JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) CEO Steve Phiri has called for the judicial commission of enquiry into the Lonmin killings to have the broadest possible terms of reference.
In a video interview with Mining Weekly Online, Phiri says that resorting to violence to address complaints is becoming a culture across South Africa and is not confined to the mining industry alone.
“We kill, we burn, we destroy,” adds Phiri, who heads an RBPlat that is black owned, black managed and black operated.
It is necessary, he says, for the commission to deal with the pattern sweeping across the country of violent response to grievances.
He would thus like to see the terms of reference for the judicial commission of enquiry appointed by President Jacob Zuma not only include the entire mining industry but also the recent violence outside of the mining industry.
Earlier, African National Congress national executive committee member Joel Netshitenzhe made the point that the killings at Lonmin Platinum's Marikana mine symbolised that South Africa may be reaching points of crisis that needed to be nipped in the bud.
Last week’s violent illegal strike and police shootout at the London-listed Lonmin operation have left 34 dead, 78 injured and 250 arrested, after ten – including two policemen – had died earlier in separate violent clashes at the mine in the North West province.
Phiri is pleased that both the government and the industry have been proactive.
Mine industry CEOs met in Johannesburg at the weekend in addition to the meeting of the Mining Industry Growth, Development and Employment Task Team (Migdett), which is a government, business and labour joint venture.
He is hopeful that the current negative situation will become a catalyst for change in the platinum industry in particular.
“Perhaps we’ve been too complacent,” he tells Mining Weekly Online.
Market indications point to the severe downturn of the platinum industry being temporary.
He confides that Migdett is in the process of taking significant steps to improve the future of the platinum industry.
“We’ll see changes in the next 9 to 12 months,” he forecasts.
Personally, Phiri believes that greater consumption of South African raw materials by South Africans themselves is important accompanied by the export of locally manufactured finished goods.
“It’s a long-term thing, but we need to start gearing ourselves up so that next time this turn-off cycle arises, we’re ready to handle and ameliorate it. Beneficiation is important,” he adds, giving the nod to the development in South Africa of products like platinum-using fuel cells.
He discloses that the new Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has been knocking at the door of RBPlat operations and it will be up to employees to decide whether they want to take AMCU on board or not.
“It has to be within the framework of the law and the rules of the game,” he adds.
RBPlat has the established National Union of Mineworkers as its majority union and its threshold for new union recognition is 30%.