Immigration staff shortage proving bottleneck for returning migrant mine labour

THE return to work of some 9,500 foreign mineworkers needed to get South Africa’s mines back to full production is being held up by a shortage of immigration staff at the country’s borders along as well as delays in getting approval from Natjoints which is the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure.

Natjoints co-ordinates all security and law enforcement operations throughout South Africa and includes the South African Police Services; the SA National Defence Force and the Department of Health among other government departments and organisations.

According to Minerals Council senior executive for safety and health, Nikisi Lesufi, the mines have completed all the necessary processes required by Natjoints for the return of the foreign mineworkers, but there is a continuing bottleneck at the country’s border posts which were operating on skeleton staffs.

Lesufi’s assessment echoes comments made previously by Harmony CEO, Peter Steenkamp, who said his group was awaiting the return of 7,000 migrant workers but did not expect a full return until the middle of July even though all the approvals were in place.

Lesufi said the requirements involved included meeting the normal immigration rules as well as  complex travel logistics. The returning mineworkers had to have all the necessary documentation such as corporate visas and temporary residence permits to be allowed to enter South Africa.

Then, because of the skeleton staffs working on the border posts, he said Natjoints required precise information on “… which mineworker from which mine is coming on which day and going to which site; who will receive that mineworker at the site and that person must take responsibility for the quarantining of that worker for the next 14 days.

“That person must be able to give reports to the Department of Health about all the management measures put in place on site.”

Lesufi added: “The logistics of the travel arrangements are in contention”.  He said the  South African Police Services was the only authority allowed to escort the busses providing the routes to be used while the mines had to ensure there was medical expertise on board the busses and also provide mechanical emergency support “… in case anything happened to the busses”.

“All those things are in place. What we are waiting for is the border travel and restrictions security workstream of Natjoints to go through the list of names we have submitted and give us the approval for each person that he is allowed to come through at the time indicated and to the destination indicated.

“That’s where we are now. We are waiting for feedback from Natjoints.” Lesufi told a media briefing held in Johannesburg today updating the COVID-19 situation on South Africa’s mines.


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