By Novell Zwange – JOHANNESBURG – South African Bishop Jo Seoka, the current chairperson of the Bench Marks Foundation,has joined a growing list public figures who have expressed outrage over the recent killings of 20 miners at the Aurora Grootvlei mines in Springs and has joined the call for an investigation by the relevant authorities. The mine is owned by Khulubuse Zuma and Zondwa Mandela, amongst others. Khulubuse and Zondwa are relatives of President Jacob Zuma and former President Nelson Mandela.They are Zuma’s nephew and Nelson Mandela’s grandson.
Reports claim that the victims were doing illegal gold mining and were shot dead by security guards last Monday.
“It is completely unacceptable that mine workers should lose their lives in this manner, even if they were illegal workers. The killing of human beings at the altar of profit must be investigated by government authorities such as the Human Rights Commission and the Special Investigations Unit,” Seoka said.
The Bench Marks Foundation said it will cooperate with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in getting the Triennial Conference of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) to endorse the call for an urgent investigation into this matter.
The country’s biggest labor federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, called for action over the incident.
“Anyone guilty of unprovoked shooting should be charged, tried and punished,” Cosatu said in a press statement. “Cosatu does not condone illegal mining, but even if the people killed were involved in illegal mining that in no way justifies the brutal response allegedly meted out by the security guards.”
The ANC also condemned the incident saying in a statement that, ” The management and the responsible security company should have sought the assistance of the South African police on suspicion of crime being committed in their mine, rather than shooting at first instance”.
But according to a SAPA report, an Aurora director defended the shootings, saying this was about protecting the company’s assets.
“It is simple… if you go out there and steal gold, should I just go down on my knees and pray? It doesn’t work like that. We have to protect our assets,” Aurora Empowerment Systems’ commercial director Thulani Ngubane reportedly said.
He claimed the “illegal” miners were trying to gain underground access by force.
“They (the men) had guns and everything… these illegal miners got shot going down underneath by force. Tell me what more our security could have done?” he asked. “It’s not as if our people were lunatics and just went crazy. Somewhere, somehow, something needed to happen so there would be a stop to everything.It was not the first time that a shooting took place,” said Ngubane. “One of our security cars has got bullet holes because of the resistance of illegal miners. I can show you ugly photos of the cars that have got bullet holes.”
Meanwhile in an unrelated case, and adding to the company’s woes, the South African Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Sonjica Buyelwa confirmed on Friday that investigations regarding the quality of the water discharged at the troubled Aurora’s Groovlei mine near Springs were still under investigation by the police and the Blue Scorpions.
The Minister said in a written response to a Parliamentary question that pending the outcome of the investigations, further steps would be taken by the Department of Water Affairs.
The department opened a criminal case against Aurora after it allegedly failed to comply with a directive to treat the pumped water before discharging it.
Acid mine water started flooding the pump station at Grootvlei in June, after workers, angered by months of not being paid, downed tools. Workers retook to pumping the water, but the Minister said that to date no improvement in the quality of the water had been observed.