To mark Women’s Day, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) yesterday honoured female members who took on mine bosses in a recent underground sit-in.
They were protesting against mine management’s failure to act in a case of sexual harassment of a female worker at Lanxess Chrome Mine in Rustenburg.
Numsa second deputy president and chairperson of the union’s gender committee Ruth Ntlokotse said the union would not celebrate Women’s Day as long as the working class continued to experience violence, suffering and oppression.
She said that as a Marxist-Leninist inspired trade union, Numsa recognised that the crisis of gender-based violence could only be solved as part of a larger plan to defeat capitalism, which was a system that bred violence.
She said a big victory for women’s rights was scored when a group of close to 300 female mine workers and their male counterparts forced the suspension of a man they accused of sexually harassing the women.
Two management staffers were also forced to leave the company as a result of that protest, she said.
Numsa members’ determination to fight injustice – risking their lives sleeping underground in bitterly cold weather amid toxic fumes – paid off when the company bowed to pressure resulting from the industrial action between June 19 and 27.
Ntlokotse said the struggle of the female miners emulated that waged by the 1956 anti-pass campaigners led by Lillian Ngoyi and others against the pass laws and the introduction of the dreaded “dompas” for women.
But she added that despite the great sacrifices made by women, things had still not changed to rectify the situation.