Did a baby die for a mine ID card?

A month after the birth of her daughter in the tiny village of Willowvale in the Transkei, Nomthunzi Hlakaza set off to the West Rand Consolidated Mines (West Cons) in the West Rand to show the baby to its father.

But before the father, Mthetheleli Hlakaza, could see little Nozipho she lay dead in her mother's arms – a victim of the mine's "permit system".

According to a family representative the mother and baby were refused permission to enter the mine village because of company rules which state that workers have to apply for permission to receive visitors 14 days before the visitors actually arrive.

Pleas from concerned workers, and the taxi driver who brought Nomthunzi to the mine, that the baby was ill and needed urgent medical attention fell on deaf ears. But a representative of the Gencor-owned mine, Harry Hill denied that the baby's death was a result of the mine's "permit system".

Little Nozipho's death comes about two month after mine management introduced a stringent "ID card system" on the mine. All workers at the mine and their children over 18 are required to produce the ID card on demand.

According to a resident of the village, 1 000 people in the family houses share four bucket system communal toilets and two bathrooms. West Cons representative Beverly Jordt said the carrying of ID document on the premises of business and industrial undertakings is a widely accepted practice internationally, and the gold mining industry is no exception.

Fewer-than 400 people stay in the married quarters, she said, "and the number of facilities are way in excess of those stated". Asked to give an exact number of toilets and bathrooms Jordt said "We don't have the exact number. We will have to go out to the mine to determine how many toilets or bathrooms there are." 

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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Sefako Nyaka
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