Tebogo: the plight of a female mineworker| by Jeanne Hefez

by Jan 21, 2013Magazine

amandla-28-tebogoMy name is Tibugo, I’m one of the strike committee leaders at Anglo American in Rustenburg.

I work as a PTV (personnel transport vehicle operator) at Amplats, I do mostly pipe work. Sometimes I clean the tunnels. It’s extremely labor intensive. I’ve been here for a year and six months now, at the Khuseleka 2 shaft. I was working at Sun City before. When I heard that the mines were hiring women I sent my resume, had a health check and an interview and I was hired.

I wake up at 3 am every morning and arrive at my work place close to 5 am. It’s not too far but I only get there at 5 because we spend a lot of time getting underground and being transported to work. At times being underground is not safe for women because of the bad safety conditions and the other people around. When we get injuries we are told not to report them to the chief boss. It’s very dangerous, we have to walk through the tunnels by ourselves and we are prone to all sorts of attacks. Sometimes the safety standards aren’t regulated and still we’re expected to go in there. When we knock off work it can be very late at night and the elevators have already stopped running. Then we have to make our way out of the mine and there is nobody around. The women can be on their own and we have to crawl our way back up. It also becomes dangerous when we have to separate from the men and go all the way to the pipes. They can be far.

I’m supposed to work eight hours underground. It’s very scary down there and there can be many problems. Sometimes there is no water for up to four hours. They close the water supply. Also, we are not supposed to eat underground. They say: you must work. When you’re given time to eat, you must eat. When we do get food, we’re not even given five minutes. We aren’t allowed to go underground with food, they say you will get fired if you are caught eating, or you get charged. You’re supposed to go all this time with just water. We don’t get any breaks.

At times there are thieves who steal the copper cables of the elevator, and they are likely to rape you if they find you alone. You can also come across explosives.

Last year around February one woman was raped and killed underground at Khuseleka 1.

The management didn’t do anything to improve our safety afterwards. The other men can be very disrespectful to us. They don’t talk to us nicely, they tell us we shouldn’t be underground but in the kitchen. In order to get a promotion you have to sleep with the chief boss or be close to him.

I’ve been on strike since the 11th of September because my salary is too small. I don’t get anything. In my family I’m the only one working and have to manage everything. I used to have a different position before doing PTV, but they didn’t give me a choice. They didn’t tell me my salary was going to be diminished, now I get 6.2 (6,200 rand). They didn’t tell me it was going to be a demotion. I have a sister who is studying nursing on my salary, which is R3000 every month. I pay R600 for my rent, food for myself and for my mother and two sisters and my brother who is in grade 2. None of them work.

We are asking for R16,000 after deductions, or at least for a minimum wage for all of R12,500 after deductions.

We’re not going to go back to work until we get that. I don’t know how long we’ll have to wait and I don’t know how we’ll survive after October.

I used to pay a membership to NUM, which was deducted from my salary. But I resigned my NUM membership to become a member of AMCU. NUM doesn’t help us when we have problems. I hear they have shares in the company. For a year I was complaining about my issue and they never helped me.I’m part of the strike committee: I was elected by the people because they trust me. Almost all of us got the SMS that was dismissing us. At first I was scared because they told me I would be fired, but I’m stronger now because I see where we are going with this.

When we submitted a memorandum, NUM was absent but AMCU was present. A lot of us have joined AMCU and trust AMCU. Maybe they will be different than NUM.If I get my wage increase I will stay for another three years. I have grade 12. I want to go out of the mine one day to become a doctor. I know we have bursaries available for us, but they ask us for sexual favors in exchange… The bursaries are for the families of NUM members and NUM members only.

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