/ 2 February 2021

Ramaphosa: Mineworkers must have Covid-19 jab

The pandemic is testing the resilience of most economies, especially those of developing countries. (Madelene Cronjé)

Workers must receive the Covid-19 vaccine, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address at the virtual Investing in Africa Mining Indaba.

Speaking about the government’s vaccine rollout plans on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said the mining industry must play its part to protect workers against Covid-19

“As we embark on a Covid-19 vaccination programme that is unprecedented in scale and reach, we must work together to ensure that workers who need the vaccine receive it … Mining companies are well-trained to support the vaccine programme.” 

Ramaphosa said he is “immensely encouraged” by the Minerals Council of South Africa’s position in this regard. 

On Monday, the council president, Mxolisi Mgojo, said at a media briefing that the industry believes it can vaccinate between 60 000 and 80 000 people a day. “Our collective priority and responsibility as a nation is to get as many ‘jabs-in-arms’ as quickly as possible, to save lives and livelihoods.”

He added that the industry aims to vaccinate at least five more people for every one of its 450 000 workers. These will either be family members of mineworkers or people living in mining communities, he said.

The industry will spend an estimated R300-million on securing, storing and distributing the vaccines, Mgojo said.

“It is quite right, in our view, that the South African government is responsible for procuring the vaccine. What is needed now is for the government to fulfil its mandate to South Africa and expedite the procurement of vaccines as a national priority,” he added.

“And, that it allows and even enables the private sector, to provide support in the rollout in line with the clinically established national priorities.”

Ramaphosa received the country’s first batch of vaccines at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport on Monday. In his address to the nation on Monday night, Ramaphosa said: “The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world.”

He also noted MTN’s donation of $25-million to procure seven million vaccines for countries on the African continent and called upon other companies to follow this example.

“A considerable amount of work has been done with the private sector, and I am pleased that there is a strong commitment to supporting every aspect of the national vaccine rollout effort. This includes funding when needed, logistics, distribution and administration,” Ramaphosa added.

“This has manifested in tight collaboration between the public and private sectors through a range of workstreams meeting daily to achieve a successful rollout.”

During his Mining Indaba address on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said mineworkers’ general health and safety “must remain a priority”. The industry must take decisive action to help reduce injuries and occupational diseases, he said.

The goal of “zero harm” must be achieved through rigorous compliance to the Mine Health and Safety Act, Ramaphosa said. “A safe and healthy, modern mining sector is one that is competitive and is attractive for investment.”

In 2020, the mining industry recorded an increase in fatal accidents. This is despite having to shut down operations for the first part of the national lockdown.

On Monday, Mgojo called the industry’s failure to reduce these accidents “extremely disappointing”.

“It is not a regression that we will accept,” he said.