SA mining braced for disruption as EFF’s Monday stayaway looms large

IN a sign of possible disruption to come on Monday, chairperson of the Rural Economic Transformers Allen Nglela interrupted a Government meeting on mine safety by threatening anarchy for businesses that remained open during a planned national stayaway.

Members of the Government’s Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) dispersed as Nglela – wearing military fatigues – took the stage calling for the stayaway throughout Mpumalanga province where the MHSC was meeting today.

According to Witbank News, the RET will hold a protest march in front of department of mineral resources and energy offices on Thursday.

The incident highlights the risk of major disruption in the wake of political party Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF’s) planned national stayway. Threats have been made against businesses that intend to defy the stayaway which is aimed at protesting against the level of unemployment in South Africa and other economic ills, such as loadshedding.

While South Africa’s opposition party, the Democratic Alliance has sought to interdict the EFF’s threats of intimidation and violence – since challenged by the EFF – mining companies are keeping a close eye on the temperature on their operations and doorstep communities.

“We are planning for disruptions, but hoping they will be limited. Certainly the majority of people cannot support this sort of action, but there will be opportunists,” said Cobus Loots, CEO of Pan African Resources which operates gold mines in Mpumalanga.

An area susceptible to community disruption has been the North West province where the country’s platinum group metals industry is located.

Miners there including Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum (Implats) said they had advanced plans to deal with unrest.

“We don’t expect trouble, but we have stepped up security measures around the mines and doorstep communities,” said Johan Theron, spokesperson for Implats.

Nomonde Ndwalaza said Amplats was “aware” of the planned protests, but added: “I can’t say we aren’t expecting disturbances because we don’t know how it will play out”.

Sibanye-Stillwater has been among the most outspoken of South African mining companies regarding the deteriorating business climate in the country, including rising unhappiness in its nearby communities.

Said spokesperson for the group, James Wellsted: “Generally there is not a lot of support on the ground for the March, but lots of fear regarding intimidation.

“The EFF has been very active ‘promoting’ the march in the North West particularly. We are prepared for disruptions.”

Protecting against disruption and theft has seen the mining sector increase spending on security to R1.1bn in 2021 from about R200m in 2006, according to data supplied by the Minerals Council South Africa.

The council said the mining sector grew employment by more han 15,500 jobs last year to reach 475,561 employees. Employee earnings increased by 55 to R175bn year on year.