Statement on violence against Women in the Mining sector – 16 March 2015

The National Working Committe (NWC) of the United Front (UF) condemns with contempt any killing and sexual violence against female workers in mining sector.

The UF as a whole is shocked and numbed by recent reports about a female mineworker who was allegedly raped at the Thembelani mine owned by Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in Rustenburg, North West on the 8th of March 2015.

This incident occurred in a workplace environment while she was taking a shower. This horrific incident comes only a few months after the conviction and sentencing of Binkie Mosiane’s rapist and murderer who was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. Comrade Binkie was a mine worker and worker leader at the Khomanani mine in Rustenburg. On 6th February 2012, her body was found in a pool of blood. She had also been raped. The case against her rapist and murderer was characterised by a litany of poor investigative work by the police.

The mining industry does not have a systematic way to prevent, monitor and record violence and discrimination against women in the sector. The reported incidents can only be the tip of an invisible, hidden iceberg. Generally acts of sexual assault and violence against women in South African mines go unreported; due to the overriding fear female mineworkers have of losing their jobs, as well as the stigmatisation attached to being a victim of rape.

The mining sector workplace, predominately dominated by men, struggles with challenges of gender inequality, socially conservative gender norms, gender stereotypes, and violence against women.

These incidents of violence against women in the mining sector highlight yet again the need for a coordinated response between the state, the criminal justice system, communities, workers, civil society and employers towards ending violence against women.

The UF calls on the mining industry to take decisive action to develop an effective plan and system, sufficiently resourced, to end violence against women in the sector. This must include provision for effective action to  ensure women’s safety from violence at the hands of men in the entire mining system.

The UF also calls on all workers and their trade unions in the mining industry to take decisive action to end violence against women. Ultimately, the rape of women mine workers is committed by male workers. Rape represents the most extreme violation  of the woman’s body. Rape is invasive and violently asserts male power over women. It is part of our sexist, patriarchal society. Acts of rape by male mine workers (who probably are members and leader of trade unions) go against worker solidarity and other foundational principles of the trade union movement. The UF calls on trade unions to eradicate sexism in their ranks as part of the overall fight to end the scourge of violence against women.

The long-term impact of inaction will have repercussions for women psychological and physical wellbeing of its workers. It will also contribute towards lack of women equal participation in the mining workforce.

The Constitution promises women full equality, rights peace and justice. The mining industry is failing women in this regard. Nothing less than a National Strategic Plan to end Gender-Based Violence will fulfill this constitutional promise. The UF reiterates its call for a multisectoral comprehensive framework to end gender-based violence in South Africa. The cost of inaction is a loss of life. The UF calls on all people and organisations in South Africa to stand behind the demand for such a National Strategic Plan.

The UF also sends words of encouragement and supports to those affected by this ordeal that we are with them in these struggles. The UF stands for a society that is characterised by full gender equality, no violence against women, human dignity and a decent life for all.

FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT:

  1. Cynthia Machaba:  United Front National Working Committee member – 079 977 0451
  2. Vuyiseka Dubula:  United Front National Working Committee member – 082 763 3005
  3. Mazibuko K. Jara:  United Front National Secretary – 083 987 9633