More than 200 miners in South Africa on Wednesday marked one week underground as they held a sit-in protest against alleged sexual harassment by a manager as well as a wave of indiscriminate sackings.
The striking workers at the Lanxess chrome mine have refused to leave the mine in Rustenburg, North West province, since their shift ended last week, forcing the unit to halt production.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUMSA) said the strike action was over accusations of sexual harassment by a senior manager as well as the previous dismissal of 56 employees.
“It has been exactly one week today that they began their protest action,” union spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told reporters.
“There is a female worker who has allegedly been sexually harassed by a captain who promised her promotion. In an atmosphere of intimidation, fear, and hostility… they put pressure on her to withdraw the charges, sparking the sit-in.”
“They have also unfairly dismissed 56 NUMSA workers for participating in a (separate) strike.”
Hlubi-Majola said the underground strikers were short of food but did have water. Ten have been taken out to receive hospital treatment.
A spokesman for the Lanxess mine said the strikers had been offered food and medical aid at the surface, but had refused.
Spokesman Ben Marais said food supplied inside the mine by NUMSA was not being fairly distributed, and alleged that some strikers had stopped sick workers from getting medical attention.
“NUMSA has drastically worsened the situation of the illegal strikers underground,” he said, adding that the sexual harassment charges were being independently investigated.