Marikana miners warn of a second massacre

Sibanye-Stillwater's Marikana mine employees are facing retrenchments where thousands of jobs are on the line, this will result in the closure of certain shafts. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspaper.

Sibanye-Stillwater's Marikana mine employees are facing retrenchments where thousands of jobs are on the line, this will result in the closure of certain shafts. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspaper.

Published Mar 1, 2024


Disgruntled community members of the mining town of Marikana have warned Sibanye-Stillwater, formerly Lonmin, another Marikana massacre is looming if the ongoing culling of jobs continues.

The mining giant has recently completed the section 189 retrenchment process which is bound to impact more than 3 700 jobs.

This has raised concerns among the community members, who have not ruled out the possibility of bloodshed.

This week, The Star team visited Marikana, the battleground that saw more than 34 miners being gunned down by the police in August 2012. Reports indicate that 10 more people died leading up to the day that is now referred to as the Marikana massacre, raising the number to 44.

The situation on the ground remains unpredictable as scores of young people hoping to earn a living feel deprived of opportunities. Their only hope comes in securing a job at the mine as little to no other opportunities are available to them.

Now with these retrenchments their hopes of securing a job remain elusive.

A community leader, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, told The Star that the retrenchment process is adding more tension to an already volatile situation.

“These retrenchments mean a high rate of unemployment and crime which causes a frustrated community and when you have such a community, it means we are not stable. The community is about to take out the frustrations on the mine,” she said.

The 32-year-old community leader, who was 20 at the time of the massacre, told the publication that the 2012 massacre was nothing compared to what was coming.

“The state of how Sibanye is treating the community is atrocious… they use threats and retrenchments to suppress us so that we can fear them… but they don’t know that what they are instilling in the community is hate,” she said.

She further said the miners are complaining about the working conditions and that there are no safety precautions underground – and now the company is retrenching after promising them jobs.

South Africa - North West - 29 February 2024 - Community members of Wonderkop in Marikana, collect water from a nearby water tank, the is lack of service delivery in the area. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspaper.

“We have the elderly people who say they are ready to leave and apply for the voluntary service package but are rejected because the mine knows they don’t have many years to go, so they keep them,” she said.

Another community member and a former miner who says he was pushed out of the mine, Tebogo Lekanyane, 40, from Wonderkop, said the ongoing retrenchments was as a result of the massacre 12 years ago.

“I think these retrenchments are just the clutch of the titans because Amcu (Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) has the majority members in the mine and they are the ones who started the 2012 strike. So the way I see it is that the mine is trying to release some of the Amcu members with these retrenchments,” Lekanyane said.

He agreed that a big protest action was looming because he was there when the first one happened.

“I saw what happened there, but what is coming is bigger because of the treatment they are giving us with these 189s.

“They have never been honest with us. For instance, the mine employs from 18 to 35. When you reach 35 you can’t apply at the mine. I know a person who has applied from the age of 30 but has still not got a job and he is now 35. This has caused a lot of chaos in the community because we are not benefiting from this mine,” Lekanyane said.

In a recent statement, the mine, which has multiple operations including in Marikana, confirmed the recent restructuring process as per the announcement made on October 25, 2023, where 4 095 employees and contractors (3 500 employees and 595 contractors), including support services employees, have been affected by the s189 process.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s spokesperson, James Wellsted, said constructive consultations were held between the company and affected stakeholders, during which various avoidance measures to mitigate possible retrenchments and minimise job losses at the operations and associated services were considered.

However, these consultations were not enough to stop the impending retrenchments even though the number of possible retrenchments was significantly reduced.

“Three hundred and fifty-one employees accepted transfers to other shafts at the SA PGM (platinum group metals) operations to fill vacancies due to natural attrition. Since the start of the s189 process 1 281 employees were granted voluntary separation or early retirement packages; 47 employees could not be accommodated through the agreed avoidance measures, and have been retrenched, with 805 contractor employees also impacted.”

Neal Froneman, Sibanye-Stillwater’s CEO, was quoted as saying: “While the decision to close or restructure operations is never taken lightly, the s189 consultation process encouragingly achieved the necessary requirement of addressing loss-making operations and ensuring the sustainability of our SA PGM operations and the benefits and value they bring to multiple stakeholders. We acknowledge and thank all stakeholders for their constructive engagement.”

The Star