Hon Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, I have just been injured on duty!
My apologies, hon Minister! [Laughter.]
Hon Deputy Chairperson, hon Chairperson of the Select Committee on Economic Development, hon Adams, and hon members of the NCOP, we are gathered here today to mark a very special day, and we are proud of and thankful for the sacrifices and struggles of the working class. This is a day that evokes the memorable thoughts of Karl Marx, who called on workers of the world to unite, for they had "nothing to lose but their chains".
The celebrations that mark 1 May, which are held universally on what some people call Labour Day, lead one to think of the billions of people on this planet who, day in and day out, work to keep the wheels of industry turning - mining, agriculture, the trades and other avenues of working life. This is also a moment to reflect on the inequalities and exploitation which, in various theatres of the world, still grossly prejudice working people in their daily lives and further serve to impoverish the poor especially.
To mark this day we acknowledge that those who celebrated it in the past were committed to achieving a better world, with decent jobs, less onerous hours of work and improved wages. We salute them. They managed, in historic campaigns and protests, to reduce what was once a 10- or 12-hour working day to eight hours or even less, giving workers adequate time and the chance to improve their quality of life with their families and loved ones and to indulge in their natural hunger for learning, knowledge and teaching. They managed to do all this while pushing up rates of production and gaining for all working people increased status and meaning in society. In short, they kept the world going and helped to change it for the better. However, this planet is now host to no fewer than 7 billion people, so the scale of the problems ahead is obvious.
It is a cause for celebration that since the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, Workers' Day has been celebrated on the first day of May every year. The public holiday, enjoyed with families and friends, provides a respite from the battles that our workers, in common with workers in other parts of the world, have waged for their rights and social justice. Yet this day is also a reminder of the many challenges that still confront working people and the poor in South Africa, challenges that remain obstacles to sustainable human development.
The people of the South African working class have been at the forefront of the struggle for a democratic, nonracial, nonsexist, prosperous and united nation. They have grasped the point that workplace struggles cannot be separated from broader social struggles and that economic justice and equality cannot be achieved without national liberation.
In the year of the 18th anniversary of our political breakthrough, and the 30th anniversary of the historic 1973 Durban strike, we pay tribute to the millions of workers who fought for a truly democratic South Africa. We salute the many who sacrificed so much, so that all South Africans could enjoy rights of citizenship in their own country.
This day also falls close to the commemoration of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which was on Saturday, 28 April 2012, a day when millions of people around the globe worked collaboratively to promote the prevention of occupational incidents and diseases. Championed by the International Labour Organisation, the day aims to raise awareness of occupational safety and health, and of the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide.
It is also the day on which the world's trade union movement holds its International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers, to honour the memory of victims of occupational incidents and diseases. These are not statistics - they are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who were entrusted to industries as healthy individuals. Their loved ones could fully expect to welcome them home free of disease and injury, but they suffered death doing an honest day's work.
About a hundred years ago Sol Plaatje, the first secretary-general of the ANC, described the lives of mine employees as follows, and I quote:
... 200 000 subterranean heroes who by day and by night, for a mere pittance, lay down their limbs and their lives to the familiar "fall of rock" and who, at deep levels ranging from 1 000 feet to 1 000 yards in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miners' phthisis and pneumonia.
It is astounding that since Sol Plaatje's observations, close to 75 000 mineworkers have died and more than 1 million have been seriously injured as a result of accidents in the mining sector. It is estimated that many more have lost their lives as a result of tuberculosis, silicosis and other poor health conditions in the mines.
The mining industry has for decades been the backbone of our economy and a major provider of employment in South Africa, but the benefits of these contributions to development have always been overshadowed by the industry's poor health and safety records.
Workers in the mines have endured harsh working conditions, including crowded living in single-sex hostels, poor health and safety measures, and separation from their family members. The migrant labour system was once called a cancer, which indeed it was. Even today this sector's commitment to the health and safety of workers and communities affected by mining is questionable. This must change and death, injury and disease must be rooted out of mining.
You will recall that in the period before 1994 the mining industry used to report no less than 500 fatalities per annum due to occupation-related injuries. However, we recognise and commend the fact that there has been a downward trend since 1994. I can report, with a tinge of optimism but also deep regret, hon members, that during 2011 a total of 123 mineworkers were reported as having died, compared to 127 in 2010, which translates to about a 3% improvement in the actual number of mineworkers who died year on year.
The breakdown of the above-mentioned 123 mine deaths per commodity reported in 2011 is as follows: gold, 51; platinum, 37; coal, 12; and other commodities, 23. Other mines include diamonds, chrome and iron ore. The major gold and platinum mines are the main contributors with regard to accidents and loss of life. This is regrettable, as it is expected that these mines should have the appropriate measures and expertise to enhance health and safety.
So far in 2012 we have lost 39 lives in the South African mining industry, as compared to 42 in 2011. I am giving these statistics to show the comparison. We are hardly halfway through the year and already 39 lives have been lost. The number of mine injuries has been reduced by 35%, from 1024 in 2011 to 668 in 2012. Fall of ground accidents still remain the largest accident category and the predominant cause of fatalities, followed by transportation and machinery accidents.
However, there are more deaths in the industry as a result of occupational health diseases than occupational injuries. The recent Constitutional Court silicosis judgment, in the case between the late Mr Mankayi and AngloGold Ashanti, and the litigation in the United Kingdom against Anglo American, highlight the importance of having effective control measures in place to deal with occupational health hazards at the mines.
