Cape Town’s Mining Indaba kicks off

The Citizen reports that the 2018 Mining Indaba kicks off in Cape Town today, where issues of health and safety in the mining industry will still be on the minds of delegates, as the day marks exactly two years since three workers were killed after being trapped underground at Vantage Gold’s Lily Mine in Barberton in Mpumalanga. The bodies of Lily Mine workers Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule, and Solomon Nyirenda remain underground despite Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant saying late last year that the container in which the workers were trapped in February 2016 was likely to be retrieved by January 2018. The issue of safety at the mines again came into sharp focus last week when more than 950 workers were trapped for two nights at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix gold mine in Free State after a power outage.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba, chief executive of Chamber of Mines Roger Baxter said that the industry was investing time and money, and putting a lot of measures to mitigate deaths at the mines. He said the industry’s efforts were led by its “Zero Harm” programme chaired by Anglo American Platinum CEO, Chris Griffith. In August last year, five workers died at Hamony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville after being trapped underground for days following a seismic event. At the time, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said the Kusasalethu incident should be a “turning point” in the health and safety of the country’s mining industry, and government would be tougher in exercising its powers on regulatory issues.

Ref: ANA

Strong rand downs petrol price

eNCA reports that the price of petrol is going to drop by 30c per litre on Wednesday, the Department of Energy announced. The department said the decrease comes after the rand appreciated against the US Dollar from R13.23 to R12.20.

The petrol price will fall by 30 cents per litre while diesel will be 17 cents cheaper per litre. “South Africa’s fuel prices are adjusted on a monthly basis, informed by international and local factors. International factors include the fact that South Africa imports both crude oil and finished products at a price set at the international level, including shipping costs,” the department said.

Steinhoff scandal cost Government Employees Pension Fund R20bn

Business Report writes that the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) lost about R20bn from the collapse of global retailer Steinhoff’s share price after the group admitted accounting irregularities. This emerged from the hearings in Parliament on Wednesday when the Steinhoff supervisory board appeared before three parliamentary committees, namely the standing committees on finance, public accounts and public service and administration.

The GEPF said its Steinhoff shares were worth R24.1bn on 30 November last year, but worth only R3.1bn on 18 January this year.  The GEPF holds 392m Steinhoff shares, about 9.1% of all the group’s shares.  The Public Servants Association of SA (PSA) and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) indicated last month that they would be pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Steinhoff to recoup around R17bn of pensioners’ money that was wiped out in the wake of the scandal.  The PIC is the investment manager of a number of state funds, including the GEPF, whose members include PSA members.

by Sandile Mchunu

ANN7 staff fear job cuts after MultiChoice announces non-renewal of contract

SowetanLive reports that fears of job losses have gripped ANN7 employees after pay-tv company MultiChoice announced its decision to cut ties with the Gupta-linked 24-hour news channel. MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela advised that the platform broadcaster would not be renewing its contract with the channel in August when the current one lapses.

The decision seemingly did not come as a surprise to some staff members, who had been reassured of the future by new owner Mzwanele Manyi about two weeks ago.

by Isaac Mahlangu

State accedes to union demands ahead of 2019 election

BusinessLive reports that seemingly in a quest to avoid a strike on the eve of the 2019 general election, the government has tabled a draft wage agreement with several proposals favourable to labour unions. But, the implementation of these proposals could lead to a surge in the public wage bill, which the Treasury has been trying to contain.  The draft agreement was tabled by government negotiators at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) last week.  Although there was no agreement on salary hikes, the government has given in to a number of demands, such as the removal of a spousal-benefits restriction that extended housing allowances to only one spouse if a couple was employed in the public service.

In return, unions lowered their demand for housing allowance increases from R2,500 a month to R1,500.  The establishment of a bursary scheme for children of public servants was one of the conditions agreed to, as well as a housing scheme proposal. Government has offered to hike pay for employees on levels one to seven by inflation (CPI) plus 1.5%; levels eight to 10 by CPI plus 1%; and levels 11 and 12 by CPI only for the first year of the three-year deal.  Workers now want salaries increased by CPI plus 3% for the lowest levels, with a 2% CPI add-on for levels eight to 10 and 1% for 11 and 12.

by Theto Mahlakoana

Department of Labour concedes blunder with definition of ‘worker’ in minimum wage bill

BusinessLive reports that the Department of Labour has conceded that it erred when it changed the wording of the definition of “worker” in the National Minimum Wage Bill. The bill, which was gazetted in November 2017, went against recommendations of experts and a National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) agreement.

