Mine Crime Combating Forum to end unrest in mining sector

RUSTENBURG: (By Tony Selvester)-– In an attempt to restore calm in the mining sector and reassure investors, South Africa has  launched the Mine Crime Combating Forum (MCCF).

The forum — which falls under the auspices of the Framework Agreement for a Sustainable Mining Industry, entered into by organised labour, business, unions and government — will deal with unrest in the industry, which is the backbone of the country’s economy. It will also be a platform for information sharing, which it is hoped will lead to improved communication and in turn, result in less unprotected industrial action.

The new forum, which will first be established in Rustenburg, Klerksdorp and Brits, will ensure that law enforcement agencies act in a manner that is fair, impartial and objective, and that all care is taken to protect life and property, says Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

In a prepared speech for the launch of the forum on Wednesday, on the eve of the anniversary of last year’s Marikana tragedy, Mthethwa said the new forum will “act decisively to enforce the rule of law, maintain peace during strikes and other protests relating to labour disputes, ensure protection of life, property and the advancement of the rights of all citizens, including crime prevention measures”.

Mthethwa was delayed at the Cabinet Lekgotla currently underway in Pretoria.

He said the MCCF will also put in place “adequate and appropriate” capacity in the form of detectives and specialist prosecution teams to prosecute cases of violence, intimidation, assault and murder in the mines. It will also prioritise the investigation and finalisation of cases arising from lawlessness in the appropriate, designated courts.

The MCCF will also see the enforcement of municipal by-laws related to gatherings and demonstrations.

“The implementation of the framework is therefore not an option but a must, for the sake of this generation and future generations.

“We share a common vision, which is to see a flourishing, productive and secure mining sector that can play a pivotal role in our country’s economic emancipation,” Mthethwa said.

Delegates at the launch included National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, organized business and unions.

They signed a pledge committing to work with the MCCF, which states that “miners need to see rapid change in their living and working conditions”.

Support for MCCF

Representatives from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the United Association of South Africa (UASA) – who were the only unions at the launch – committed to work with law enforcement authorities to prevent labour disputes from becoming violent, including informing the police timeously of any protest or strike action that could potentially require policing.

The two unions also committed to condemn and prevent the carrying of weapons during strike action, and take reasonable measures to ensure that members do not carry weapons during strikes.

The Departments of Home Affairs, Justice, Labour and Mineral Resources and local traditional leaders are also on board with the MCCF.

This is in addition to the mining companies, who pledged their support while calling for peace. They also added their voices to the urgent call for an immediate end to sporadic murders.

In the latest incident, a 44-year-old female shop steward was shot and killed on Monday at Wonderkop near Marikana.

Mthethwa said continued tensions and clashes were disturbing, and stood in direct contrast of efforts to create harmony.

Mthethwa said some cases related to violence in Marikana have been postponed due to the sitting of the Farlam Commission, while others are ready to proceed and ready for trial.

“We have confidence that the perpetrators will be accordingly punished,” Mthethwa said.

In her message of support for the MCCF, Commissioner Phiyega said the levels of participation by stakeholders in the MCCF were encouraging, but a lot still had to be done.

Phiyega committed that the employees of SAPS will perform their duties as outlined in the framework.

“The intention of the MCCF is for each of us to commit and action our responsibilities as required by law,” she said, adding that action begins now.

Phiyega said a year after the Marikana tragedy – which saw 44 people killed in strike related unrest – leaders must ensure their messages are aimed at peace, working together and harmony. She noted that the situation continued to be sensitive.

Phiyega also called on communities to partner with police in communicating acts of violence. She was adamant that as a nation working together, the situation in Marikana can be normalised.

Healing the rift

Mthethwa urged all parties to play a constructive role and support the families and the nation at large in the process of healing.

“The period was and will remain a sore reflection to all of us as a nation.  Nonetheless, we needed to begin to find immediate steps, particularly from a security perspective, to ensure that those who seek to derail our crime reduction efforts do not succeed.”

The Police Minister also called on South Africans to respect the work of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate the events that led to the Marikana tragedy.

“As government, we committed through the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to uncover the truth, including calling on all parties to respect the processes of the Judicial Commission and refrain from making irresponsible statements.”

Mining industry stakeholders, government and unions at the launch were unanimous in their conviction that what happened in Marikana and in its aftermath must never be repeated.

Government has put in place various measures to bring about stability and improve the lives of the communities in the aftermath of Marikana. Rustenberg mayor Louis Diremelo said the real enemy in the mining industry was the living conditions.

To address this, a Presidential Package has been established. It is also aligned to the Mining Charter, which commits mining companies to, in consultation with stakeholders, establish measures for improving the standard of housing, including upgrading hostels, conversion of hostels to family units and promote ownership options.

Last month, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Dangerous Weapons Bill, which criminalises the carrying of dangerous weapons in public.

The police, including personnel drawn from different divisions, as well as public order policing, continue to monitor Marikana.

“We will continue to monitor the situation within the mining sector because whilst we are optimistic of stabilising and normalising the situation, we are cognizant that there will be those who attempt to derail the process,” said Mthethwa.

The minister, however, said that the while SAPS are policing the situation, they also have no control in terms of working conditions and agreements privately entered into between the miners and mines.

He called on affected parties take the lead and take the issue seriously.

“Police officers are not trained to become labour brokers and intermediaries in wage settlements. Our core mandate is ensuring that all South Africans are and feel safe.”

The minister appealed to all the stakeholders, in particular the trade union representatives as well as political parties, not to unnecessarily politicise mining wage negotiations.

“To us, this is crime.  We do not see it as politically-motivated acts. You cannot sit on separate sides of the fence and point fingers at each other,” said Mthethwa.

Speaker after speaker at the launch, including union representatives, reiterated that safety and security was a shared responsibility. They cautioned against instilling unnecessary fear and uncertainty in the mining communities.

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