The health impacts are visible only long after the exposure, hence the tendency for miners not to be given the immediate attention they deserve. Exposure to silica dust is the main concern, as it leads to silicosis and, as we all know, that leads to lung cancer. It further predisposes miners to tuberculosis, and TB has thus remained a challenge in the mining industry. HIV/Aids has increased the incidence of TB substantially. Lastly, there is noise exposure, leading to noise-induced hearing loss, which is also debilitating, as it results in permanent disability and incapacitation. Although there has been an improvement in the number of fatalities, my department is still greatly concerned at the continued loss of lives in our mines. The department is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Mine Health and Safety Act to ensure the achievement of the objective of zero harm. The extraction of the mineral wealth of our country should be done without killing, maiming or causing any occupational ill health and diseases.
Hence the department has adopted a principled approach of closing unsafe working areas or mines in terms of section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, which is very unpopular with and unpleasant to employers. This is to ensure that employers take appropriate measures that will prevent harm to mine employees. There has been a significant improvement in health and safety since the department intensified the enforcement measures at mines. In fact, in the month of April 2012 the lowest number of fatalities was recorded - only three deaths occurred, as compared to other monthly figures in history where there were generally more than 11 deaths per month.
Health and safety in the mining industry could also improve significantly and in a sustainable manner if all chief executive officers of mining companies were to display more visible leadership at the mines. This would also go a long way in demonstrating the value of caring for mining employees, which they always talk about. Therefore, CEOs are urged to be more involved and visible in their respective mining operations, including when there is a fatality. There is also a need to ensure that accidents and occupational diseases are reduced through the adoption of advanced technologies, the leading practices available, and the immense research that has been done and is still ongoing through the Mine Health and Safety Council and other agencies, both locally and internationally. Employers have to ensure that leading practices are adopted by all mines. Some mines have been investigating this matter for far too long, yet they have proof that adoption has led to a significant improvement in other operations.
Since the late 19th century and the birth of the modern mining industry, single-sex hostels have been a significant feature of the labour system on the mines. The houses and living conditions of many workers on the mines were of a substandard nature, adversely impacting on their health, productivity and social wellbeing.
The hostel system for black mineworkers was run on racial and ethnic clan lines. Migrant labourers, on the other hand, were affected by these conditions to a greater extent, as they were denied a normal family life. They were subjected to poor living conditions in single-sex hostels, resulting in social disruption. This also contributed largely to the provenance and spread of HIV/Aids and TB in South Africa.
Government and stakeholders have acknowledged that the development of acceptable and sustainable housing and living conditions for mineworkers can be realised through private-sector involvement in the upgrading of hostels to decent singles accommodation and the conversion of hostels to family housing, as part of improving the housing and living conditions of mineworkers in terms of the reviewed Mining Charter.
A two-day summit was held in November 2011 to review the state of health and safety in the mining sector. During the summit, the government, unions and business made commitments that would address silicosis, noise-induced hearing loss, TB, HIV/Aids and the general health of employees. The department, in collaboration with the departments of Health and Labour, organised labour, employers and other relevant stakeholders, will monitor the situation through the Mine Health and Safety Council to ensure that the summit commitments and action plans are implemented.
There is also a need to ensure that mineworkers have the knowledge and skills to exercise their right to withdraw from or to refuse to work in dangerous, unhealthy, risky or hazardous environments.
We very often compare the number of fatalities, draw trend lines, do regression analysis and so on, in regard to the health and safety data, and that is important. However, it does not speak to the pain and suffering that has to be endured by the relatives of the deceased miners. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, hon Minister and hon members, allow me to take a moment to pay homage and tribute to millions of workers around the world and in our land for their tireless efforts and dedication. From the inception of International Workers' Day on the dusty streets of Chicago in 1886 and the subsequent First Congress of the Second International in Paris, workers around the world have been a formidable force and voice for social justice, equality, freedom and democracy.
In South Africa, the trade union movement remained at the forefront of our national fight against apartheid and all its elements in all their guises. Mines across South Africa served as a mobilising platform against apartheid and capitalist exploitation. In fact, mining in our country was the main driving force behind the history and development of Africa's richest economy, from the discovery of a diamond on the banks of the Orange River in 1867 to the subsequent discovery and exploitation of the Kimberley pipes a few years later.
Together with the hundreds of mineworkers in our country, we fought against the atrocities of the apartheid regime and its forces. We waged a concerted and determined fight against apartheid in South Africa and across the African continent. We can say with the utmost certainty that, together with mineworkers and workers in general, we won our greatest victory against apartheid and oppression. We put an end to legislated racism and racial settlement in the workplace and in our society. In songs and dances hundreds of metres underground, we spoke against the exploitation of the poor, in particular African and migrant workers, in the workplace and in the very communities where they lived. It was these songs and dances that continued to educate and mobilise our people and the people of the world against the atrocities of apartheid and the exploitation that many of our people endured.
Today, we celebrate, together with the workers of our country and the African continent, the victories of our joint efforts to build a better South Africa. We celebrate our shared commitment to breaking with the past and creating a new order for improvements in working conditions, health and safety in the workplace, and wages.
We celebrate because we no longer have a government that sees some among the citizens of our land as not deserving of the same rights and treatment as others. The basic amenities of a dignified life that were denied to the majority of South Africans are now reaching millions of our people, irrespective of their race, gender, social status and location, whether it be access to clean water, electricity, health care, decent education or housing.