In the bill, “workers” are defined as employees as per the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), which would result in the exclusion of millions of independent contractors, subcontractors and task-based workers and limit the reach of the minimum wage coverage.  The department said on Wednesday that it was never its intention to deviate from the Nedlac agreement made between the government, business and labour and that it would correct the error.  Labour federations welcomed the department’s concession, but were concerned that the government was committing similar errors too often.

by Theto Mahlakoana

Private sector doctors to solve KZN oncology crisis

TimesLive reports that Durban still does not have a single permanent oncologist at its two state hospitals designated to address cancer treatment as the KwaZulu-Natal health department battles to lure specialists from the private sector. This was revealed by the department’s acting head‚ Dr Musa Gumede‚ during a media briefing to reflect on the health outcomes over a 10-year period from 2009 in Durban on Tuesday.

The last cancer specialist in Durban left the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in December‚ leaving with the province with only two oncologists at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. Gumede said the department decided to engage in the public-private sector partnership which started in October last year.

This resulted in a tender being awarded to an oncology consortium from the private sector that will service patients at Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Addington hospitals‚ which is expected to start next month.

A new site offering oncology services for Lower Umfolozi and Ngewezane hospitals in collaboration with JMG Group in Richards Bay in northern KZN has also been established.

Denel can pay staff until March, but needs a long-term liquidity solution

BusinessLive reports that state-owned arms manufacturer Denel has managed to pay creditors and employees over the past two months, but still needs to find a long-term solution to its liquidity crunch, the company’s executives said on Tuesday. Denel, which faced a cash crisis in December when there were reports it would not be able to pay salaries, is engaging with the Department of Public Enterprises and Treasury to address its liquidity problems and, in the short term, is investigating the possibility of selling assets to generate some cash.

On Tuesday, Denel CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe and chief financial officer Odwa Mhlwana replied to questions by members of Parliament’s public enterprises committee on recent developments in the company.  Ntshepe said Denel did not have a problem paying salaries in January and would not have a problem paying them in February and March, “but the issue of liquidity in Denel is a serious matter which has existed for a long time.  Denel has never really made serious money”.  “We are focusing on creating solutions to the inability

by Linda Ensor

Mixed reaction to proposal of community service by students

The Sunday Independent reports that proposals by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) that students would be required to commit themselves to 80 hours of community service in return for free education has been met with mixed feelings. While the EFF Student Command rejected the proposal outright, the ANC-aligned SA Students’ Congress (Sasco) and the DA Students Organisation (Daso) said they were amenable to the idea.  EFF’s Student Command president Peter Keetse said they were against the proposal as it would “demoralise the spirit of voluntarism” among young people, while it was not necessary for students to do work in return for free education which was rightfully theirs.

Dasco referenced DA’s shadow education MEC in Gauteng, Khume Ramulifho, who said the proposal would give students work experience.  Sasco’s Buthanani Goba agreed, saying, “The issue of community service is not a problem because we believe that students should be integrated into society and we must teach them patriotism.  But it should not just be those who benefit from free education.  All students must be required to give back to the community.”

by Lesego Makgath

Drivers claim unjust treatment

SowetanLive reports that petrol tanker drivers contracted to deliver fuel in Limpopo claim they have been subjected to inhumane conditions at an Engen depot. They alleged depot management in Mokopane displayed racism. The truck drivers, employed by various companies to transport petrol and diesel from Watloo in Pretoria on a daily basis, said they were refused the right to use ablution facilities at the depot. They said they spend days awaiting their turn to off-load fuel, sleeping inside their trucks. They also claimed management refused them permission to use the facilities “without providing reasons”.

A female driver, who refused to disclose her name, confirmed she had not bathed for two days since arriving at the depot. “It’s true that we are not allowed to use the sanitation facilities inside the depot, but we have not been given reasons for the decision,” she said. Engen spokesman Gavin Smith said he was not aware of the existence of inhumane treatment of truck drivers . “We will investigate the allegations. As a company we are not practising any racism and will act against any of our employees who may be found to be practising such.”

by Frank Maponya