Five years on, is a better life finally dawning for Marikana miners?
'Our brothers did not die in vain. What they fought for is materialising. Now I take home R12 300'
Beaming with hope‚ mineworker Nelson Zansi‚ is not only in Marikana to mine precious platinum for Lonmin.
For him‚ North West‚ one of the richest platinum deposits in the world‚ is bubbling with hope of a better life‚ on the backdrop of the bloodiest history of post-apartheid South Africa.
Nkaneng‚ a local settlement nothing more than just a cluster of shacks lining filth-laden and muddied walkways in Wonderkop (official name of the area) is also a profitable breeding ground for cattle‚ which migrant labourers like Zansi‚ haul back in the Eastern Cape.
He had no livestock when he left his rural village of Ngqeleni‚ in the Eastern Cape‚ to seek employment in the platinum belt three years ago.Today‚ Zansi has 26 cattle to his name back home and next year he is sending home eight more cattle to add to his growing livestock.
“For R3000 you get a bouncy calf. With good and accessible grazing land as well as the support of the community of breeders here‚ it is promising. I started with four (calves) and then I pooled with other men to rear and ultimately transport the cattle home. They then multiply and create wealth. Cattle are wealth where I come from‚” he said.
More than everything‚ the father of four says the pay at the mine is getting closer to R12500‚ the amount 34 of his colleagues were gunned down fighting for on 16 August.
He is looking forward to moving into one of the new hostels Lonmin mine is building‚ as ordered by the Marikana Commission.
Zansi‚ a rock drill operator at the Saffy shaft‚ cannot wait to move out of the informal settlement‚ where grimy water flows down the streets; where pigs scavenge on rotting grime accumulating in every corner.
“All this is testimony that our brothers did not die in vain. What they fought for is materialising. Now I take home R12300. We are getting there. I can send R4000 home and have something left to survive here. My name is on the list of those next to get living quarters with ablution facilities‚ electricity and hygiene. Not the current shack where I pay R700 to live in squalor‚” he said.
Zansi said he opted for the two-bedroom living quarter‚ for R1300 a month‚ so he could have his children visit him during school holidays.
Not far from Nkaneng‚ at Lonmin’s Number One hostel‚ several widows of miners who died in the police shooting are comfortable. The block has come to be known as the “Widows’ Block”.
The Marikana widows‚ who would not talk on record‚ confirmed that they have been given jobs in the place of their killed husbands.
Sitting on a new couch in her small hostel lounge‚ complete with a flat screen TV on a stand‚ one of the widows said they have been working for Lonmin for the past three years.“We have decided not to speak to journalists. If you want to know anything about us‚ talk to our lawyers‚” she said.
On Tuesday Lonmin revealed plans for a memorial and its latest housing project in Marikana‚ due to be completed in December 2018. The company has blamed the sluggish economy and fall in platinum prices for its failure to meet earlier housing obligations to its workers.
The company committed in its 2006 Social and Labour Plan to building 5500 houses for workers and upgrading its single-sex hostels to family units by 2011.Lonmin admitted during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry that living conditions for many of its employees were appalling‚ which was found to be a causal factor contributing to the 2012 Marikana strike.
Spokesperson‚ Wendy Tlou‚ said Lonmin had provided housing for half its category 4-8 workforce though progress was slow due to economic conditions and the subsequent collapse of platinum prices.“…the entire Platinum Group Metal mining sector has experienced a sustained low pricing environment for the metals mined. The collapse in prices has placed constraints on funding for social improvements‚” she said.
She however said the company had accomplished a great deal in this difficult environment.Tlou said by 2014 Lonmin had converted all single sex hostel blocks into single and family apartment blocks in compliance with the Mining Charter‚ which she said yielded a total of 1908 single apartments and 776 family units.
“Starting in 2014‚ the company has budgeted R500 million over five years to develop 1240 modern apartments. During the first phase‚ 325 units were completed at Karee in January 2016. Construction of another 168 apartments is in progress‚” she said.
Lonmin has also contributed 50 hectares of serviced land for development‚ where about 2658 dwellings were expected to be constructed.
The Bench Marks Foundation has demanded that that Lonmin implement a R12500 living wage‚ address the housing needs of workers - 33000 of whom live in informal housing without access to electricity‚ basic sanitation services or running water - and compensate the widows‚ orphans and injured survivors. The foundation argues this should be in the region of 20 years’ wages that workers would have earned had they not been killed or critically injured during the massacre. In January 2016‚ the foundation challenged Lonmin to meet these demands by the fifth anniversary of the massacre.
Tlou said Lonmin did not commit to meet the challenges or ultimatums‚ saying their view was that they could not be guided by ultimatums imposed by third parties.
She said they were “governed by what we as Lonmin believe is the right thing to do for our employees and the communities in which we operate as informed and guided through our regular engagements”.
Tlou said they have entered into a wage agreement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union‚ which has seen rock drill operators’ basic salary increase from just R6200 in September 2012 to R12200 in July 2016.
- TMG Digital