Workers have been champions of development in our communities. They have worked tirelessly, together with our communities and the government, to develop the areas in which we live. They have been part and parcel of building many democratic structures, such as community police forums, as part of the anticrime campaign; school governing bodies, as part of our national quest to encourage parents and communities to assist us in delivering quality education to our people; and local economic development forums, to give our people a voice in our national efforts to develop our communities and create programmes that respond to their needs. We can therefore say we have a lot to celebrate with our workers today.
As we move with speed to advance our democracy and put into action our national programme to build a better life for all, we count on organised workers to continue to keep the wheel in motion in order to strengthen all our efforts and programmes. We count on workers to continue to support our national offensives against crime, drugs, corruption and violence against women and children. Workers and their unions are also indispensable to our efforts to deracialise our economy. In fact, they are the heart and engine of our national efforts to build a better South Africa and a better life for all.
One of the most urgent and critical challenges facing our country is the creation of more jobs and waging war against poverty and unemployment. Many among the masses of our people are unemployed, with no guarantee that they will get a decent job tomorrow. As was once said by Isithwalandwe, former President Rolihlahla Mandela:
Poverty is a nightmare of our democracy. It is a vicious circle of poor health, reduced working capacity, low productivity and shortened life expectancy. It leads to inadequate schooling, low skills, insecure income, early parenthood, ill health and early death.
These masses expect of us that every day, and wherever we may be, we will continue to speak out and act against poverty and unemployment. As we celebrate Workers' Day today, we want nationally to call on all the workers of South Africa to join our national efforts to create jobs and fight poverty and unemployment in our country. We call on workers to continue in their efforts to work with our government to ensure that the new democratic order in our country does everything possible to extricate the needy from their miserable conditions of poverty, unemployment, poor health, crime and underdevelopment.
Many of our hon members will agree with the ANC when we say that all these efforts will be in vain and fruitless if our workers continue to die in the high numbers that we have seen. Our shared joy of a partnership that has led to the creation of a South Africa envied by many nations across the world is short-lived and rendered useless while we continue to see some of the most disheartening and inhumane conditions facing workers in the workplace, especially in the mines. We want to say today, and affirm to the utmost, that this must be stopped.
As the theme of our debate today says, it is high time that we have a collective quest for "advancing our national efforts to make mine safety a business imperative in our mines". It is this clarion call that we rise to make to all mine owners in South Africa.
It is time that mine owners invest in the safety of our people. It is high time that mine owners value the lives of our people. It is high time that mine owners recognise that mineworkers are indispensable to our efforts to ensure that our economy remains vibrant and able to assist us to address some of the challenges facing our people.
We want to say to mine owners it is high time that they stop seeing our people as part of their commodities that will enrich them. They must stop using every way they possibly can to exploit them and stop subjecting them to some of the most atrocious and inhumane conditions that violate every right of a living human being.
We want to make an appeal to all mine owners to know that it is the miners who ensure that our country thrives and is among the best in the world, with a really vibrant economy. It is mineworkers who mine the minerals that our nation exports to the global community; the minerals that fuel our growth. It is the hundreds of mineworkers who support our national efforts to fight poverty and underdevelopment in the rural areas by putting food on the tables of hundreds of poor households. It is the salaries of mineworkers that send many children from poor households to school and allow them to access health care and even institutions of higher education.
It is many of these families and households that on a daily basis have the greatest worry and pray for the safety of their loved ones, because for them they are the way to a better future. It is these millions of innocent lives that are destroyed, people who are made to face a bleak future because of irresponsible decisions that mine owners take. It is these thousands of people and households who expect us to ask the hon Minister to ensure that she takes away the mining licence of every mine owner who shows utter disregard for the lives of mineworkers in our country. It is the masses of families of those who work in mines across South Africa. I thank you.
Hon Chairperson, it is a privilege to participate in this debate, and this Minister's debate is one of my favourites, for obvious reasons.
Official statistics have not been released regularly, but some industry sources indicate that the death toll reached the 140 mark in 2009 - an average of 11 deaths per month. According to the current mortality rate provided by the trade union Solidarity, one mineworker dies in South Africa every second day. While there has been significant improvement in mine safety in the past decade, the consensus is that one death is one too many.
In general there is a need for more proactive, preventive mine safety measures. In this context we need to look at instances of marginal mines, some of which are barely profitable and where there is a tendency to neglect mine safety. Also, there has been a general concern in the industry that contractors are not on the same level in the matter of safety as full- time employees.
While recognising that mine accidents repeatedly occur for reasons beyond the control of mining companies, in the case of seismic activity it is poor safety decisions that play a significant part in mining deaths.
Now, in addressing the critical issues, we firstly want to submit that the quality of mine inspections by the Department of Mineral Resources needs to improve. Secondly, mine managers put additional pressure on supervisors to chase increasing product targets, and that has an impact on the safety of the workers. Thirdly, South African mines should invest in the technology used in almost all other mining countries to predict seismic activity, so that underground workers can be evacuated when the risk is high. Fourthly, there should be closer monitoring and scrutiny of marginal mines, which lend themselves to asset stripping due to underinvestment in appropriate safety measures. The Aurora Empowerment Systems fiasco is a prime example of poor mine management and neglect of worker safety. Lastly, as mining companies go deeper for extraction, so occupational hazards increase. There is a need to ensure that mining companies compensate workers appropriately for injuries and postretirement illnesses suffered due to excessive exposure to mineral dust and associated chemical components.
