South Africa has allocated R18-billion for distressed mining communities across the country. Headed by the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) in charge of revitalising mining communities, projects being undertaken include housing and wellness.
“Overall R18-billion has been dedicated to ongoing work in distressed mining communities, benefitting the following provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West,” President Jacob Zuma said on 30 June.
“The bulk of this funding is from [the] government, with mining companies contributing approximately a third of the funding.”
Zuma appointed the IMC shortly after the Marikana tragedy, in which over 44 people lost their lives during labour unrest at the Lonmin mine in North West in 2012. Its mandate is to oversee the implementation of integrated and sustainable human settlements, improve living and working conditions of mine workers and determine the development path of mining towns and the historic labour-sending areas.
“The fundamental mandate of the IMC is to change the face of mining in South Africa working with business, labour and other sectors.”
South Africa had undertaken a socio-economic diagnostic study of the 15 prioritised mining towns and 12 prioritised labour-sending areas to get a better understanding of the extent of the challenges in each town and to determine the most appropriate actions to address these.
“In changing the face of mining, we are also drawing lessons from other countries,” Zuma said. He spoke about the Australia-Africa Partnership Facility, saying the country was benchmarking the policy and regulatory system governing the mining sectors in Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Zambia.
Regarding housing, the Department of Human Settlements was implementing about 66 public sector housing projects in the 15 prioritised mining towns. In the 2014/15, financial year more than R419-million was spent from the ring-fenced budget for upgrading informal settlements in prioritised mining towns in Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West.
“Overall over 7 000 units have been delivered in the mining towns.” For this financial year about R1-billion had been ring-fenced, which would deliver about 19 000 new houses.
Two of the housing projects were in Marikana, where about 500 houses would be built on land donated by Lonmin.
In addition to the ring-fenced human settlement grant funding, the department’s housing agencies have contributed over R1-billion to integrated human settlements in mining towns. This includes 17 341 loans of R239-million for incremental housing from the Rural Housing Loan Fund; R673-million delivering 3 405 mortgage and social housing units from the National Housing Finance Corporation; bridging loans of R95.6-million for 1 177 affordable houses and R36-million for 4 546 subsidy units from Nurcha’s Construction Finance and Programme Management.
Zuma said the government embraced partnerships.
“We understand that when working together, we can achieve much more that leads to a greater impact than when working in isolation,” he said, adding that stakeholders in business, labour and the government had actively supported and participated in formulating the government’s strategic approach for accommodating mineworkers in decent housing and living conditions in mining towns.
Turning to socio-economic conditions, Zuma said that, led by the Department of Trade and Industry, the departments of Co-operative Governance, Traditional Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform and Small Business Development were facilitating large and small scale industrial projects in the 15 mining towns.
These were critical in creating business and employment opportunities. In addition, Trade and Industry is helping selected municipalities and regions to develop and implement regional industrial development plans.
These include interventions in Bojanala and the Greater Tubatse local municipalities for the establishment of a platinum group metals special economic zone (SEZ).
Feasibility studies, business plans and the appointment of a project management unit have been completed and the SEZ designation and land acquisition is being finalised.
Others include the establishment of an agri-hub in Bojanala, Madibeng and Marikana for agriculture production and a processing facility, as well as the Vulindlela Industrial Park Revitalisation in King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, in Eastern Cape.
These projects, which include a multi-sectoral business park, will promote sustainable manufacturing investments into the region.
On the wellbeing of the miners, the Department of Health, together with the departments of Labour and Mineral Resources, is working towards the alignment of the industry’s occupational health and safety policy.
The goal is to build an enhanced social protection system, as well as reorganise the compensation system and access to benefits for former and current mineworkers.
“The Department of Mineral Resources is employing mine accident and occupational diseases prevention mechanisms through improved mine inspections, audits, investigations and monitoring of occupational exposure levels,” Zuma said.
Enforcement and inspections have been beefed up through 40 regional medical inspectors, analysis of annual medical reports from the mines’ provision of standards on workplace exposures, implementing inspection and audit tools for occupational health services, promotion of occupational health in the mining industry, and reviewing research relevant to occupational medicine in the mining industry.
Furthermore, the departments of Mineral Resources and of Health are employing strategic interventions to promote healthy and safe working conditions. These include ensuring the reduction in falls of ground accidents by 20% annually; actively promoting awareness of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB; preventing personal over-exposure to silica dust; and promoting active linkage of dust exposure to medical surveillance.
The Department of Health has established one-stop service centres to bring health and compensation services to former and current mine workers in the mining towns and in labour-sending areas.
There are centres in Mthatha in Eastern Cape as well as Carletonville in Gauteng. More one-stop service centres will be established in other provinces, beginning in Kuruman in Northern Cape and Burgersfort in Limpopo.
The state will also set up mobile units in neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland during the 2015/16 fiscal year.
Zuma said he was making good on his promise in his State of the Nation Address to launch a mining version of Operation Phakisa, the integrated delivery system in the health and oceans economy sectors.
It would be discussed when the National Consultative Forum on the Mining Sector met later this year.
“To date, the Presidency has engaged in more than 15 consultative meetings with the [chief executives] of mining companies, representatives of civil society and national office bearers of labour unions and there is overwhelming support for the Phakisa process.”
His government was determined, working together with other stakeholders, to steer the mining industry towards increased investment, growth and transformation while being mindful of the social, environmental and health impacts on people in mining towns and labour-sending areas.
