SOUTH AFRICA’S National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said yesterday it would boycott the anniversary commemoration for three workers abandoned underground.
Solomon Nyerende, Yvonne Mnisi and Pretty Nkambule were trapped half a mile below the surface on February 5 last year when the container office they were working in fell into a sinkhole at the Lily gold mine in Mpumalanga province.
Food and water was lowered to them, but rescue attempts were later called off, supposedly on safety grounds. Another 76 miners had to be rescued from the collapse.
Mine owner Vantage Goldfields announced a remembrance service for the three — whose remains have never been recovered — on Sunday.
Business receivers Sturns, now administering the closed mine, said NUM split Amcu had been invited to attend the service, along with the Ministry of Mineral Resources.
Amcu members have attacked and killed NUM members as the union struggles to replace the NUM.
According to the South African Communist Party, the last killing was in December.
NUM deputy president Joseph Montisetse insisted: “We have not lost hope that the miners should be rescued from underground.
“So what are we commemorating?” he asked. “Are we commemorating that those mineworkers are still trapped in the belly of the earth?
“The people who are organising this event are unreasonable and they do not care. Shame unto them. We are not going to participate in this event.
“We will make sure that those workers are rescued whether they are alive or dead. We believe that God is great. For now, we cannot speak about any commemoration and we are not going to be part of it.”
Mr Montisetse said he was shocked that compensation to the three workers’ families, promised last year by Mineral Resources Minsiter Mosebenzi Zwane, had still not been paid.
“It was the minister’s decision with the company and Amcu,” he said. “The minister should be held responsible for lying to the people because he created expectations.”
Sturns later announced the commemoration had been called off out of “safety concerns” after it learned of plans for protests.
The Communist Party sent a message of solidarity to the three trapped miners and their families and called for mine bosses to be prosecuted for criminal negligence.
Party spokesman Alex Mashilo said: “While the mining bosses are preoccupied with counting profits and their socalled losses, workers are counting fatalities and disabilities.”