Investment in mine safety must be seen as a business imperative and not just as an additional cost to business. There should be more detailed reporting in the annual reports of mining houses related to improvements and sustainability practices in the area of mine safety. Likewise, the corporate social investment of mining houses should reflect financial commitment to ex-miners affected by mining-related diseases but still of working age, by way of providing or investing in suitable income opportunities. I thank you, hon Chairperson.
Hon House Chair, hon Minister, all protocol observed, I am indeed grateful to be able to take part in this very important debate that relates to the profound yet tragic story of our mining sector and the atrocious conditions facing many mineworkers across South Africa.
I refer to the story of our mining sector as profound because it is a story that narrates the development of our economy from its infancy to the current vibrant and resilient economy that is the envy of many countries across the world.
Today, mining remains the main driving force behind the history and development of our vibrant economy. On average, mining contributes 20% of South Africa's GDP and remains one of the country's major employers, with more than one million people in mining-related employment.
South Africa has the largest reserves of chrome, gold, vanadium, manganese and six precious metals that are commonly known in the mining sector as the platinum-group metals, or the PGMs. We remain the leading producer in nearly all of Africa's metal and mineral production. The story of our mining sector brings with it very sad tales of how many families lost their loved ones under the atrocious and harsh working conditions in some of our mines. Indeed, this is a reality that many of our mineworkers continue to endure even today.
Mineworkers face the extremely harsh reality of working under utterly atrocious and undignified conditions. They work and live in poorly ventilated conditions that expose them to tuberculosis and other chest infections.
Health care for mineworkers is often poor. Screening for communicable diseases such as TB is inconsistent and unverified. Migration back and forth between home and mine, coupled with poor health care services and monitoring, reduces the likelihood of diagnosis and increases the chance of treatment interruption and failure.
In a study published in 2010, titled "Mining and Risk of Tuberculosis in Sub-Saharan Africa", researchers at Oxford and Brown Universities estimate that the mining industry in Africa accounts for 750 000 TB infections every year and the largest share of this is from the Southern African region.
Although there has been a marked reduction in fatalities in our mines, our mines still have poor safety records and remain a death trap for mineworkers. The Chamber of Mines of South Africa reports that in 1995 a total of 533 mineworkers died in our mines and that this figure dropped to 199 in 2006. Of these, falls of ground dominated the causes of death, at 72 deaths; machinery, transportation and mining accidents caused 70 deaths; and the remainder were classed as general deaths.
What is even more worrying is that, among the machinery, mining and transportation fatalities in our mines, there were miners working on grizzlies without safety belts and working below loose rocks in ore passes. Many of these were crushed by the deadly combination of a loco and a ventilation doorframe and working on running conveyors, which are an indication of the serious safety contraventions that take place in our mines. In some instances, miners die due to drilling into misfires, which is also a clear example of sloppy and unsafe mining.
Today we want to say to the hon Minister: there should be zero tolerance of death in the mines. We are making a passionate plea to you and your department to wage a war against mine owners who show utter disregard for the safety of our people. We need to put our shoulders to the wheel to put an end to the atrocities that mine owners perpetrate against our people.
We need to clamp down on unscrupulous mine owners who continue to demonstrate utter disregard for the rights and safety of our people. We need to expand our monitoring systems by enhancing the work of the Inspectorate of Mine Health and Safety, in order to stop the utter disregard for and the violation of the provisions of the Mine Health and Safety Act by mine owners.
Let us join hands to advance "our national efforts to make mine safety a business imperative in our mines" and make those who dare hinder our efforts pay the highest price. I thank you.
Madam Chair, hon Minister of Mineral Resources, Comrade Susan Shabangu, and hon members, my speech would be incomplete if I did not mention the following historic and heroic events, led by workers, which truly changed the course of politics in South Africa. They were the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union of Clements Kadalie, the 1946 mineworkers' strike and the 1973 Durban workers' strike. They also led to the formation of today's gigantic Cosatu. I stand here today in this most honourable House as a young person from rural Limpopo, as a daughter of the property-less class, as an African and, most importantly, as a worker. I am able to stand here today in this House and not take this situation lightly, for I know where this country comes from and I know the blood with which this country was bought.
We know indeed how long and hard the road has been. From the underground mines of Johannesburg in the 1800s, to the belly of the Kimberley mines at the turn of the last century, to the farm workers of my province, which is rural Limpopo, to the Western Cape and the roar of the United Democratic Front, and to Cosatu throughout the 1980s, the workers have never been silent.
Indeed, decades ago we managed to label and throw away the sins of a so- called civilisation that aimed to define some as superior and others as inferior, enforcing a master-slave relationship that was never going to be accepted. We were able to throw away what poisoned our relationships in developing this country. As a result of that we are now able to work together to create a better life for our people. We are also grateful for the struggle by workers, who kept the home fires burning in the face of brutal repression and an environment of fear.
I also stand here today knowing that many young people like me face hardships that we dare not forget. It remains a concern that as we celebrate May Day we remember the reality of the growing number of young men and women who have never entered the work sphere, while others continue to perish in the mines because the bourgeois are more concerned with profits than the safety of their workers.
