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[EXCLUSIVE] Numsa accuses DMR of paying lip service over Optimum cash crisis

The mine has, on several occasions, failed to pay workers and service providers leading to a number of protests.

FILE: Optimum coal mine workers protest after the company failed to pay their salaries on 23 February 2018. Picture: Pelane Phakgadi/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has accused the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) of paying lip service and not dealing swiftly with the financial challenges faced by the Optimum coal mine in Mpumalanga.

The mine has, on several occasions, failed to pay workers and service providers leading to a number of protests.

Some employees have told Eyewitness News that the non-payment of salaries has left them destitute.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) branch leader Goodwill Mthombeni says the firm’s financial state is deteriorating on a daily basis.

“As we speak now, some of the contractors that use to work at Optimum have been dismissed.”

But business rescue practitioner Chris Monyela disagrees, saying the mine has to date managed to begin coal provision to its customers, including Eskom.

But Mthomeni asks: Where does this leave workers who have not been paid for months? What we’re experiencing now is very… it’s out of this world. It’s a case of one would work and not get paid.”

Operations at the mine are continuing, with some employees who protested earlier now back at work hoping to be paid as the mine makes revenue.

WORKERS BEMOAN STATE OF MINE

Mineworkers in Mpumalanga have accused Gupta-owned Tegeta of putting profits ahead of the interests of workers.

The mine has been placed under business rescue after the Gupta family left the country.

Workers have told Eyewitness News that the mine and its owners, mismanaged funds, leaving ordinary workers to suffer.

Mthombeni says workers believe that the Gupta-owned Tegeta firm had one goal in mind when purchasing Optimum, to bleed the mine dry.

“What they are doing, they are just milking and tasking whatever is remaining there.”

Semi-skilled boilermaker at the mine Martin Lubisi says as far as he is concerned things only got worse after the new owners took over from Glencore two years ago.

“I need government to help this mine because if I ask the GMs and all the staff they say the mine doesn’t have money to pay us.”

Business practitioners have however vowed to make sure that the mine become financially viable once more.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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