News / Africa

    S. Africa Shooting Exposes Miners' Living Conditions

    IKEMELENG, South Africa — The shock, the mourning, and now the questions 10 days after the shoot-out in a South African platinum mine in which police killed 34 striking miners.  The tragedy laid bare the harsh living conditions of the workers and the growing anger in the mines.

    The sound of machines at the mine can be heard from the miners' shacks, in the what is called the platinum belt.  It is here, 100 kilometers west of South Africa's capital city Pretoria, that 80 percent of the world's platinum is dug out.

    Walking back home after eight hours of work, Nicolas is tired.  Since last year, the 26-year-old miner spends his days in the dark, hundreds of meters underground.  He says accidents can happen very fast.

    "Down there, there is a lot of injuries," he said. "Even the hanging walls, sometimes, the rocks falling, something like that."

    Ten-thousand people live in Ikemeneng township.  Miners, like Nicolas, earn around $500 a month working for nearby mining companies, such as AngloAmerican.  They also get a living allowance of around $200 a month, not enough to find a decent accommodation close to the mine and avoid transportation costs.  So the vast majority of them prefer sending money to their families and live in nearby shacks.

    Norman Thobeli has been working here for eight years.  He says despite the frustration many miners feel, companies will always find a ready workforce.

    "The conditions sometimes, you find workers, you find yourself sometimes working in unsafe place, and there is no way that you can deny sometimes, because you need to work there," he said.

    His shack has no electricity, no running water, and the outside toilet is shared with two other families.  

    South Africa's Mining Industry

    • Number of workers: 498,141
    • Industry deaths: 128
    • Key commodities mined: Diamonds, gold, platinum, palladium
    • Real mining GDP: $12.06 billion
    • Mineral exports: $36.25 billion

    Source: Chamber of Mines of South Africa Figures for 2010
    The platinum industry has been here for long a long time, but it was only after white minority rule ended that the miners got the right to protest and started to talk about their woes, which also include the impact of the industry on the environment.

    Since 2006, the Johannesburg-based Bench Marks Foundation has been monitoring and studying the work and living condition of the miners.  Executive Director John Capel says the poverty of the miners has consequences for South Africa's welfare.

    "Those worker become a burden on the community, on local health facilities, on clinics, on everything else," he said. "So the government needs to to be looking at this and say, 'What is needed, around the mining industry for workers, for communities?  How can we improve the lives of or working conditions, how can we implement laws?"

    But its easier said than done when the lawmakers face a conflict of interest.  Some ruling-party ANC officials are also trustees or stakeholders in some of these mining companies, making reform a difficult balancing act.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Optimist from: Everywhere
    August 27, 2012 10:41 AM
    South Africa mining industry can still be profitable with paying miners three times the wedges it is paying them. In Canada, Australia, US, Russia and other countries mining industry makes good profit with paying workers decent livable wedges plus health care insurance. It's my understanding that South Africa mining industry is still working under the rules set up before the 1990s, its time to stop such exploitation and adopt to the times, economic freedom for all. It is not fair while the pockets of the mining industry is growing by leaps-and-bounds, the workforce should see some of the benefits and improved living conditions. If the South African mining industry is not able to do this, then its best for them to leave the mineral rich areas for other mining companies that are able to make profit with satisfied workforce.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.