they can sustain themselves and contribute to the economy as a whole.
Does NUM have confidence in the sub-contractor to protect mine workers, and ensure that incidents such as this one do not occur?
NUM is doing its best, we are engaging the Company in terms of what kind of transport the workers should use going to and from work. We have also engaged the Company on the Conditions of Employment of the sub-contractors, generally, in all of the mines. That is why COSATU has also called for the banning of labour brokers. This is to ensure that sub-contracted miners are not treated as secondary workers in the industry. They must have all of the benefits that are enjoyed by permanent workers at the mine level. That is the campaign that we are taking as NUM.
Is this the first incident of its kind or have there been similar incidents?
It is the first time that an incident of this magnitude has occurred. Although, this is not the first incident. About three years ago, nine miners also died at Harmony Gold’s Doornkop Mine.
What has been the recourse for such accidents, and were Funds established to support the families of the miners who have died in similar accidents?
It was the time of Motsepe. His family received about R75 000 that would be used to look after the children. The Trust that was set up allowed that each of the affected families receive R75 000 in a trust to be used to pay for the children’s education. This was after engagement with him.
On the 10th of May 1995 there was a Vaal Reef disaster in the North West Province [where 104 mineworkers died underground when a underground vehicle crashed through the shaft and landed onto the conveyance which was transporting the mineworkers. The impact caused the conveyance to plunge to the bottom of the shaft, 2 300 metres below the surface].
A Trust was established between AngloGold Ashanti and NUM [The Vaal Reef’s Disaster Trust to provide financial assistance and support to the 431 dependents of the employees who died]. I am a member of the Trust. That is why we are calling for this, because we have seen experiences of the benefits of beneficiaries of that Trust. As we speak now, we know that after 20 years we can say that about five children have graduated through that Trust. Eighteen children have access to education through the education fund which we have established.
NUM Final Statement
As NUM, we are saying that this must be a lesson to all mining houses, and that we should look at establishing a bigger Fund for the entire industry to ensure that the Fund can be accesses whenever there is a disaster. There must be an industry fund to look after the people who die in the mines.