The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Thursday called on workers, unions and communities in Mpumalanga to boycott the one-year commemoration of the tragedy at Lily Mine, where three victims’ bodies are still underground after a section of the mine collapsed last year.
The trade union federation said the commemoration billed for Sunday was a “moronic charade” planned by the mine company.
“The federation is calling on all trade unions to move beyond narrow sectarian lines and unite to denounce this farce and also demand that they spend the money for that ceremony to help the struggling workers, and also rescue the bodies of the three trapped miners,” Cosatu said in a statement.
“Mine safety affects us all irrespective of union affiliation and we all need to send a strong message to the mining sector by standing shoulder to shoulder on this cause.”
On February 5 last year, Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyerende were trapped underground when a lamp room container they were working in fell into a sinkhole created by a collapsed crown pillar. Rescue operations were launched for the three workers, but later aborted as the mine was declared unsafe. At least 76 of their colleagues were rescued.
Subsequent recovery operations at the Barberton operations stalled.
Lily Mine, which is owned by Vantage Goldfields, subsequently applied to be placed under business rescue administration. A number of workers have since taken voluntary severance packages and left the company.
Cosatu accused Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane of ignoring Lily Mine workers. The federation reiterated its call for Zwane to be fired.
“Minister Mosebenzi Zwane did not even attend a meeting between Cosatu and the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources convened to discuss the Lily Mine tragedy and other issues. We reiterate our demand for the mine management and the Department of Mineral Resources to fulfil and honour the many promises made to the workers and their families.
“Some workers were promised alternative employment and others payments but nothing has happened since those promises were made.”
“It is pure arrogance for the company to be planning remembrance ceremonies while they have failed the poor workers and their families. This also surely adds another reason for government to step in by nationalising some of the mines on behalf of the workers and the people of South Africa.”
The SA Communist Party (SACP) said it stood “in solidarity” with the three employees, and lambasted the mine for “dereliction of duty”.
“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,” the SACP said.
– African News Agency (ANA)