South Africa currently has a very high unemployment rate. This is a reality that we know, and it is also one that we know the government is fighting very hard to push back. Currently, the bulk of the total number of people who are unemployed, the majority of 73%, are the youth, and Africans in particular. These are young people aged between 18 and 35 who, despite their qualifications, have never entered the job market. We thus have 7,5 million people out of a total of 49 million who are unemployed.
As such, we as the youth and as women welcome the projects that are part of the process of job creation. We know the dignity that work brings, for it is through secure employment that one can afford a better life and decent living conditions for oneself and for future generations.
Taking this as a point of departure, we are also proud of the role played by the workers in the struggle for our freedom. We know that in the face of the terrifying apartheid state our alliance partners fought fearlessly for the workers, with many of them, such as Dulcie September, David Webster, the Mxenges and the Cradock Four, paying the ultimate price in the process. Many did not live to see their 40th birthdays, because their lives were ultimately sacrificed for the freedoms that we enjoy today.
The increased pressure that was exerted, both politically and economically, by the workers through various trade unions eventually brought the apartheid state to its knees. South Africa's economic boom of the late 1960s, at the time second only to Japan, was considerably weakened by the dedication and the clear vision of the workers.
We thus celebrate this day and believe that in moving forward we will create a better South Africa for all. We will work ever harder at closing the gap between the employed and the unemployed, while at the same time protecting the gains of the workers, which have been so valiantly fought for.
As we celebrate Workers' Day, we also take pride in the achievements so far of our government, led by the ANC. We are gaining more hope and more faith as we see new jobs being created. Indeed, at 23,9% our unemployment rate is at its lowest since the 2008 financial crisis. We have seen 365 000 new jobs being created and we have faith that with the bulk infrastructure projects under way we will see many more being created. The billions of rands allocated to the new industrial and manufacturing projects, as well as the investment in rail and transportation projects, should indeed go a long way towards giving our young people the chance to access a better life and to experience in reality the dignity that work brings to life.
In conclusion, Madam Chair, I would like to remind this House of the words of Comrade Karl Marx, who said that the workers must remain relevant and called for the unity of workers all over the world in order to engage and ultimately defeat the inhumane system of capitalism, which is driven by profit and profit alone - nothing else. I conclude by quoting Marx's call for unity: "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains." I thank you.
Hon Chairperson, hon Minister and colleagues, when the Minister and I met for the first time we were talking about the zama-zamas [illegal miners]. Today we are on a better footing, I think! Worldwide Worker's Day is always celebrated on 1 May. This year the theme for the debate in the NCOP is health and safety in the mining industry.
It is a statutory mandate of the Department of Mineral Resources, according to the Mine Health and Safety Act, Act 29 of 1996, to safeguard the health and safety of mining employees and communities affected by mining operations.
Our mineral wealth ranks the highest internationally, with estimated reserves valued at US$2,5 billion. Statistics SA indicates that the industry employs in excess of 500 000 workers. It is therefore an industry to be developed for the much-needed jobs and economic development it provides, but at the same time mineworkers must be protected, their safety guaranteed and their health and wellbeing safeguarded. Balance and perspective are required.
The Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry, led by Judge Leon, reported in 1995 that no less than 69 000 mining-related deaths had occurred during the mining boom of the 20th century. The careless mining operations of the 20th century had also left more than one million people injured and physically disabled.
Mining in South Africa is very technical, carrying a high risk and having to go to record-breaking depths in the earth's crust to extract the mineral wealth. We can't allow the safety of mineworkers to be compromised. Although the mining companies aim to place mining safety on a par with developed countries like Canada, Australia and the United States by 2013, Dr Philip Frankel, author of the work on mine safety titled Falling Ground, questions the realisation, as well as the sustainability, of the target.
The industry is well regulated, but effective implementation is wanting. The abuse of section 54 stoppages causes production losses, as shown in the report by Royal Bafokeng Platinum, with losses of 61 600 tons on 25 April 2012, when seven section 54 notices were issued. Nineteen production shifts were affected. On 13 February 2012, Anglo American Platinum reported 81 section 54 stoppages for the year, at production losses of 109 000 ounces of platinum.
Are improved statistics on mining injuries and fatalities directly related to the interventions of the Ministry, or are they due to the commitment by mine companies? Does the Department of Mineral Resources have a sufficient number of qualified mining safety inspectors employed to service the industry to prevent unnecessary section 54 stoppages?
Minister, I am not going to repeat the fatality rates, because you have already referred to them, and our statistics compare favourably. Then, 4 500 cases of pulmonary tuberculosis were reported by mines in 2010. There is no indication of improvement during the previous reporting period. The total number of noise-induced hearing loss cases reported in 2010 was 1 200 and the number of silicosis occupational diseases was 1 700.
The Aurum Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are conducting tests on miners in South Africa for their vaccine-type medicines, known as isoniazid preventive therapy, to prevent infection. Initial results have proved promising, reducing the risk of infection, but unfortunately it appears that when you stop administering the drug, you can get TB again.
Many mineworkers carry TB, but only 10% develop the active disease. People living with HIV are up to 37 times more likely to develop TB. Miners are at high risk of silicosis and TB due to poor working and living conditions. Hon Minister, you said that South African miners suffered three times as many cases of active TB as the general population. In gold mining, up to 25% of miners have silicosis. Many affected mineworkers retire early and return to deep rural areas, with access to only very basic health care. Some 450 mineworkers are at the moment suing the local subsidiary of Anglo American in London for contracting silicosis and silicotuberculosis from exposure to dangerous levels of dust in the company's South African gold mines.
