FOLLOWING the death of three illegal Zimbabwean miners at Langlaagte, west of Johannesburg, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) has asked Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, to immediately address illegal mining activities and also expressing their concern at the way he handled the accident.
“Our impatience with this process is related to the more strategic need for the nationalisation of mines that we have historically been calling for,” says an open letter by ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza.
Nzuza says the League wants Zwane to quickly resolve the issue, adding that it had grown rather impatient with the slow pace of transformation in the mining sector.
“In the context of this objective, we want to see a systematic move towards legislation that will see the state-owned mining company, as soon as it is operational, taking up ownership and control of greater mines in the country.”
Three Zimbabweans Williard Nyoni, Njabulo Sibanda and Sibanangi Tsikwa died while another seven, all believed to be Zimbabweans, were arrested last week after they got trapped underground for days at a disused gold mine in Langlaagte.
Nzuza said Zwane must address the issue of a state-owned mining company, the highly-contested Mining Charter, while challenging him to make public his position on the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Bill.
It is suspected that there are multiple groups that operate at the closed mine shaft at Johannesburg’s oldest and disused gold mine. The department of mineral resources (DMR) will be sealing the shaft.
But Nzuza says the DMR should be open to exploring possible options instead of being punitive against the practice.
Nzuza believes the rise of illegal mining was an indictment on the criminality of the mining industry in so far as development of mining communities was concerned.
“Your department seems to have tied itself together with the Chamber of Mines in advancing the perspective of bringing the full might of the law without looking at alternatives,” he says.
“We note and are mindful of the concerns you are raising, that is deaths and diseases. From where we are sitting, we find that hypocritical given the fact that even in the formal sector there are deaths and diseases that bedevil workers; with miners being exposed to hazardous fumes, gas, and collapsing shafts,” he says adding that mining companies were guilty of serious environmental degradation and air pollution that condemn surrounding communities to health hazards, and also were guilty of not investing in socio-economic projects in mining towns.
“They also have a tendency to displace local labour by employing foreign nationals whose pressured circumstances make them susceptible to super exploitation.“This is the structural tension that produces desperation to the extent that people risk their lives trying to scrape through the disused mines to make a living.” – Patience Rusere