Churches asked to intervene at Amplats

Jan 17 2013 17:25

Expelled ANC Youth League Julius Malema and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa at a memorial service held at Marikana. (Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)

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Johannesburg - The SA Council of Churches (SACC) should intervene at Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] (Amplats), where a plan to restructure mines could result in job losses, the UDM said on Thursday.

"This will have devastating consequences for our people and the South African economy at large," United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa wrote in an open letter to the SACC.

"There is widespread belief that these retrenchments are nothing other than a calculated strategy to get rid of the mineworkers who were involved in the wildcat strikes in the mining sector last year."

In 2012, workers in predominantly the platinum mining industry embarked on wildcat strikes demanding salary increases.

On August 16, 34 striking workers at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, were shot dead during a confrontation with police.

Amplats announced this week that it planned to stop production at four of its shafts in Rustenburg, which could result in the loss of 14 000 jobs, and to sell a mine which was considered unsustainable.

As a result, workers embarked on a strike at Amplats mines and refused to go underground on Tuesday.

The Amplats announcement came after Harmony Gold Mining Company [JSE:HAR] said it was suspending operations at its Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville, to review operations after several illegal strikes.

Holomisa said the SACC had played a "leading role" in the industrial action by miners last year, and should intervene at Amplats.

"We further call on you to request a meeting with President [Jacob] Zuma to ask him to put an end to the crisis in the mining sector, as the threats of mineworker retrenchments were brought to the attention of government as early as last year," he said.

Holomisa said the SA Chamber of Mines should share with the public the extent of the losses to the mines during the strikes last year, and a committee of experts should scrutinise and verify the figures, he said.

"In the event that the mines incurred losses... we should propose that government gives bailout packages to the sector. However, the sector should be expected to pay back these packages as soon as its financial position improves."

The ANC in the Eastern Cape said it would be a "careless business decision" for Amplats to retrench workers and shut down shafts.

"Given the fact that Amplats announced early last year that they will conduct a review of their business, we think if this is the outcome of that review, it was lazy and anti-development," secretary Lubabalo Mabuyane said in a statement.

"They failed to come up with credible business ideas, but rather opted to sacrifice the lives of scores of the workers and their families."

Amplats should "go back to the drawing board" and come up with a better proposal, he said.

"Amplats must come up with a better business thinking, something that will not push for job cuts. They must come up with a credible business solution."

Amplats miners returned to work and abandoned their illegal strike on Wednesday night, the company said.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said the government should nationalise Amplats if it continues with the proposed retrenchment and closing of shafts and the mine.

"If Anglo persists with the retrenchments, it's a window for government to take those mines and nationalise them," Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters in Johannesburg.

"See if nationalisation will work on a small scale. The issue of retrenchments is just a drop in the water."

He said it was important for the government to step in to find "amicable solutions" to the problems facing the mining sector and the economy at large.

"We cannot let these foreign investors do as they please with our mineral resources," he said.

"We call upon the minister of mineral and resources to withdraw those licences and issue them to the interested local business owners, so that mining operations do not stop."

Amcu said there should be a mining indaba where the problems facing the mining sector could be discussed.

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