Minister, we question your policy of approving the appointment of unqualified occupational health practitioners at mines. Alexkor is a perfect example. The specifications and requirements for these positions are well regulated, but it is the implementation of regulations that is a major concern.
What are we doing to reconcile the position of these mineworkers past and present? How do we redress the dire ...
Hon member, your time has expired.
In closing ...
As the hon member closes, can she take a question?
Can I close?
No, your time is up.
UMntwana M M M ZULU: Sihlalo, ngiyabonga kakhulu ukuba ngithole leli thuba. Mhlonishwa Ngqongqoshe, dadewethu siyayazi impilo yasezimayini -okuyimpilo esiphila kuyona thina esiyinzalelwane yabantu ababesebenza ezimayini. Okusemqoka-ke futhi engizwile ukubeka enkulumeni yakho wukunakekelwa kodadewethu nabafowethu abasebenza emigodini yasezimayini, ngizwile futhi ukuthi uthe bayanekekelwa.
Ngicela ukuthi uMnyango wakho ukanye noMnyango wezeMisebenzi yoMphakathi nowezeMpilo ube nohlelo lokuvakashela njalo ezimayini ukuyobheka ukuthi ngabe izindawo abantu abasebenzela kuzo ziphephile yini ngoba lezi zingozi ezikhona kufuneka ukuthi zigwenywe. Kumele kuqikelelwe ukuthi abanikazi bezimayini banakekela ukuphepha kwabantu. Lezi zimayini ezingekho emthethweni osekwagujwa kuzo kwaqedwa umsebenzi imigodi yakhona yashiywa ingavaliwe, bese kutholakala abantu sebezimbela nje ngokungekho emthemthweni. Lezi ngezinye zazo zonke izinto eziyaye zithinte umuntu kakhulu enhlizinyweni.
Kubalulekile ukufundisa abasebenzi ngokuphepha. Ngiyacabanga ukuthi udadewethu unikezwe lo msebenzi wokubhekana nezimbiwa phansi ngoba kufuneka kube nokubambisana phakathi kweMinyango enisebenzisana nayo.
Kufuneka kubanjiswane ngoba ukugxeka angeke kwaphela kodwa kufuneka siqinisekise ukuthi abantu bakithi baphephile. Usuku lwabasebenzi usuku olubaluleke kakhulu ezweni esisuka kulona eminyakeni eyishumi nesishiyagalombili eyedlule la abasebenzi babeyizinto ezingelutho nje, babesebenza bangabi nandlela yokukhalaza. Babexoshwa ngoba kwakungekho lapho bevikeleke khona njengabasebenzi. Kwakungekho okuphoqelela abaqashi ukuba bagcine imisebenzi iphephile.
Singeke sayeka ukusho ukuthi kukhona okuhle okwenzekile kodwa singeke sayeka futhi ukuthi noma ngabe kukhona okuhle okwenzekile kukhona okufuneka kubhekwe kwenziwe. Nathi emakhaya eHlobane siyadinga ukuthi kubhekwe ukuthi zingeke yini zivulwe lezo mayini ukuze abantu bakithi bakwazi ukusebenza. Ngiyabonga. (Translation of isiZulu speech follows.)
[Prince M M M ZULU: Chairperson, thank you very much for affording me this opportunity. Hon Minister, my sister, we know about the life in the mines - which is the life we lived as a generation of people who worked in the mines. What is important, which I heard you mention in your address, is to take care of our brothers and sisters who work underground in the mines; you said that they are being taken care of.
I would like your department, together with the Departments of Public Works and Health, to have an oversight programme whereby they visit the mines to check if the working environment is safe because we have to prevent the accidents. The mine owners must ensure the safety of mineworkers. There are mines that cannot offer any work anymore but have been left open, and you find that people are mining in them illegally. These are some of the things that concern us.
It is imperative to teach workers about safety. I believe that my sister has been tasked with the administration of mining because there must be co- operation within the departments you are working with.
You must work together because criticising is not going to end, but we must make sure that our people are safe. Workers' Day is a very important day in our country. Over the past 18 years, workers have been regarded as nothing. They were just working and they could not complain. They were subjected to dismissals because they were not protected. There was nothing compelling employers to make jobs safe.
We can say that something good has been done, but there is still more that needs to be done. We too, in the rural area of Hlobane, need you to check if the mines cannot be operational again so that our people can work. Thank you.]
Thank you, Chair. We celebrated Workers' Day on Monday, and the topic we are debating today is how to make safety an imperative requirement for our mines. Speaking as a former miner, let me say that in most cases of fatalities on the mines there is the fall of ground, as the media have said.
Tramming is when transport the ore - the rock containing the mineral - from the digging places to the ore passes, which the hon Jacobs was talking about. Then we hoist it through the lift into the tips and into the plant. That is tramming and that is where most of the accidents happen.
On the "omakalanyana" - the small underground trains we call "omakalanyana" - is where people get hurt, because they fall between the trains and are trampled. This happens to some when they are joining the trucks. There are lot of hoppers - we call them hoppers and they are all the little trains, or the little tips, that there are underground. There are people who drive those trains, the "omakalanyana", underground and when you join them, it can happen that the person coupling or joining the trains gets trampled by them. That is where most of the accidents occur.
