Illegal miners – Unsung Heroes


The President of the Association of Informal and Illegal Miners of SA, Malaisha Kipastofile, called on the minister to enforce a code of practice that will ensure illegal miners can apply their trade safely. He was reacting to the minister’s call for a coordinated attack on the problem and her denial of their inalienable right to earn a living. Kipastofile said the reason for their activities must be laid squarely at the door of the government and the unions. He said the protectionist intent of the NUM and Cosatu has resulted in an out-of-balance labour market with artificially inflated salaries, causing large-scale unemployment and ever increasing job losses in an uncompetitive South African gold mining industry. Other mines will become targets when they, like the gold and diamond mines, become uncompetitive because of high cost of legal mining, which result in the willful and reckless abandonment of valuable in-situ gold resources. To the DME’s comment that the state will not carry the cost of the death of the illegal miners, Kipastofile said he was already in touch with Richard Spoor and the Associaton will sue NUM, The State and the Company for damages. Kipastofile further declared his intention to form a Union representing the unemployed. He said, we do not care about meaningful, and decent jobs, we just want jobs and pay so that we can feed our families.

 When told about the views of the Association of Informal and Illegal Miners of SA (AIIMSA), the spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers, Mina Kokomoya, said Kipastofile was a counter-revolutionary with ties to the security establishment of the old Apartheid regime and a cohort of Willie Madisha COPE. Kokomoya added that NUM would demand subscription arrears for the deceased miners since they were working on a mine where NUM has an agency agreement, which compels workers to become members of NUM. The union will however, not entertain claims against the Union by deceased illegal miners or their next of kin. Kokomya vigorously denied the accusation that Unions in general and NUM in particular were destroying employment opportunities. He said, “It is better to die like dogs than to work like slaves” He said he knew for a fact that at least 80% of the unemployed agrees with NUM on this issue.

 In a separate statement, Slack Notsosmart, COSATU spokes person, warned anyone contemplating the formation of organisations opposing COSATU of grave consequences. He said COSATU will not tolerate interference by non-workers in employment matters and threatened mass action in support of the wage demands, the banning of labour-brokers and subversion of the social dream. This tragedy of illegal miners must be laid at the door of labour brokers who undermine union efforts to uplift workers thereby promoting capitalist market myths. Asked about COSATU’s alleged intimidation tactics, Notsosmart said allegations of intimidation during any COSATU industrial action were perceptions created by the white owned media.

Leading economist, Adam Smith, believed that this tragedy could lead to a fresh look at the sustained viability of South African mines and could signal a reversal in the sagging fortunes of the South African gold mining industry. “This could provide us with an alternative model to extract gold from deep ore bodies”, he excitedly said.

A mining industry spokesperson, Tyranny Fortune expressed his admiration for the efficiency of the illegal miners and said, “Their commitment to the task ahead should be a lesson to all. Their ability to remain underground for long periods gives new meaning to the expression. “sleeping on the job” and the management are examining the possibility of applying this principle to current operations”. He added; “This is what we had in mind when we first thought about continues operations.” Fortune denied that the mine owners were discussing off-take agreements with the illegal miners.

The national director of Lawyers for Human Rights, advocate Jakob van Esel bemoaned the fact that the illegal miners, known as zama-zamas, had to recover the bodies of their colleagues themselves. He questioned the commitment and so-called bravery of Mine Rescue Teams and referred to them as ninnies for not volunteering their lives to safe the illegal workers, it is not that they are oppressed like the Emergency Workers currently on strike. The striking workers have the right to refuse assistance to the malingering elite, accident victims, who probably contributed to the situation they are and innocent victims of violent crime, committed by the oppressed poor. Unlike the striking emergency workers, the Mine Rescue Brigades consists of volunteers and have no real right to refuse laying their lives down for the oppressed illegals.

It is believed that the Inspector of Mines issued the illegal miners with a Section 54 order, which could result in a suspension of operations of at least 48 hours. It is also rumoured that the incident may result in a “DME Blitz” on Harmony operations. NUM are debating whether they should call for a 24-Hour sympathy stay away at Harmony operations.


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