The past two months have been marked by turbulence in the mining industry resulting in many deaths, injuries and tragedies with very little joy or “winners” from what transpired. What has transpired the past two months – illegal industrial action mainly by rock drill operators, union rivalry, violence, armed attacks by illegal strikers and armed attacks by dismissed mining employees – all of these against the background of an ailing platinum mining sector. The buzzword – R12 500 (the claim for salary increases by rock drill operators)
REDUCING THE RISK
In most of the violent incidents risk was reduced by force – either the SAP and or private or in house security forces. What started at Impala Platinum during an illegal strike spilled to a march by dismissed miners at Aquarius Platinum Kroondal Mine on 2 August 2012 to the Marikana event on 16 August 2012 and lately the Gold One shooting incident on 3 Sept 2012.
Impala Platinum Mine and Marikana (with Wonderkop the future “holy ground” of the so called mining revolution) is known and already embedded in history but the shooting and killing of three and wounding of at least 20 dismissed contracting miners at Aquarius Platinum Kroondal Mine where armed (dismissed) miners stormed a shaft entrance was down played in the media – private security “in the hot spot”. On 3 September 2012 at Gold One mine four (4) dismissed miners were shot and injured with rubber bullets when they turned to get out of hand during a protest –private security shooting.
In the mentioned incidents murder and attempted murder, cases were opened against the security officers.
The question is - where do we draw the line with individuals putting their careers at risk and facing criminal action whilst protecting the assets of their clients. Acts of bravery but with a potential of repercussions for the individuals and security company owners. Is it still acceptable to use rubber or is the future the use of non-lethal weapons – at Evraz Highveld Steel a recent four (4) week NUMSA strike was handled by a force of private security officers equipped with non lethal weapons and a private water cannon with huge success.
In a recent article in the Pretoria News (“Cops stacked up on pepper spray before Marikana”) the author reported that “The August 16 shootings highlighted the need for non lethal options for controlling and dispersing armed and angry crowds” Key crowd control basics are now bought by the SAP – 88 000 cans of pepper spray and 1950 riot shields.
THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE AND ITS RISKS
The Julius Malema outbursts in open forums relating to the “Mining Revolution has begun”, rivalry amongst NUM members at Goldfields mines resulting in a 12 000 men strike for NUM leadership to resign (reminding us of the 1990’s Mouthpiece Union strikes against NUM) and Lonmin Platinum workers not yet back at work put stress on the mining industry. Malema further used Mr Patrice Motsepe (Owner of African Rainbow Minerals) as an example quoting Malema as saying "He (Motsepe) became one of the millionaires... billionaires in less than 20 years. Why? Because the money he was supposed to share with the workers he did not share it" – a spark to create unhappiness at ARM controlled mines (not to long ago NUM rival union AMCU was heavily involved at Nkomati Mine and Two Rivers Platinum Mine – two ARM controlled mines). Also not too long ago AMCU opened an office in the mining town of Steelpoort where ARM has control over mining operations at Modikwa Platinum , Dwarsriver Chrome Mine and Two rivers Platinum. It can be expected that NUM labour action against these mines would be exploited by AMCU with Nkomati Mine currently in wage negotiations with NUM. Eastern Chrome Mines near Steelpoort is also currently in negotiations with NUM but the extent of possible AMCU influence is unknown (until industrial action start?)
What does this hold in for the mining industry – increased dissatisfaction with mine management, increased dissatisfaction with NUM leadership, creation of community unrest using nationalization of mining as a solution and exploitation by unions such as AMCU for eventual political and “economic reform” or so called “mining revolution” objectives by Julius Malema. The best forum for AMCU, with Malema in its background to gain political high ground, is to ride on the back of NUM labour unrest giving Malema the forum for political rivalry. With the ANC Mangaung conference in December 2012 Malema would use his aged old political subject, nationalization of mines to gain political support for his support to his Mangaung campaign.
IMPACT ON PRIVATE SECURITY
It is evident that with the prospects of increased violence, unrest and even community issues the pressure on private and in-house security will increase. The question is unanswered: with the SAP turning to non lethal measures, to what extent would private security be allowed to intervene in unrest – the use of nonlethal mechanisms such as pepper gas and spray, paint ball gun mechanisms and defensive riot shields?
It is quite possible that a completely new approach to public order policing may result from the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry to the Marikana incident. It is expected the SAPS to retain full responsibility for public order policing, albeit with a number of new guidelines/policies, etc with the Metro Police possibly losing it public order policing functions.
In summary – intelligence on labour moods, community dissatisfaction, movement of opposing labour unions and NUM planned labour unrest would add to the prediction of the intelligence picture and risk factor at mines with private security to prepare to use minimum force (my personal view due to the sensitivity surrounding use of rubber bullets let alone sharp point ammunition even in self defence) whilst the SAP will probably endeavor to immediately prevent armed (including traditional weapons) protests.