The key issue is that while technology and its various laws have advanced - it is 13 years since I left the mines - there has been very little progress as far as security is concerned, as well as in making sure that there is the minimum fall of ground.
Fall of ground is basically caused by the type of rock that you are mining. In the Free State and in parts of the Western Reefs and the East Rand, there is mostly what is called basal reef. The structure of basal reef contains silica and the rock that bears the gold, which is called the conglomerate. The layers of the latter in most cases differ in thickness from the thickness of a pencil to 10cm. However, above that we have 0,6m to 1,5m of quartzite, which is a hard rock that is composed of silica. That is where silicosis comes from. Above that there is shale, which is a very friable and soft rock. Between the Free State and the Vaal Reefs it ranges in thickness from 3m to 4m.
Now, what causes most of the rock falls is that that type of rock cannot actually be held tight by the roof bolts. What we drill into the hanging wall are called roof bolts. When we go underground there is just rock, and we drill into the hanging wall to make sure that the rocks don't fall on the people when they are working under them on the ground. The technology to hold the rock in place will take years to advance. We can drill up to 3m, but if it reaches the friable rock, with time it will collapse. That is what causes most of what we call "falls of ground". In 2003, the mining sector and labour set the target that they would like to reduce fatalities in the mines by 20% year on year. In 2007 that target was reached by 4%. In 2003, 270 people died on the mines, but in 2007 only 129 people died. The target was exceeded by 4%. In 2011, as the Minister has said, 123 people died. That is a marginal improvement on safety in the mines, when we compare it with 270 fatalities in 2003.
Another key issue that has a direct impact on the mines is the attitude of the people working on the mines. When you go underground, there are five key rules that you must adhere to - "lo five mthetho kalo mayini" in Fanagalo. You must make sure that you have a lamp wherever you go. You must make sure that the place is safe. When you go underground you must make sure that all the hanging rock is removed, and that the people are working safely and that they continue working safely. Those are part of the five "lo mthetho kalo mayini" - the five key rules underground.
This is important for the unions especially, as well as for the mine bosses - particularly the chief bosses and the mine overseers - because these are the people who are actually working on the ground. It is important for them because of something else: the profits. The hon Sinclair said that mine management must make sure that they put less pressure on the mineworkers for profit. It is true that at the end of the day profits are what the mines are chasing, and that's what brings about this lack of regard for safety and for people to work safely on the mines.
It is because they are always chasing a target. This is what we call a "call"; for instance, you must blast at least 100m per day. In order for you to understand this, 100m a day might be almost as big as half of this room. You will find that to make sure that they get that much rock, people don't put in the proper support and do not make sure that the hanging rock is properly barred. To remove all the hanging rock and put in support is called barring. For instance, according to gold mining standards, all the pegs - all the support - must be not more than 3m from the face. That is according to gold mining standards. However, you find that at some places it's up to 4,5m from the face. That is where you will find that big slabs fall on people while they are working.
On the other hand, as I said, there is the attitude. There are people who are working underground in the stopes, in the raises and in the haulages. Some of them, because they are team leaders, would like to make a bonus at the end of the day. You cannot get a bonus unless you blast more square metres than the target. That is the problem that is pushing a lot of people to work as unsafely as they can, because at the end of the day they want to go home with a bonus and they cannot get that unless they've blasted more square metres. That is the reason for lax safety. Unless we change that attitude, especially of mine bosses, of pushing people to produce more square metres because they are chasing profits, I think we will continue to lose the battle.
As we celebrate this Workers' Day, let me come to the people who were working on the mines and have been laid off from the mines. How do they make a living? Most of these people have worked underground. Some of them have acquired skills, but it is important that we reskill these people so that they can continue making a living. For instance, we have mechanics underground, who look after the hoppers, "omakalanyana", winding machines and winches. There are electricians, because these things use electricity to move. When you blast, there are the drillers, the "omshiniboys". That is a derogatory term, but they call them "omshiniboys", the rock drillers. They drill and then they charge all the holes that they have drilled. In order for those things to go off when they blast, you need people who have the skill to put in the charges and connect the wires. Those people have knowledge of electricity to some extent.
Then there are the people who insert the fans underground. It is very hot and you sweat there. So most of the time you get high temperatures, which are reduced by putting in fans. They are called "imfene" in Fanagalo. The people who put in the fans underground have skills because they know how to connect them.
There are also mechanics working with the rail tracks, because the front- end loaders go on rails. In the gold mines especially there are rails underground. Those people are able to install rails underground in a very nice way. So those are the skills that can be reused in our infrastructure development. There are rail tracks, I think, from Kuruman in the Northern Cape down to Saldanha Bay. Those are the people we should be thinking of in regard to reskilling.
We have the Royal Bafokeng and labour-saving areas. Royal Bafokeng Platinum is a good example of where the people who live in the area have a share in the mining of the minerals. For instance, the Royal Bafokeng have 56,93% - they own 93,82 million shares in the mines. That is another example of how we can make sure that people who leave the mines still make a living and can at least earn something from the mines.
The Freedom Charter states that the riches of the earth will be shared by all who live on the earth. I see that my time is up, Chairperson. Thank you.
Hon members, I think hon Molotsi is a special delegate from the North West. I now invite the Minister to conclude the debate.
