Miners want to live in shacks not houses - Lonmin spokesperson

Picture: Leon Sadiki
Picture: Leon Sadiki

Johannesburg – Miners at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana do not want houses; they want to live in informal settlements, mine spokesperson Sue Vey told News24. 

Vey was responding to a damning report by Amnesty International detailing how Lonmin was still failing to provide adequate housing for its workforce in Marikana.

The report, titled Smoke and Mirrors: Lonmin's failure to address housing conditions at Marikana, indicated how conditions had not changed for the approximately 20 000 miners working for Lonmin at Marikana. Many were still living in squalor despite the company's legally binding commitments to build more houses.

Vey however said part of the reason the company had not built adequate housing was because "miners chose to live in informal settlements".

"We have learnt our employees don't want houses. They want to go back to their home countries and province... They choose to live in informal settlements," she said.

Vey also cited the mines financial difficulties and the economic downturn as some of the reasons it was not able to fulfil its promises to the miners. 

She said the mine had provided hostels for some miners while some employees are given a living allowance. "They have a choice to live in a converted hostel or rent a room," Vey told News24. 

Lonmin CEO Ben Magara admitted to the crowd who had gathered for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's (Amcu) Marikana commemoration on Tuesday that living conditions for its employees "should be better".

Broken promises

He assured miners that the mine was working towards making the situation better.

Nosakhe Nokhamba, a widow of one of the slain miners, said the conditions they were living under were deplorable. 

She told the crowds that the mine had not fulfilled all its promises to the Marikana massacre victims' families.

According to the report, in 2012 thousands of Lonmin employees were living in squalor in informal settlements around the mine at Marikana. In 2006, the company had committed to building 5 500 houses for workers and upgrade the single-sex, barracks-style hostel accommodation into family or bachelor units by 2011. By 2011 however, it had only built three show houses and converted just 60 out of 114 hostels.

On August 16, 2012, police shot dead 34 striking Lonmin miners, apparently in an attempt to disperse them and end their industrial action. Ten people, including two police officers and two Lonmin security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

Zuma subsequently established a commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, to look into the matter. It found that no senior government officials, including Lonmin non-executive board member Cyril Ramaphosa, were responsible for the shooting. It however recommended a probe into suspended national police commissioner Riah Phiyega's fitness to hold office.

Zuma suspended Phiyega in October last year.

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