Michael Moseki, an elected strike leader at Samancor Western Chrome Mine, sits inside his tin shack and talks about the challenges of raising his five children on R4,700 a month. Just like other mine workers, strike leaders at various mines in the North West province struggle financially to support their families. Moseki is a rock drill operator who started working at Samancor’s Mooinooi shaft in September 2006. Moseki, his wife Dimpho, and his two youngest children live in a shack in Bokamoso informal settlement in Mooinooi.
His three older children live with his mother near Bloemfontein in the Free State province. “I don’t always have money to give my mother. The money that I earn here is too little. I give my mother money for groceries and transport so that my three children can go to school. I then also use my income for my expenses in Mooinooi,” says Moseki.” I don’t feel happy to be here. I don’t have electricity. When it’s raining the water comes into my shack. I don’t have a toilet. We all go in the bush,” he says.
“I don’t have water here. I walk for about 500 metres to a tank to get water. Sometimes there is no water in the tanks. Sometimes the water is dirty with germs.” Samancor mine workers downed tools on September 19. A month later, they were still on strike. Moseki says he and other rock drill operators stayed underground on September 27 and 28. They occupied the mine for two days and refused to leave until union representatives persuaded them otherwise. But soon thereafter the mine workers felt disgruntled with unions and decided to take over leadership of their own cause. They elected Moseki and 11 other workers to represent their demands to the mine’s management.
‘In our shaft, we have three to four unions. That means as workers we had differences. But now we are one as the workers. Now there is no friction between us,’ says Moseki.
He says that as part of the workers’ committee that coordinated strike action, they demanded a basic take-home monthly salary of R12,500. He says this would go a long way in helping him improve his living conditions.
‘As the leadership, we don’t need any unions. They are liars. We will fight for ourselves until management listens. Thereafter we will decide which unions we want.’ ‘In South Africa we have rules. If you work on the mine you must work with the unions to negotiate with management. So we must have unions. But we are not sure about the unions. We will see what happens,’ he says.
Apart from salary increases, Moseki says working conditions at Samancor’s mining operations need to be improved too. ‘It’s very dangerous to work under the ground. There are accidents. Maybe God keeps us safe but not at all times. We get injuries. We want an underground allowance,’ says Moseki. ‘We work nine hours a day. We are not allowed to take a break. We go to work at 6am and get a break at 2 pm. I eat soft porridge in the morning and then eat again only after work.’
”I have to go to work because I have a wife and children. My wife doesn’t work. She walked up and down to look for a job but she couldn’t find one,’ he says. ‘I will work in the mine for a long time because I don’t have any other experience. I have no other qualifications. I have no choice. I used to be the local ANC representative, but if Zuma gets a second term, I’m done. This president Zuma he must step down! Maybe we need a stronger party than the ANC.”