Marikana tragedy waiting to happen as Gold One Mine comes to standstill amid 543 trapped underground

File:Image. REUTERS.Siphiwe Sibeko

File:Image. REUTERS.Siphiwe Sibeko

Published Oct 25, 2023


The hostage situation at Gold One mine, where an alleged impasse between two unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the African Mining and Construction Union of SA (Amcu), has raised fears of yet another Marikana massacre ready to explode.

This comes after new security measures have been added to the security detail at the mine that has seen more than 543 miners being trapped underground since Sunday following a stand-off between the two unions.

The fact that a strong police and private security presence has been maintained in this potentially volatile situation has not allayed any fears but instead, it has raised tensions and distress of yet another potential tragedy ready to happen.

In 2021, a panel of experts established by former police minister Nathi Nhleko found that police commanders with no public order policing experience were appointed to take charge during the Marikana massacre.

Several experts, who spoke to The Star on Tuesday following the hostage situation at Gold One mine, are fearful of a repeat of the Marikana tragedy where 44 people, including 10 members of the SAPS, lost their lives in August 2012, leaving 78 people wounded and scores of families reeling.

It’s alleged that members of Amcu are fuming over a lack of representation by the labour union.

The two-metre-tall gates into the mine are guarded by heavily armed security officers.

The stand-off has also affected production which has come to a standstill at Modder East Gold One Mine in Springs.

It has been reported that Amcu representatives allegedly blocked access to the mine and prevented workers from leaving, which the union denies.

Security has been tightened this morning, Tuesday, at the Modder East Gold One Mine in Springs, as more than 500 workers have allegedly been held hostage since Monday morning.

Speaking to The Star, independent security expert, Johan Burger said there is a serious potential for the situation to become volatile adding that, there is no justification for the police not to intervene in the matter which is placing the lives of miners in danger.

“There is no justification of why the police have not stepped in and tried to act. It is unlawful to keep this number of people trapped underground. This could have serious implication for their health and their lives. The police should be obliged to intervene. Nothing is stopping the police from intervening as we cannot allow the situation to to continue. No one, including the unions should be above the law and act in this unlawful manner which endangers the lives of the miners,” Burger said.

Popcru spokesperson, Richard Mamabolo said there has been varying reports of what is the real situation at the mine, adding that in spite of the challenges, the safety of the miners should be protected.

“Since the morning, there have been different reports regarding the situation and the said situation they are facing with some claiming that, they are being coerced down there. This is a serious situation which should not be taken lightly and we as Popcru, believe that, all stakeholders, unions and the management, need to urgently come up with an amicable resolution that should lead to all parties having mutual discussions around their concerns. It is under such, that a dialogue and the safety of the miners will be guaranteed,“ Mamabolo said.

Gauteng police commissioner, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela was yet to brief the media on the tense situation at Gold One Mine at the time of going to print.