Vavi: Mine deaths 'a national disgrace'

The number of deaths in South African mines is a national disgrace, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Friday.

“Urgent action is needed to put an end to this carnage,” Vavi told a memorial service for nine mine workers who died on Monday at Impala Platinum’s Rustenburg mine.

The company directors must be held “personally accountable” for the deaths, he said, adding that should an investigation find negligence or incompetence, the directors should be prosecuted and punished if found guilty.

“Such fatalities are personal tragedies for bereaved families and friends, but they are also a national disgrace.

“The number of accidents in our mines is still far too high. Between 1997 and 2007, the South African mining industry had an appalling average of 244 work-related deaths per year reported.”

He said safety was not prioritised and mining houses should do more to end the many fatalities.

The general secretary said Cosatu supported Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana’s call for all health and safety laws to be rigidly enforced to protect workers from occupational hazards.

“Daily we risk our lives to dig the coal, gold and platinum out of the earth, but never see any of the fabulous profits that our employers make,” Vavi said, which is why the union federation supported the call for nationalising the mines.

“We want an efficient industry that continues to create wealth for the nation but uses the profits to pay workers a living wage, pays taxes to improve the lives of the workers and the poor, in conditions that are safe, healthy and environmentally friendly.”—Sapa

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