_: Honourable Speaker
Honourable Deputy President
We gather today in this House in a spirit of deep sadness and outpouring of condolences.
We are revisited, at least in some ways, with the same feelings of wretchedness that marked events in our many years of struggle. Such memories and emotions we could confidently have believed were confined to the past. But, no, even though we are nearly two decades into our freedom, they are with us today. We must deal with them. We must rid them finally from this land. Our freedom won makes us care deeply.
We weep together as we pause in the everyday course of our lives solemnly to remember those who died in such appalling scenes of tragedy during the past few days.
The tragic events at Lonmin’s Marikana mine that reverberated in every corner of our country shame us all. They drive us on to make amends, to review in utmost depth the happenings in our sector, to check any further outbreaks – indeed, to ensure that these things never, ever, happen again.
The events should refocus the collective might of our nation on answers not recriminations, on rationality not rhetoric. We should refuse to be cowed into a state of mind where we accept the notion – popular in certain circles abroad – that we are nothing but a country at war with itself. Far from it, the African National Congress, the party to which I belong, has consistently and throughout its hundred years stood on the side of natural justice and the rights of those who, through the sweat of their brow, contribute to the wellbeing of us all.
Having spent countless hours either in meetings or consultations with the affected parties, I have come to understand the events that started from a wildcat strike by approximately 3 000 rock drillers on the 10th of August, a day after we celebrated our National Women’s Day. That day is a bitter-sweet reminder that mothers lost sons, wives lost husbands and the whole nation lost some of the cream of our legendary endeavours underground.
We have met with all stakeholders in the industry and it is clear that we will have to work together in tackling the many socio-economic challenges in the mining industry.
The action taken by the President to cut short his working visit to Maputo and return to the country, as well as my observations on a visit to the mine on Friday and the decision to set up the inter-ministerial committee which spent the whole day at the mine yesterday, are testimony that government cares. It is that the government does care immensely about the plight of the affected families including those of workers who are in hospital, who were visited by a President showing grave concern all over.
We agree most sincerely with the President assertion that this tragedy should be a lesson to all of us. We furthermore support the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that the President announced and will be cooperate with it.
So we boldly say in this House today: Notwithstanding the shocking events, we remain firmly a constitutional democracy underpinned by a stoical commitment to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. As a mining jurisdiction we have maintained those principles and built into our legislation, mechanisms that ensure the transformation and sustainable growth of the industry.
We did this in 2004 when we introduced the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (Act No. 28 of 2002) (MPRDA). For the first time in the history of our country, we saw the recognition of the country’s minerals as belonging to its people and the vesting of the custodianship of mineral resources to the state instead of individual ownership as was the case before. These changes were introduced against the background of ensuring that all South Africans benefit from the mineral resources of the country.
The new mineral dispensation also introduced socio-economic responsibility to all holders of mining concessions, through the introduction of the mining charter. Through this policy a document with which all mining companies must comply has been incorporated, the Social and Labour plan. All mining companies who are holders of mining rights are required to develop and implement this plan as they engage in their respective mining ventures.
Essential undertakings have been prescribed for stakeholders to comply with in order to ensure an enabling environment for the transformation of the sector. These include:
Human resources development
Mine community and rural development
Housing and living conditions
Ownership and joint ventures.
As part of implementation of mining Charter commitments, mining companies are expected to address housing and living conditions of mineworkers. Furthermore single sex hostels should be eradicated and informal settlements in mining communities should be addressed.
As a department, we are working to ensure that companies do comply and implement their transformation commitments. In this regard the department is addressing, amongst others, the following:
Strengthening of compliance inspections on the Mining Charter,
Strengthening Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) capacity around Social and Labour Plans (SLP) project selection, implementation and compliance monitoring.
Amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) are recognition of the slow transformation in the mining industry. The intention is focus on socio-economic factors in respect of workers and communities.
Better integration of Social and Labour Plans by numerous companies operating in the same area, for maximum impact.
It surely cannot be correct that mining communities such as those of Marikana and other mining areas should see prosperity and conspicuous consumption by companies and mine bosses whilst they continue to experience poverty. The mines must redouble efforts in the cause of good social and labour programmes to ensure that this happens.
We call on the entire mining industry (and not just the hard rock industry) to go beyond dealing with us as mere regulators towards a situation where they themselves take the initiative in being highly visible and innovative in addressing the socio-economic issues in the mines and surrounding communities.
Transparency should be the order of the day. These communities can be the ones who do the actual peer review of the situation. If they are unhappy, the industry is equally so. So, if we can all really work together, in a spirit of collaboration and fairness with minimum recrimination, we can use this tragedy to undo many of the wrong practices that still mark the mining sector.
That will be a monument to the fallen at Marikana. We shall be able, in time, to look back with sad but steadfast memories, committed as we shall be to bringing about harmony in the industry instead of strife.
So, we now need to reflect on what we are doing to ensure that these events do not happen again.
The mining industry must work on developing practices which ensure that collective bargaining happens routinely in conditions of peaceful co-existence.
We will work closely with the Minister of Labour to deal with the issue of the trade unions that are organised in this sector.
A task team is being established to deal with issues such as ensuring that stakeholders have a common understanding of collective bargaining and other events, the importance of leadership on all sides in the industry, the need for security, the elimination of loopholes, and ensuring improved social and living conditions in mining areas as articulated in the Mining Charter. These are essentials as we move forward.
Finally, I should like to make an appeal to this House not only to share in our nation’s collective grief, which all members will readily do, but to exercise restraint when it comes to rushing to judgments, pending the outcome of the inquiry. This appeal is made in the light of the clear public interest need to be sensitive to perceptions about South Africa’s mining industry and its prospects.
No one wishes anyone to hold back on sincerely held views, and factual and constructive criticism. We welcome that. But, with at least one formerly buoyant part of our mining industry facing onerous new challenges, it can be hoped that the net effect of comment will be to allow the inquiry to run its course unprejudged – and to help to secure and not damage our common future.