Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe says his department will not intervene in the dismissal of more than 400 mineworkers at Gold One Modder East mine because “nobody asked us to do that”.
Asked whether the department will intervene in Gold One mine’s dismissals for last year’s hostage situations, Mantashe said: “Nobody has asked us to. Nobody asked us to do that.”
Mantashe said this after Minister of Labour and Employment, Thulas Nxesi, Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration acting director Xolani Nduna, and a representative from the inspectorate of mines from Mantashe’s department paid a visit to Impala Bafokeng mine to intervene.
On Monday, Gold One mine’s head of legal Ziyaad Hassam said 401 mineworkers had been dismissed for the October and December hostage situations.
Hassam also said 140 employees are on suspension for their participation in the hostage dramas, adding that disciplinary hearings are likely to take place next week.
Asked on Thursday morning if Nxesi will meet the Gold One mine management, Lumko Mtimde, special advisor to Nxesi, said the minister was currently engaging the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to find ways to assist the dismissed employees.
Mtimde later changed the response, saying Nxesi and his department will not be meeting with Gold One management because NUM is appealing the dismissals of the mineworkers.
“On the inquiry that we have not gone to Gold One, although they dismissed more than 400 workers and Impala suspended 38, our visit to Impala and the NUM is because there was a current strike that needed resolution.
“At the Gold One, the strike was over and the dismissals are in the process. The LRA [Labour Relations Act] provides for the management of such a matter. The union indicated that they will appeal on behalf of workers, if that fails, they will approach the CCMA, from there the Labour Court is an option. This means that there is no need for the Department to get involved,” said Mtimde.
This week, the management of Impala Bafokeng mine in Rustenburg lifted the suspensions of 38 workers.
The workers were accused of instigating an underground sit-in at the North West-based company. In December, the company’s 2 205 workers went on a wildcat strike.
They were up in arms against tax deductions on bonus payment and also wanted the company to immediately pay out their retirement funds after the company’s ownership changed hands recently.
Mtimde said the meeting discussed various issues including when workers should return to work and lifting of the suspensions.
The meeting also discussed the reinstatement of workers as opposed to re-employment, provident funds, sporadic incidents of intimidation and road blockages, among other things.
“The minister, after all due processes are followed, will consider possible interventions towards the resolution of the impasse and workers going back to work.
“As we speak, we have been given feedback by the union [NUM] that the  employees are back at work. We are waiting for the employer to confirm that,” said Mtimde.
Sit-ins dangerous, unlawful
Mtimde said Nxesi raised concerns about the frequent occurrence of sit-in protests at mines in some parts of the country.
Said Mtimde: “The minister raised concern with the unions and the employer that this trend [sit-in protests] is dangerous, unlawful and likely to lead to fatalities.
“Therefore, the Labour Department working with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is trying to find legal ways to resolve the issues between the employer and employee.
“The Department of Employment and Labour would like to facilitate and engage constructively with all parties involved in the strikes that are mushrooming in the mines and explore solutions.”
In December, a hostage unfolded at Gold One in Springs where 447 people had gone underground to perform their duties.
The hostage, motivated by protests against the dismissal of employees following the underground hostage drama in October, lasted five nights from December 7 December 11.
In October, 15 mineworkers held about 540 other miners hostage. They were held against their will from the evening of October 22 until October 25.
Gold One said at the time that the miners affiliated to the NUM and who were keen to join the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) were responsible for the hostage.
However, Amcu dismissed the allegations, saying the workers had voluntarily decided to stage a sit-in underground due to the mine’s delay in facilitating a process to allow them to join Amcu and get out of the closed-shop agreement between the mine and the NUM.