MASERU — About 230 Basotho migrant mine workers at Bambanani Gold Mine in Welkom, South Africa, have been dismissed following a work-related dispute.
An official at the Workers Union of South Africa (WUSA) told the Lesotho Times this week that the workers were sent packing for allegedly failing to turn up for work.
The official said the workers refused to turn up for work recently arguing that they were entitled to a day off after working during the Christmas holiday last year.
Management at the mine however insisted that the workers should turn up for work with those failing to do so being regarded as having absented themselves without official permission.
A total of 294 workers, the majority of them Basotho, were summarily dismissed for defying the directive a fortnight ago.
Anthony Buthelezi, the human resources leader at Bambanani, refused to comment on the matter only saying they were in talks to resolve the matter.
“We are still arguing on the disciplinary procedures in this case,” Buthelezi said.
“I do not know what the outcome of the negotiations will be.”
An official with the union said they were still locked up in negotiations with the mine management to have the dismissals rescinded.
“We are appealing against the decision taken on Thursday,” he said.
Lesotho’s consular in the Free State, Sethunya Koqo, said High Commissioner Lineo Ntoane had intervened on behalf of the Basotho workers.
Koqo said Ntoane is expected to meet the mine’s management in Welkom tomorrow.
He also said the workers’ union had taken the case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in Bloemfontein.
Koqo said he had written a letter to the mine management on April 1 pleading with them to spare the axe on the migrant workers.
“I wrote a letter to the management asking for talks but there was no reply until after the mine expelled the workers,” Koqo said.
The workers were expelled from work on April 6.
He said the management had replied telling him to address his letter to the mine manager, Zwele Ndese.
Koqo said they will push to have the dismissal of the Basotho workers rescinded.
Bambanani is 100 percent owned by mining giant Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited.
Harmony Gold Mining Company is the fifth largest gold producer in the world with operations in South Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
There are an estimated 52 000 Basotho working in South African mines.
Lesotho’s economy is heavily dependent on remittances from migrant workers at South African mines.
The dismissal of the mine workers could have a huge impact on Basotho who rely heavily on remittances sent home by the mine workers.