Forum to work for peace on SA mines


15 August 2013

The government, police and mining stakeholders have launched a mine crime combating forum to tackle continuing unrest and restore calm in South Africa’s mining sector.

The forum, which will be set up first in Rustenburg, Klerksdorp and Brits in North West province, falls under the auspices of the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry, entered into by organised labour, business, unions and the government.

While tackling unrest in the industry, it will also serve as a platform for information sharing, which it is hoped will lead to improved communication and less unprotected industrial action.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the forum would help ensure that law enforcement agencies acted in a manner that was fair, impartial and objective, and that all care was taken to protect life and property on South Africa’s mines.

In a prepared speech for the launch of the forum on Wednesday, on the eve of the anniversary of last year’s Marikana tragedy, Mthethwa said the forum would “act decisively to enforce the rule of law, maintain peace during strikes and other protests relating to labour disputes, ensure protection of life, property and the advancement of the rights of all citizens, including crime prevention measures”.

Mthethwa said the forum would also put in place “adequate and appropriate” capacity in the form of detectives and specialist prosecution teams to prosecute cases of violence, intimidation, assault and murder in the mines.

It would also prioritise the investigation and finalisation of cases arising from lawlessness in the appropriate, designated courts, as well as oversee the enforcement of municipal by-laws related to gatherings and demonstrations.

Implementing the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry was “a must, for the sake of this generation and future generations,” Mthethwa said. “We share a common vision, which is to see a flourishing, productive and secure mining sector that can play a pivotal role in our country’s economic emancipation.”

Backing for the forum

Delegates at Wednesday’s launch, including National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, organised business and unions, signing a pledge committing to work with the forum.

Representatives from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the United Association of South Africa (Uasa) – the only unions at the launch – committed to work with the law enforcement authorities to prevent labour disputes from becoming violent, including informing the police timeously of any protest or strike action that could potentially require policing.

The two unions also committed to condemn and prevent the carrying of weapons during strike action, and take reasonable measures to ensure that members do not carry weapons during strikes.

Last month, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Dangerous Weapons Bill, which criminalises the carrying of dangerous weapons in public.

The Departments of Home Affairs, Justice, Labour and Mineral Resources, as well as local traditional leaders, are in full support of the forum, as are the mining companies, who added their voices to the call for an end to a spate of sporadic murders on the mines.

In the latest incident, a 44-year-old female shop steward was shot and killed at Wonderkop near Marikana on Monday.

Call for end to violence

Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said that a year after the Marikana tragedy, which saw 44 people killed in strike-related unrest, leaders had to ensure that their messages were aimed at achieving and maintaining peace.

She also called on communities to partner with police in combating violence.

Mthethwa urged all parties to play a constructive role and support the families and the nation at large in the process of healing.

“The period was and will remain a sore reflection to all of us as a nation. Nonetheless, we needed to begin to find immediate steps, particularly from a security perspective, to ensure that those who seek to derail our crime reduction efforts do not succeed.”

Mthethwa said the government remained committed to the judicial commission of inquiry that was investigating the events that led to the Marikana tragedy, and called on all parties “to respect the processes of the judicial commission and refrain from making irresponsible statements”.

The government has taken various steps to bring about stability and improve the lives of communities in the aftermath of Marikana. These are aligned to the Mining Charter, which commits mining companies to help improve the standard of housing on the mines, including upgrading hostels, converting hostels into family units and promoting ownership options.

Mthethwa said that while the police, including personnel drawn from public order policing, would continue to monitor Marikana, they had no control over working conditions and agreements privately entered into between miners and mines.

“Police officers are not trained to become labour brokers and intermediaries in wage settlements,” the minister said, appealing to trade union representatives and political parties not to politicise mining wage negotiations.