Zimbabwe’s platinum mines were an example of well-run and socially aware operations where their black management operated by the book “because they are afraid of the president”, the Bench Marks Foundation’s senior researcher, David van Wyk, said on Wednesday.
Answering questions before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources, he said South African platinum and other miners have been less than honest about their recruitment of labour and corporate social responsibility programmes.
The presentation from the non-governmental organisation was part of a process of trying to understand what led to the Marikana massacre. A month ago police shot and killed 34 workers and injured another 78 as tensions at the Lonmin mine escalated.
In all, 45 people were killed while the labour unrest also spread to other mines.
The Bench Marks Foundation said research on conditions at and around the north-west’s platinum mines was conducted last year. The report was released two days before the massacre on August 16.
Van Wyk said Zimbabwean platinum mines were safe with few accidents, good living conditions and a 100% worker literacy rate.
“All the mine management are black and they are afraid of the president so they do everything by the book.”
This showed that Zimbabwe regulatory compliance was high, unlike in South Africa where the mining companies often bought government officials.
Van Wyk said women were employed wisely on those mines and even operated machinery.
“Women are known to operate machinery more carefully than men and so the machinery lasts longer.”
Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest platinum deposits.
Van Wyk said because the Zimbabwe platinum mines used women as truck drivers, this lessened the spread of HIV and Aids. “The roads to the mines are rivers of HIV and Aids as truck drivers pick up prostitutes who stand alongside the roads.
“Women drivers were less likely to stop and spread the disease.”
Implats spokesman Rob Gilmour said the company’s Zimbabwe and SA operations could not be compared.
“The Zimbabwe mine is shallow and highly-mechanised, while our Rustenburg mine is a deep operation and manpower intensive.
“The Rustenburg mine employs 47 000 workers compared to a couple of thousand in Zimbabwe .”
Gilmour said the Zimbabwe mineworkers were highly literate compared with their South African counterparts and this was a function of that country’s education system. The Rustenburg mine had an influx of people from around SA and neighbouring countries looking for work, and not the Zimbabwe operation.
Van Wyk said President Robert Mugabe was right to take a 51% shareholding in the mines as Zimbabwe and SA produced 86% of the world’s platinum.
“They (the companies) have not run as they have nowhere to run to.”
The last known accident on a Zimbabwean platinum mine occurred in June.