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Graca Machel: Mining industry ripe for change

Graca Machel has called for an indepth probe into the root causes of the Marikana tragedy.

Graca Machel. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel says South Africa needs a national conversation about the Marikana tragedy in which 34 mine workers were shot dead in 2012.

Machel confronted mine bosses about the shootings at the Lonmin platinum mine at the 2015 African Mining Indaba in Cape Town where she delivered a keynote address today.

But Machel said it would not be the right place or time and instead focused on the different elements of the tragedy that needed to be analysed.

Machel said the killing of the mineworkers required an indepth probe which includes the root causes.

"The issues which have triggered it and then more importantly, what is going to happen to the families of those who lost their loved ones? What is going to happen to the children? Who is doing what? Until when?"

She said the living conditions of Lonmin's lowest-paid employees had shocked the world but revealed that a higher salary would not resolve the issue.

"That's what I'm trying to say. This industry, particularly in this country, has not changed to meet the requirement of a democratic society."

Machel said it was up to civil society groups to approach the government to propose a new structure to the industry which could hold new companies legally accountable.

She also stressed the need to have a better representation of women throughout mining company structures.

MORE WOMEN NEEDED IN MINING

Machel said the strenuous nature of mining should not be an impediment to companies hiring women and should instead inspire boards to appoint women in different roles.

She said women should be brought into positions that had historically been occupied by white males as they could inspire innovative leadership.

"I'm talking about the leadership of institutions, bringing the knowledge and expertise with which women can manage and bring a different leadership style in the way you deal with people within a company."

But National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Health and Safety chairman Peter Bailey warned that companies maliciously complied when appointing women.

He said the appointments needed to be specified to racial groups as well.

"The industry prefers to take white women over historically black women and then they call that compliance. So we've got to be honest about how we deal with the compliance component."