Mathunjwa slams mines, Zwane over 'jobs bloodbath'

Johannesburg – The mining sector should be shut down and there should be a solidarity revolution in the sector, said Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

Mathunjwa was speaking at a briefing on the fifth Marikana Commemoration in Rosebank on Thursday. He slammed mining companies and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) for the jobs bloodbath in the sector.

Issues he raised included pressures the sector is facing, particularly commodity price fluctuations which are exacerbating existing issues such as the charter regulations.

He said the SA economy did not serve all South Africans as mineworkers are still marginalised.

“The economy of SA was built and sustained through two things, profit at all cost and cheap labour - migrant labour systems - and that hasn't changed," he said. “Workers are expendable in the pursuit of profit.”

There are structural issues in the economy and it is wrong to blame labour issues for the problems in the economy, Mathunjwa said. “It is often a global attraction of other economies which form the base of business decisions.”

Poor trade arrangements do not support local job creation either. He called for trade arrangements to be reviewed and for SA to be put first and to stimulate the economy.

Companies import instead of encouraging beneficiation, he said. This impacts employment security with companies spending externally and creating demand for products from other countries, costing jobs locally.

Mathunjwa also took aim at AngloGold Ashanti for creating jobs outside SA. AngloGold recently invested in the US, at the expense of investing in SA, he said. “Ironically the same company that is retrenching workers in SA, is creating jobs in another country.”

Fin24 previously reported that the miner planned to cut 8 500 jobs, part of a restructuring process to turn around loss-making business units.

Mathunjwa said as a union, AMCU would be exploring as many options as possible to avoid job losses. “Each mineworker supports 5 to 10 people on his wage. The loss of employment in this case will affect up to 85 000 people.”

READ: Broken promises from AngloGold signal darker days ahead

Sibanye also recently announced a restructuring plan that could lead to 7 400 retrenchments. All the job losses could impact up to 100 000 South Africans. Mines are quick to blame workers for challenges said Mathunjwa. 

The unbundling of mining operations into smaller operations with lower overhead costs could help save jobs, he proposed.

AMCU issued a notice to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) indicating its intention to launch a nationwide protest against the retrenchments.

Last time a similar application was denied for a march to raise awareness on mine health and safety. Mathunjwa said he hopes Nedlac would consider this application favourably as it is a matter of national interest. 

He added that the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) should be reviewed in terms of its licencing provisions. “More needs to be done to ensure the country is a favourable investment destination.”

State involvement should also be considered so that resources are not entirely left in the hands of the private sector. 

Not selling out

Mathunjwa said the DMR did not intervene when it raised concerns over the retrenchments. “We are very concerned about the attitude of the DMR based on this matter.”

He said there is no direct engagement with Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. The last time AMCU engaged with him was at the Lily Mine, on the matter of three trapped workers. 

“I can’t put my faith in a human being. Zwane is one of the employees employed in the government. He must just do what he is supposed to do. The issue of the economy is bigger than Zwane himself,” said Mathunjwa. 

He said there was a lack of targeted focus by the leadership in the country to address labour issues. “People are caught in the political arena, with a narrow, selfish interest of jostling for power.” The politics at play have not attended to the structural issues affecting workers. 

He added that the government is failing and not taking the necessary steps to curb job losses in the country and that AMCU would not be joining any political party. 

AMCU met with widows of Marikana, who said that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is not welcome. “They said we [AMCU] must convey that he is not wanted. If he wants to come to them, he must arrange another day.”

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