Desperate times for Aurora’s miners

2010-07-24 09:32

Wavering hope is the only thing that desperate miners from the

infamous Aurora Empowerment Systems in Grootvlei, Ekurhuleni, have left.

The company still owes 4 000 workers their salaries from March this

year, and 40% of their February salaries.

The workers have already lost their dignity, personal belongings

and their homes.

Out of sheer desperation, two mine workers have attempted to take

their own lives, says Solidarity’s Helping Hand charity.

One of them was about to jump from a 30m mine shaft when a

co-worker found him and managed to stop him.

Lehlohonolo Habasisa from Lesotho says he has sold everything he

owns to make ends meet. “I can no longer afford to take my kids to school, let

alone put food on the table. I don’t know how long my family and I can survive

like this,” says the ­father of six.

Solidarity spokesperson Reint Dykema says: “Aurora had promised

that all outstanding salaries would be paid by June 21.

However, no money was

­received. They have now promised to pay the miners by the end of July, when the

Global Emerging Markets (GEM) payment comes through.

However, we are very

sceptical that they will follow through with their promise.”

In April, Aurora said it had concluded a R1.5 billion funding deal

with GEM, a Swiss-based alternative investment group.

Dykema says out of the ­union’s 300 members at Grootvlei, 100

members are still at work because the mine has to be kept on a

care-and-maintenance programme. If these 100 workers stop working because of

non-payment, the mine will be ­flooded completely, causing an ecological

disaster as 108 megalitres of water a day will flow into nearby areas.

The Orkney mine, with 40 members, is in a similar situation.

“It

would take at least two months and millions of rands to get the mine up and

running again,” says Dykema.

Meanwhile, Aurora chairperson Khulubuse Zuma, who is President

Jacob Zuma’s ­nephew, has been clinching ­multimillion-rand deals with Asian

partners.

In the past two weeks, he has sealed a vehicle dealership with

Dongfeng Automobile Company and signed a major deal with South Korean

conglomerate Daewoo.

Aurora’s Zuma has also ­secured the backing of the Democratic

Republic of Congo in the acquisition of two disputed oil blocks in Lake Albert

for firms he ­reportedly owns.

National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka says:

“Khulubuse Zuma has been clinching deals left, right and centre.

He is connected

and has influence, so everything comes easily. However, making deals is one

thing; being able to ­deliver on them is a whole other ball game.

“Aurora is a failed process. In time, we will see whether or not

these other lucrative deals will follow suit.”

Aurora has been facing ­difficulties at all its operations since

the beginning of the year.

The Water Affairs Department has filed criminal

charges against the mine for pumping mine water into a protected ­wetland, while

Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has launched an investigation into Aurora’s

non-payment of ­unemployment levies.



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