Solidarity welcomes dismissal of Gold One villains, but seeks guarantees

Henry

Solidarity welcomed the dismissal of at least 92 strikers at the Gold One gold mine – whose horrific behavior towards co-workers was revealed by the media early last month.

RNews earlier reported that hundreds of miners were held hostage, tortured and starved for five days in the Gold One Modder-Oos mine outside Johannesburg. Some miners were also assaulted for hours with pickaxes and planks with nails attached to them.

According to Solidarity, some of the very perpetrators had to be turned away again when operations resumed at the mine near Springs earlier this week.

“Victims of December’s sit-in strike noticed that some of the dismissed workers were underground again when the first shifts resumed for January,” says Adv. Paul Mardon, deputy general secretary of strategy and sustainability at Solidarity.

“These perpetrators were apparently arrested when they came above ground, but are not currently under police surveillance.

“In light of this, Solidarity demands answers from Gold One mine’s management about how they will proceed to prevent a possible third sit-down strike at the mine, or any similar violent action,” says Mardon.

Workers had to report for duty again from 3 January following an internal disciplinary process that followed the violent underground strike that lasted from 7 to 11 December 2023.

Moreover, the strike followed the one of October 2023.

Several workers who were not involved in the strikers’ demands were held underground as hostages for five days in December, severely assaulted, threatened with death and also humiliated.

Some workers were forced to strip naked and were then beaten with pickaxes and boards.

According to Mardon, white workers were also singled out for assault over time.

“Gold One indicated last week that 92 of the 250 workers who were subjected to a disciplinary hearing were indeed dismissed because of this repulsive conduct. It is gratifying that action has been taken against the perpetrators.”

He says that an additional investigation by the police will hopefully also lead to further criminal proceedings against the perpetrators.

“We are grateful that action was taken to make the culprits pay for their criminal behavior, but since this was the second sit-down strike in less than 50 days at the same mine, unfortunately, danger lights are still flashing.

“Traumatized workers were expected to return to work this week. What is the action plan to offer these workers – including our own members – protection?

“Gold One has not yet answered why they could not foresee or avoid the second strike. How can we trust that a third one is not also imminent?” asked Mardon.

According to him, the employer would indeed violate legislation on workplace safety if such a situation were to happen again.

“We want Gold One to give guarantees about workers’ safety. If they do not fulfill the obligation to take steps to prevent a repetition of the situation, Gold One will have to pay if another strike takes place and there are any injuries or even loss of life.

“This is why we want to know what Gold One’s action plan is to stop a third sit-down strike. Do they now consider it a priority?

“Simply saying you are committed to a safe working environment is not enough. An internal disciplinary process is also not enough to deal with criminal actions like this,” says Mardon.

Meanwhile, Solidarity has advised its own members not to enter the workplace until their safety is guaranteed, or if they feel their lives are threatened in any way.