“The migrant labour system has been the backbone of the mining industry in South Africa and continues to have an enduring impact on both mining towns and rural labour-sending areas,” he said, urging all stakeholders and communities to work with the government to try to revitalise the mining sector.
Follow Alive2Green on Social Media
WE SEEM to have missed the opportunity to learn from the Marikana crisis as a wake-up call to address the structural problems in our society.
Dark clouds gathering over the mining industry reflect the depth of the looming crisis resulting from our failure to create a growing and inclusive economy. The response of the industry to the pressure on its uncompetitive “low skill, low wage” operating model, worsened considerably by Eskom’s inability to provide reliable power, could make or break the industry and take the rest of the economy with it.
Retrenchments might be seen as inevitable but the spillover effects could be disastrous. The despair of those caught up in poverty, unemployment and inequality is mounting and is likely to lead to robust resistance to any move to retrench the breadwinners of large extended families.
There would be no winners in the death dance that could break out under such circumstances between the private sector, the trade union movement and the government. What is needed are tough conversations about how we can work together to address the root causes of our socioeconomic problems. Such conversations should lead to a new social compact on transformation that lays the framework for drawing up industry-by-industry action plans with short-, medium-and long-term goals and targets.
The mining industry is ripe for such discussions to guide the drastic action its leaders know they have to take to stay alive. The looming wage negotiations should be used as a platform for union and mine leaders as well as the government to discuss the transformation of the industry into a more sustainable and competitive one.
The first principle should be putting the preservation of the livelihoods and wellbeing of workers at the centre. The latter requires creative modelling of the size and shape of skills needed for a “high skill, high wage” competitive industry. These would need to be fine-tuned at company level, taking into account the characteristics of each resource sector. Matching the profile of the existing workforce with that of the desired size and shape would yield a picture of the extent of the restructuring needed.
Those not fitting the new model should be given new opportunities that would leave them no worse-off economically. There are pilot models that hold promise for linking the urban-rural nexus that many mineworkers have to negotiate as migrants. Viable agribusinesses, protective-clothing manufacturing and other services can be developed into sustainable businesses in the home areas of those affected.
There is much we can learn from Brazil about the value agribusiness can add to the economy. We have the opportunity to turn our vast underutilised land resources into a platform to develop a strong farming industry. High-value food crops, such as soya, sunflowers and nuts, as well as high nutrition-value vegetables, such as mushrooms, spinach and berries, could transform the rural and periurban landscape.
Fibre crops such as sisal, flax and hemp that generate significant jobs along the value chain, from cultivation to processing, are highly suitable for the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and other areas.
Our natural, mineral and human resources could be recombined in ways that produce higher economic value and shared prosperity for all.
The government has a major role to play in the industry to partner private sector incubators/accelerators that nurture and grow entrepreneurs. Pooling funds from the Industrial Development Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Land Bank and the Jobs Fund, as well as collaboration with the departments of rural development and agriculture, could unlock huge value.
Collective effort is needed to transform poor provinces such as the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga into vibrant food baskets. This would significantly contribute to meeting our land-reform and job-creation goals.
The second principle would be to give those affected by silicosis, tuberculosis and HIV, estimated in a study in 2012 to be 25% of the workforce, the first shot at the opportunity to get out of harm’s way without losing their livelihoods. Linked to this must be agreement on the settlement of outstanding occupational diseases’ claims to free the industry of the high-liability risk profile that hangs over its attractiveness to investors.
A 2009 study indicated about 288,000 workers with silicosis had laid claims of R10bn. The industry’s approach of literally fighting poor, unskilled miners to the death as a way of avoiding the flood of claims is not only ethically wrong, it hurts the industry’s image. Investor sentiment is not neutral to this issue.
The third principle is to commit to investing in skills development to migrate the industry to a high-skills operating model and increase productivity and competitiveness. The focus must be on-the-job training for new entrants to make the transformation needed industry-wide.
Collaboration within the industry, between the industry and vocational colleges, with the government providing incentives and removing bureaucratic barriers to pools of funds, is essential to success.
Using the National Skills Fund, the Jobs Fund and black economic empowerment scorecard points for skills development could work magic in moving us up the skill and productivity ladder. We should learn from the decades-old successful German artisan training scheme, including the development of skilled master tradespeople, who are essential for carrying out highly specialised tasks that unlock productivity.
The mining industry is the appropriate spearhead for transforming our socioeconomic landscape. It is a significant contributor to gross domestic product and generates 1-million jobs, 500,000 directly. It contributes R78bn to the wage bill and R17bn to the tax base. It produces 94% of the feedstock for electricity generation, while it consumes 15% of our energy pool. It also has a historic mission to contribute to socioeconomic transformation. It was the foundation on which our economy was built and it pretty much shaped the nature of urbanisation and industrialisation.
It now has to rise to the challenge and opportunity to once more lead the charge. The odds may seem against it but that is precisely what history’s magic moments are made of — turning moments of crises into opportunities for greatness. The industry is sitting on a treasure trove of reserves and talented leadership that has proven its mettle in tough times. It is time to leverage all these strengths to tackle the challenges.
The workers, the nation and the world are waiting with bated breath for that magic moment to lift the dark clouds hanging over us. We have been here before. Yet, in 1994, we came together to surprise ourselves and the world. We can do it again and complete the journey of transformation.
Follow Alive2Green on Social Media