Sibanye-Stillwater miners who staged underground protest resurface in Rustenburg

GroundUp reports that more than 200 workers at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Kwezi shaft in Rustenburg staged a sit-in strike underground this week over the mine’s employee share ownership scheme. Operations at the mine have been disrupted by the striking workers since Monday. Workers say they were due to receive the mine’s Employee Share Option Schemes (ESOP) on 31 May. However, the company said the protesting workers did not yet qualify for the scheme.

By Tuesday, many of the workers had abandoned the protest and resurfaced, stating hunger and health issues. Julius Mahlangu was among the remaining workers who resurfaced on Wednesday. He said they will only return to work once they are paid. Mahlangu blamed the mine for creating division among workers by only paying some workers their shares from the scheme. Another worker, who asked not to be named, said they had meetings with unions in February and we were told that the company had gained profit. “In May, we had multiple meetings and the management assured us that we would be paid but we never received that money. Other employees like those at the Marikana Shaft were paid,” he said.

Executive Vice President at Sibanye-Stillwater, James Wellsted, said the workers at Kroondal shaft did not qualify for the scheme. He said that the 2023 wage agreement signed by the company and the unions — NUM and AMCU — provided that the workers would only qualify for ESOP once Sibanye had 100% ownership of Kroondal. Currently it’s owned 50% with Anglo Platinum. He said they expected the agreement to be done before the end of 2024. He added that the strike had been declared unprotected by the courts. “Some may face dismissal as a result.”

NUM Regional Secretary Geoffrey Moatshe told GroundUp, “Irrespective of the way the workers took to addressing their issues, they remain genuine and must be taken care of. It can’t be correct when workers raise these issues for the company to opt for dismissals.”

by Silver Sibiya

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