/ 4 October 2007

Disaster averted — this time

Mining is and always will be a dangerous business. But every time there is a seismic event, a rockfall, or, as happened this week, a broken lift, a new round of muttering begins.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will grumble that not enough is being done to protect its members, and mine bosses, while perhaps suspending operations for a while, will be desperate for production to restart.

In the wake of this week’s accident at Elandsfontein, Harmony Gold chairperson Patrice Motsepe described the incident as a “wake-up call to all of us”.

He said additional measures are needed to protect workers. “Our safety records both as a company and as a country leave much to be desired,” he told reporters.

The NUM, for its part, said it suspects negligence and that the continuous operations at the mine allow little time for maintenance.

South African mines are the deepest in the world and unions have often criticised companies for not doing enough to ensure workers’ safety. However, mines are hardly paying their employees enough — at most a few thousand rands a month — and any major intervention to protect miners will, they’ll tell us, be too expensive.

While mining deaths in South Africa are nowhere near those of China, it is often the most under-resourced people who are left with little choice but to head back underground. It is time for mining houses to invest in worker safety — even at the expense of profits.

Jacques Kallis
South Africa’s premier Test batsman announced his arrival back on the oval with two valuable centuries in the first Test against Pakistan. He became only the fourth South African to score two centuries in a Test match. A great reminder of his value to the national cause after the Twenty20 saga and his subsequent resignation as vice-captain.
Irvin Khoza
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson was left doing damage control this week after the PSL was slammed by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel over alleged commission payments for sponsorship and broadcast deals. “Payment [of commission] is a work in progress. No final decision has been taken,” Khoza said. He was also quoted as saying that “no executive committee member will be entitled to commission”. Well, is there going to be a payment or not?

Most-read stories
September 27 to October 3

1. Pikoli: The Selebi connection
National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli’s failure to give his political superiors full details of the investigation into police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi — and possibly of Selebi’s planned arrest — led to his suspension, according to a range of official sources.

2. Marriage made in hell
When the Scorpions were up for grabs at Judge Sisi Khampepe’s commission in October 2005, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Vusi Pikoli said ‘I do” — and Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla retorted ‘I don’t”.

3. Mbeki speaks out on Pikoli suspension
President Thabo Mbeki has responded for the first time on his decision to suspend the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.

4. Zuma gains the edge
The audit of the ANC’s membership, with the final figures being tallied at Luthuli House, places presidential hopeful Jacob Zuma one step closer to becoming president of the party.

5. Mbeki’s ‘new point-man’
President Thabo Mbeki’s suspension of National Prosecuting Authority chief Vusi Pikoli was intended to win back the allegiance of the country’s security cluster, which has opposed his perceived protection of the Scorpions, anti-Scorpions ­elements within the security establishment told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday.

6. Rumours swirl over Pikoli’s suspension
The shock suspension of South Africa’s National Director of Public Prosecutions amid silence by President Thabo Mbeki has led to concerns of “sinister” dealings and government meddling in the country’s justice system.

7. Mugabe slams ‘Almighty Bush’ over human rights
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe accused United States President George Bush of “rank hypocrisy” on Wednesday for lecturing him on human rights, and likened the US Guantánamo Bay prison to a concentration camp.

8. SABC: Arrest warrant issued for Selebi
A warrant of arrest has been issued for police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.

9. Eritrea warns UN of Ethiopian attack
Eritrea, in a letter published on Friday, urged the United Nations to force its arch-foe, Ethiopia, to urgently implement a border ruling, warning it feared Addis Ababa was preparing to resume war.

10. Archbishop: HIV-infected condoms sent to kill Africans
Mozambique’s Roman Catholic archbishop has accused European condom manufacturers of deliberately infecting their products with HIV “in order to finish quickly the African people”.