Parliament rejects Julius Malema’s call for probe into miners’ plight

2014-09-05 08:43

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Julius Malema took his call for the nationalisation of mines to the National Assembly and urged, unsuccessfully, for it to appoint a committee to probe the plight of mine workers.

“The mineral resources of this country belong to all South Africans and only through nationalisation will the country enjoy a more democratic and socialised ownership and control of mineral wealth by all, including the workers,” the Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader said yesterday in a speech to the assembly.

Malema said most mine workers still earned between R4 000 and R6 000 a month and politicians needed to ensure they were not paid less than R12 500 – the sum demanded by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in this year’s five-month platinum strike.

“The problem is that mining companies refuse to shed their historical baggage, and still exercise authority to continue the pre-apartheid and apartheid project of enslaving Africans in these mines and rejecting them in the land of their own birth.”

Malema added that mining houses were drawn to South Africa by cheap black labour, “labour that has been, and still is working and living in slave-like conditions”.

The mine workers’ community was plagued by occupational disease, and many were driven to suicide because their self-esteem was eroded by their inability to support their families, he added.

Malema called on Parliament to set up a commission to probe the remuneration and working conditions of mine workers.

He found support from the Congress of the People’s Willie Madisha, who said: “We need to follow the Nordic model of injecting a healthy dose of socialism in a capitalist order of the day. In the complex world of today it is not either/or.”

But the EFF leader was accused of populism by the Democratic Alliance for calling for nationalisation.

He also clashed with Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant, who suggested he was uninformed and unqualified to plead the cause of miners because he had never set foot underground.

Oliphant said the ANC remained committed to introducing a national minimum wage for all workers and its members could talk with authority on mines, “not you”.

He said it was a distortion to hold up Marikana as representative of the industry and insisted that implementation of the Mining Charter had led to considerable improvement in living conditions for miners elsewhere.

“There are more than 1 700 mines in this country. That one is just one of them.”

Malema countered that it was naive to argue that he could not pronounce on the plight of miners because he was not one of them.

“It looks like you are going to be a deputy minister for a very long time because of your lack of grasping of issues,” he told Oliphant.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane supported Malema’s call for the legislature to look into living conditions at mines, but said the EFF and ANC’s economic and labour policies were a recipe for further job losses in the sector.

“What is happening in our mining industry is a disgrace. The conditions that existed at Marikana prior to the massacre still exist today,” Maimane said.

The DA proposed that a parliamentary committee mull challenges South Africa faced in drawing investment to the mining sector and combating job losses.

Malema retorted to Maimane that “nobody will take away the right of miners to strike”.

Both the EFF and the DA’s proposals were voted down. The ruling party said there was no need for a parliamentary committee as the government was monitoring mining houses’ compliance with the charter.

“We don’t need this ad hoc committee,” ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani said.

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