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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 16, No. 03, 2 February 2017

In this Issue:


Red Alert

SACP pledges continued active expression of solidarity with Lily Mineworkers who were trapped underground a year ago without rescue, their families and mineworkers as a whole

SACP statement on the first anniversary of the accident

The South African Communist Party expresses its message of sincere solidarity with Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi, Solomon Nyarende and their families. Nkambule, Mnisi and Nyarende were trapped underground on 5 February 2016 after a lamp room container in which they were working fell as a result of a land subsidence at the Lily Vantage Gold Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga Province. Sunday, 5 February 2017 will mark the first anniversary since they were trapped underground and never rescued when 76 of their fellow comrades who were also affected by the mine's collapse were rescued. The primary responsibility to ensure health and safety at work lies with the bosses who must be held accountable, including through prosecution where justifiable, for their negligence or dereliction of their duty. This will contribute towards ensuring justice for the affected workers and their families.

While the mining bosses are preoccupied with counting profits and their so-called losses, workers are counting fatalities and disabilities. In addition, the mining sector is still reporting a high number of occupational diseases - more specifically TB, silicosis and noise-induced hearing loss, according to a statement by the Department of Mineral Resources released on 19 January 2017. Killings by organised vigilante groupings targeting the National Union of Mineworkers in particular also continue to take place. According to the union, with which the SACP held a bilateral meeting on Tuesday, the latest killing occurred last month, December 2016. The entire suffering experienced by the workers and the associated burden imposed on their families are a direct result, primarily, of the bosses' strategies to deepen labour exploitation, including by dividing workers, in order to maximise profit.

On the third month after Nkambule, Mnisi and Nyarende were trapped underground without rescue, mineral sales increased by 17.4 percent year-on-year in May 2016, according to 'South Africa Yearbook 2015/16: Mineral Resources' published by the Department of Mineral Resources. Gold, the sector in which Nkambule, Mnisi and Nyarende were working when their lamp hold container fell, accounted for 44.1 percent of the increase in sales, followed by platinum group metals at 20.1 percent, iron ore at 14.5 percent and coal at 13.8 percent with manganese at the top at 82.6 percent. South Africa is rich not only with these but other mineral resources as well. Yet we are asked, as a nation, to believe that one of the major reasons why the rescue or recovery operations for the trapped mineworkers at the Lily Mine had to be halted is that there was not sufficient money available. On the contrary there is money, but as the general rule of the prevailing capitalist mode of production and wealth appropriation the money is accumulated by the bosses as their profit - capitalist private property.

Driven by their sole motive of profit maximisation, the bosses in the mining industry have also embarked on a jobs bloodbath, underpinned by the ongoing capitalist crisis. According to Statistics South Africa's Quarterly Employment Statistics released in June 2016, four months after Nkambule, Mnisi and Nyarende were trapped underground, the bosses in the mining sector dismissed 32, 000 workers by way of retrenchments compared with the same quarter in 2015. Over and above the dismissals, the bosses have adopted continuous restructuring of employment relationships, reducing indefinite employment contracts and replacing them with insecure labour brokering, perpetual temporary and casual employment contracts. That the mining sector has failed to meet job creation targets is not by default: It is by the systemic design of the bosses and their system of capitalist production and appropriation of wealth.

The SACP welcomes the government's decision to convert the investigation into the collapse of the Lily Mine into a formal inquiry in terms of the law. However, we also note that in the aftermath of the accident Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane promised R200, 000 each to the families of Nkambule, Mnisi and Nyarende, and R50, 000 each to the families of the workers who survived. This unprocedural, populist promise has not been honoured. Minister Zwane must either compensate the families out of his own pocket, or profusely apologise to all affected.

Similarly, all other promises that were made to the workers by the bosses, including job alternatives must be strictly kept.

The SACP reiterates its call for the transformation of the mining sector in line with our national development imperatives to ensure health and safety at work, pursue sustainable development, protect the environment and develop national production. This includes changing the patterns of ownership and distribution of the wealth produced from productive activity. Priority must be placed on empowering the direct producers - the workers - as opposed to advancing an elite club of individuals with political or business connections interested in gaining inclusion as capitalists in the exploitation of the masses. It is this revolutionary approach that lies at the heart of radical economic transformation to redefine the social relations of production with a focus on reducing and ultimately eliminating the socially constructed class, race and gender inequalities.

The SACP is thus calling on workers to unite as a class because divisions within and along lines of trade union organisations will continue to serve only the bosses and those who profit from workers by other means. The SACP will continue to work together with the progressive trade union movement and intensify its work to support efforts aimed at bringing about unity in the ranks of organised workers and organising unorganised workers!


Umsebenzi Online is an online voice of the South African working class