Thank you, Chairperson. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the House for their contributions. The contributions made by all members were most positive, which shows that the mining sector brings us together as South Africans. We share a common vision of how we can best make sure that the mining sector responds positively to the challenges we face in South Africa. However, the question of workers and safety is a priority.
I welcome and thank hon Mnguni very much for the lecture he gave in the House today. Thank you very much! It makes all of us understand and helps us become "bush miners" who can then contribute more positively. It really helps you. You know, "bush miners" are sometimes the best, because their knowledge tends to be simpler and easier to understand than that of one who is theoretical and tends to implement matters in a way that does not take us forward.
I also welcome the hon Van Lingen's input, making sure that we all realise that we need to hold one another's hands and work together in ensuring that we achieve the objective of the Freedom Charter which states that the wealth of the country must benefit all those who live in it. This is a process that will take all of us there.
The history of the mining industry cannot be underplayed in South Africa. It is a history that we have to correct. It is a history that must change. We must make sure that South Africa's mining industry becomes a dignified one; a mining industry that any person in South Africa is able to access. So, hon members, it is not about me - it is about all of us changing the lives of ordinary people, especially in the mining communities and also in the "sending towns" where our miners come from.
I welcome the reference to the issue of ensuring that our young people participate. The issue of reskilling and continuously making sure that our young people in South Africa can find jobs and joy in the mining industry is imperative and we cannot underplay it. If we are to create sustainable development in our country, let everyone be skilled.
We have gone past the era where we had Fanagalo. We have gone past the era where you were a "general worker". The mining industry has advanced. However, it cannot advance further when our people are left behind and are not skilled. Hence we will use the Mining Qualifications Authority to make sure that our young people are skilled.
We are offering scholarships. I must indicate to the House that we have 24 young women to whom we have offered scholarships, and we are calling them "ministerial girl-children". In five years' time they will come out of university and be able to join the mining industry. [Applause.] Transformation in this country cannot be achieved if women are not going to be treated equally and enabled to participate.
One of the issues is the safety of women who are currently working in the mining industry. This is an imperative. We are going to continue supporting the National Union of Mineworkers, NUM, in an effort to create safety for women in the mining industry, where currently women are seen as being secondary. Safety clothes for women are also part of the priority.
Qualifications are a priority to us. We are not going to compromise on that in the mining industry. We will not allow this industry to be a secondary sector in the economy of our country. It is a key sector and it contributes. We have to regard it in that way and make sure that skills are developed and that the industry contributes continuously.
When it comes to the issue of share ownership, I must indicate that if you look at the Mining Charter, one of the critical issues is that we say communities in surrounding areas must benefit. However, they cannot just benefit by having a crche. They must benefit by our making sure that skills are taught to those local communities, and also that employment is created. They can also benefit from shareholding. If we are able to do that, we will see a different South Africa. We are not going to compromise on the Mining Charter; we will implement it in a way that takes us forward. The integration of communities and mining companies, as well as working together in terms of the social plan and the labour plan are critical aspects that we are not going to compromise on.
I know inspection is hurting the mining companies, but we will make sure that the safety of workers is a priority. You know, there are those who believe that we must relax the inspection, but we are not going to do that. We are going to increase it. For the sake of our people, profit cannot be more important than the lives of our people. Zero tolerance, zero harm: that is our approach. We want to achieve our target in 2013. We are not going to compromise on the safety of workers. They are very important. As we have indicated, they have children and they have wives, and we can no longer have a mining sector that behaves like it did in the past. We have to change.
We say we must be a country that has been modernised, but we cannot be such a country if we do not recognise that workers' lives must also be modernised. The issue of the workers' living conditions is critical and we are engaging with the mining companies in this regard. There is improvement, but we are not there yet. We need more. We have to scrap the migrant labour system. We must scrap single-sex hostels and there must be family units all over. We believe that if we are able to achieve that, this country will be different.
Young people must not see the mining sector as a sector that is not ... What do they call it? They have their own language! They must not see mining as "not sexy", if I can put it that way. [Laughter.] They must see it as a sector that can be "sexy" and attract young people. If we can reach that point, we can say we are there; we have arrived. It cannot be that some can arrive and others can't. These are some of the issues. We have to make sure that we have a branded mining industry; an industry that can be attractive to any individual in our country.
The last point I would like to make is that the House must help us. It must help our inspectors. We have inspectors and we have capacity. The challenge is that when it comes to standards in the mining industry, they do self- regulation. We judge them according to standards they have set for themselves. When we use section 54, we apply it on the basis of how they have regulated themselves. When we find that they are not compliant, they want to complain. Yet they have set their own standards, the ones they thought were best! When we cry foul, they think we are stopping them and making them uneconomical.
However, we are not going to compromise. Lives are more important than profits. We cannot compromise, and we can no longer afford to have a situation where greater profit is made at the expense of the workers. Workers are important. Workers are human beings and the rights of workers must be respected by everyone in this country - this includes the mineworkers. They are no less human than the rest of the people in South Africa. This is the key issue. We will continue to haunt employers who do not comply. We will continue to make sure that they realise that red blood comes out of all of us when we are injured - there is no difference in the blood that comes out! We are all important in this country, including the workers of South Africa.
The struggle for the workers will continue. We will also continue celebrating Workers' Day and making it an assessment of whether we are amaking gains and improving the lives of the workers. I thank you. [Applause.]
Thank you, hon Minister. That concludes the debate and the business of the day. Hon members, you are requested to remain seated until the procession has left the Chamber.