Let’s not forget the mineworkers

File Picture: IOL

Comrade President Matamela, once again, please don’t forget where you coming from. Assure the working class that you are with them through thick and thin. In your own words as a former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), you mentioned that you established the NUM back in 1982 so that it can be the shield and spear for mine, construction and energy workers.

You minced no words when you proudly addressed one of the NUM’s national conferences when you stated the reasons why you established this gigantic union. One of those reasons was to eliminate all forms of exploitation, discrimination and poverty that were levelled against mineworkers. Since its formation, the NUM has throughout the years been the only voice of the voiceless workers in the mining, construction and energy sectors.

It cannot be you now Comrade President that turns their back on the very same workers you dedicated your live fighting for. The sentiments from workers are that, YES, you truly championed their struggle back then but now they are on their own. Their interests as workers are no longer your priority particularly since you are now the State President.

Comrade Matamela, these are one of your sentiments while reminding NUM leaders that before the NUM was formed, tribalism was promoted encouraged and it was planted throughout the mining industry. The mining bosses thrived on dividing workers and they divided workers along tribal lines. It is through its gallant fight that miners who have for many years of service given only a helmet and a pair of boots on their retirement and are today able to receive retirements benefits.

I should take this opportunity to convey this message that the NUM still continues to fight for the living wage of the workers, and it is still ensuring that workers are provided with decent accommodation. The union is still pushing forward in transforming workplaces and ensure there is improvement of our member’s economic welfare in the mining, construction and energy sectors.

The NUM remained fearless and unshaken in fighting for the living conditions of mineworkers and for them to earn decent salaries. Your recent public announcement on the unbundling of state utility Eskom into three entities, where the NUM is organising with more than 15 000 members, has brought more questions to workers than answers.

Workers are saying the unbundling of Eskom is a start of privatization which will lead to mass job losses and retrenchments in Eskom and coal mines. While workers are saying they are fully supporting efforts to fix the power utility, they vehemently remained opposed to any restructuring that will add to decreasing levels of job security and bring about fundamental changes in the delivery of basic services.

Workers are in all economic sectors confronted with job losses. Workers are demanding a moratorium on retrenchments in both private sector and public sector.This is a promise the jobs summit in October 2018 was unable to achieve due to difficult economic conditions and firms needing to restructure. The mining sector has been particularly hard hit with thousands of jobs cut in 2018 and more planned in the years ahead. Currently, there is a consultation process taking place with Sibanye Stillwater on their plans to retrench 6 700 workers.

Again, the government under your leadership comrade Matamela, is unable to intervene in the continued killing of innocent mineworkers in the gold sector. The NUM has since appealed to the Ministers of Police and Justice to investigate the sponsored syndicates that are currently perpetuating killings and violence in the mining industry. There seems to be no one interested in doing that. Please Comrade Matamela, bring back the lost hope. Assure the working class that they are safe under your leadership. In the meantime, the NUM will continue to fight for its members because they are the most exploited proletarians in the whole world.


Luphert Chilwane is the Media Officer at the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).