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Solidarity ‘appalled’ by hostage situation at Gold One

12th December 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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Trade union Solidarity has said it views the latest hostage drama at the Gold One mine, in Springs, Gauteng, in a very serious light, condemning it as yet another case of “appalling and cowardly” behaviour.

More than 400 miners remained underground from December 7 to 11. While some unions have said all the miners chose to stay underground, others, including Solidarity, say some of the miners were held hostage.

Solidarity says some of its members were also assaulted during the ordeal.

This incident follows in the wake of a similar incident in which about 562 miners remained underground at the Gold One mine from October 22 to 25 following a labour law dispute between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Gold One’s management regarding recognition rights. While some unions described that incident as a hostage situation, others disagree.

Following the October sit-in, the Gold One mine subjected 52 of the miners who had participated in the unlawful action to disciplinary hearings and dismissed them.

In the latest incident, the hostages are believed to have been the victims of a group of miners who held an unlawful sit-down strike to object to the dismissal of those very 52 workers. They demanded that those workers be reinstated.

Solidarity strategy and sustainability deputy general secretary Paul Mardon says that, although there is relief regarding the release of the miners, many of them had to undergo medical treatment afterwards.

“Some of the perpetrators were armed with traditional weapons used to seriously assault some of the approximately 440 hostages. Apparently, the assaults targeted supervising managers who were also held hostage. These managers were also humiliated by having to take off all their clothes, after which they were assaulted,” he says. 

While only some individuals were specifically targeted, Solidarity believes the health and safety of all the hostages was put at risk by the unlawful action, with Mardon believing their lives were at stake.

“There was insufficient provision of water and food. Some of them had to use chronic medication which of course was not available to them underground,” he says.

Solidarity emphasises that the labour law issues in question can be resolved by means of existing procedure.

The Labour Relations Act and the disciplinary code of the Gold One mine provide for procedures that can be followed if there is a disagreement with an employer’s actions. 

However, Solidarity says this group of mineworkers did not follow the right steps and took matters into their own hands by taking out their anger on their co-workers, holding them hostage, assaulting them and humiliating them. 

Mardon says efforts have been made in recent years to improve the health and safety of employees in South African mines. 

“The mutual trust and cooperation between all interest groups such as employees, trade unions, employers and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) lays the foundation for this cooperation. 

“Mineworkers’ health and safety and those affected by mining operations should be the most important factor in mining. It is even more important than traditional labour relations. 

“Labour disputes must therefore never be conducted in such a way that it endangers the health and safety of people,” he said.

Solidarity has demanded that the Gold One mine and the South African Police Service take action against the culprits.

Additionally, Solidarity believes that if it is found that any trade union approves or allows this illegal action, the DMRE and the Department of Labour must intervene. 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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