Ray of hope for dumped miners as new owners move in

2011-09-17 17:36

There’s an almost visible mixture of mistrust, fear and hope hanging over the mine manager’s office at Aurora’s Orkney mine, Shaft 6.

Mthoko Ngidi, the representative of the mine’s new owners, China African Precious Metals, is introducing himself to shop stewards from the National Union of Mineworkers, led by chairperson Caiphus Zulu, and to the mine’s only Solidarity representative, Elias van Rooyen.

It’s easy to understand the workers’ mixed feelings. They’ve spent the past two years living on scraps since the mine’s previous owner, Pamodzi, went broke and Aurora Empowerment Systems moved in during 2009 with no money to honour its R600 million bid for Pamodzi’s assets.

Ngidi outlines China African Precious Metals’ strategy for the R550 million plan it has to rebuild the Orkney mine, which it bought for R150 million after Aurora was booted out earlier this year.

It’s basic but plausible: assess what is left to work with, get some cash flow going from the easiest shafts to repair, consolidate and then expand.

The first step is already under way. While Ngidi is addressing the shop stewards, consultants are assessing damage done to the mine’s infrastructure under Aurora’s stewardship.

This is meant to calculate what the cost of getting the shafts working again will be in terms of the agreement between China African Precious Metals and the Pamodzi liquidators.

Questions come slowly at first but gain momentum. Does China African Precious Metals have the cash? Will the recall agreement with the unions to get workers back in their jobs be honoured? Will the management company that was on site when the mines were looted be retained? Are the new owners going to get rid of the existing security company?

When will the electricity, cut by Anglo-American over debts last year, be reconnected? Who is going to repair the hostels?

Ngidi’s answers seem to hit the spot, particularly when he assures Zulu that China African Precious Metals has the cash in escrow. The firm’s local head, Elias Khumalo, is arriving the next day with a full mining plan to discuss the workers’ recall, some 5 000 of whom lost their jobs under Aurora.

After the meeting, Van Rooyen takes the City Press team to meet workers in the Gwede Village hostel, home to about 320 families.

Things are hard there. There is water but no electricity since it was cut off in April. The underground cables have all been dug up by residents desperate to put food on the table.

Families have built collective “kitchens” in the open areas and pool resources to cook meals for three or four homes at a time. The trees have been cut down for fire wood. Those who had some money saved have bought compressors and freezers.

Neighbours rent freezer space for when they can afford to buy meat. Charging a cellphone costs R5 a shot. Fitter and turner Van Rooyen, who’s the hostel’s only white resident, is hopeful about the new deal.

He says: “Now that we have spoken to the new owners and it seems like there will be a shake-up, I have some hope for the future.

“If these guys do come through, and they seem genuine, then we can survive.

“They’ll have to do a lot. The shafts have been robbed badly, but not as bad as at Grootvlei. People here have lost everything: wives, cars, houses.

“I lost my house and my car. All my savings are gone.

“My tools have been stolen and I lost all my documents and papers when the storm drain blocked and flooded the rooms. It will take a lot to sort this out.”

In the meantime, life continues to be a hand-to-mouth struggle.

“It’s hard. When we have food, we share it. If I get a packet of pasta, I share it with my neighbour,” says Van Rooyen.

“If she cooks pap and spinach, she sends her kid with a plate for me. I never thought I could eat with a black, but here I am. Life teaches you things.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Debtors/Creditors Supervisor

Century City
Pro Placements Recruitment Agency
R10 000 - R12 000 Per Month

CSR Inbound

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
O'Brien Recruitment
R14 000 - R16 000 Per Month

Graphic Designer

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Creative Sourcing
R7 000 - R9 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.