Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

More than 400 mineworkers emerged from an underground shaft at the Gold One Mine in Springs on Monday, revealing distressing conditions during their four-day sit-in. Some miners reported that they lacked food throughout their stay in the shaft.

The situation at the gold mine, situated east of Johannesburg, has been characterized as both a hostage scenario and a labor-related sit-in. Some miners expressed solidarity with the 50 workers who faced retrenchment due to their involvement in a previous sit-in in October.

Workers who exited the shaft on Monday demanded the immediate reinstatement of colleagues fired or suspended after the October sit-in. Vuyolwethu Makwenda, one of the miners who spent four days underground, disclosed to journalists that hunger compelled them to end the sit-in.

“This is the first time I am eating in four days. I feel a lot better now because it was very hard. We only had water underground. That is all we had,” said Makwenda. “What made us come to the surface today – it is hunger. Hunger had gripped us so much; we could not go on.”

Earlier on Monday, allegations surfaced that the workers were being forcefully held against their will, with some facing strip-searches and routine assaults. Victor Ngwane, the regional organizer of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), denied the existence of a voluntary sit-in and described a hostage situation marked by severe floggings, including racial bias.

“What we know is that everyone who is underground is being held hostage now. There is no management managing the situation,” Ngwane stated in an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika.

“The latest (information) is that it has now escalated to a racial issue. There are white miners underground who are being humiliated,” he continued. “They are undressed, and they are being whipped from time to time. The perpetrators say if they beat up these white guys, management and government will listen to them.” Ngwane revealed that a severely beaten “white miner” emerged from the shaft over the weekend, emphasizing the disturbing nature of the incidents taking place underground.

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