West coast mine workers in court

Barbara Maregele and Bernard Chiguvare
Tormin miners and community members outside the Lutzville Magistrate’s Court. Photo by Juliette Garms.
Barbara Maregele and Bernard Chiguvare

A group of nine miners and Vredendal community members who were charged with public violence after participating in a demonstration outside the Australian-owned Tormin mine on the west coast, made a brief appearance in court on Thursday. Meanwhile, on Friday a group of about 60 mine-workers and members of the west coast community where the Tormin Mineral Sand mine operates came to Cape Town to picket outside the High Court.

The mineral sand mine extracts zircon and other minerals from sand on the beachfront near Lutzville, 350 kilometres north of Cape Town. Tormin employs about 250 people from the surrounding communities. It is owned by the Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), which also owns the Xolobeni titanium project in the Eastern Cape.

Accused number 10, Frans Bam, a ward councillor and executive member of the Vredendal council, was excused from proceedings.

After failing to reach an agreement with their employer at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), nearly 200 Tormin employees went on strike on 4 September over wages and working hours. On 10 September, clashes with police and security at the mine led to the arrest of 27 miners and Vredendal community members.

The group first appeared in the Vredendal Magistrate’s Court on 11 September. Charges against 17 people were dropped. The remaining ten were released on R500 bail each.

On Thursday, a dozen community members in support of the miners’ on-going strike attended the hearing held at Lutzville Magistrate’s Court. Outside court, two security vans hired by Tormin with armed guards were seen.

Nearly half of the Tormin workers have returned to work this week.

Advocate Koos Louw for the defence asked for the case to be finalised during the next appearance. Magistrate Henk Mulder remanded the case until 3 December for further investigations to be completed.


Mine-workers and members of the west coast community where the Tormin Mineral Sand mine operates picket outside the High Court in Cape Town. Photo by Masixole Feni.

On Friday a group of about 60 mine-workers and members of the west coast community where the Tormin Mineral Sand mine operates came to Cape Town to picket outside the High Court.

The picketers carried placards that read ‘Mark Caruso and Gary Thompson [the executive chairman of MRC and the Tormin general manager respectively] pump sewerage into the sea’, ‘Respect our labour laws’ and ‘Stop bribing our people’.

Community leader Willem Cloete and spokesperson for the group Sam Mamabolo made numerous serious allegations and said they wanted the mine to increase salaries for the workers.

In September, a strike at the mine turned ugly after a protest left a police officer and a worker injured, and 27 people were arrested.

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TOPICS:  Labour

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