/ 6 March 2019

Cosatu slams Mantashe, echoes calls to amend mine health and safety act

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Masi Losi/Sowetan/Gallo Images)

Trade union federation Cosatu has denounced Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe’s statement that bringing criminal charges against mining bosses for fatalities at mines will cripple the industry.

Following the release of mining sector fatalities in 2018, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), Joseph Mathunjwa, called for an amendment to mining and safety legislation.

“If our workers are not being killed, they are being injured permanently. We must amend mining and safety legislation to ensure that if any mining boss kills workers, they get arrested. Simple as that,” Mathunjwa said at the time.

‘Criminal charges not the formula’

Cosatu has echoed AMCU’s views, saying Mantashe has downplayed the deaths of mine workers.

“The minister is ignoring the fact that many mining companies use threats and punishments to force workers to work faster and take more risks.

“If workers stop because the workplace is not safe, they may get charged and sometimes even fired,” said Sizwe Pamla, the federation’s spokesperson.

“We reiterate our call for the Mine Health and Safety Act to be amended to allow for the prosecution of mine bosses if workers are killed underground. Mine owners must be held personally liable for lives lost underground. This is the only way to end mine fatalities,” Pamla further said.

In response, Mantashe said mine fatalities should not be handled emotionally, adding that an amendment of the Act would be impractical.

“Criminal chargers cannot be the formula to deal with fatalities,” Mantashe said.

Workers sell their labour, not their lives

Mantashe revealed that mining fatalities were down from 90 to 81 between 2017 and 2018 across all mine categories.

The federation said the minister was failing to hold mining bosses accountable.

“Behind these numbers, there are real people who are leaving their families behind with no source of income. Mine workers should not be treated like glorified slaves. They sell their labour and not their lives,” added Pamla. — Fin24