EXPERIENCE WORKING IN THE STONE INDUSTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA
Next to every mine in closer or further distance there is a “location” inhabited by blacks. Our mine is no exception – next door is Oukasie. The incendiary location. It’s 2019 and a lot has changed in the relationship between me and the blacks. Eben is no longer at the mine, he left us in April 2018. From then on we decided to handle the mining ourselves, no longer relying on locally recruited managers. We try to fly to South Africa with the three of us – me, Zenon and Mietek – planning our stays so as not to leave the mine unattended for more than 10 days. This allows us to run the mine in line with our vision.
It’s August 2019, a very windy period, heralding the imminent arrival of spring. Zenon and I went home for lunch. In the meantime, Thys – a Boer in charge of operations on one of the mountains – calls in. Very upset, he says that security has started shooting blacks from Oukasa. I almost fainted with fright. Next, I choked out the question “Has anyone been hurt?”. Thank God he said not. But there was a bigger problem: the mine is paralysed because the representatives from Oukasa have threatened the people that if they return to work they are going to burn down their houses, rape their wives and kill their children. We stood there stunned as dead. We woke up after a while, got in the car and drove to the mine.
What we found there was shocking. Our people were literally being held hostage. There were about thirty blacks from Oukasa, militant. You could feel the tension in the air and literally anything could happen. We had to act quickly. I ordered for security to be brought in immediately and simply chased the uninvited company away. On what grounds does anyone dare intrude in my premises, threaten me and my people, and feel impunity? To tell the truth, there was no one to talk to, because they were very loud and aggressive. Rudi – another Boer, in the company since its inception – only told me: “Jacek, when you talk to them, don’t let them surround you, because if any of them has a knife, they can stab you”. In my mind I say to myself, “What the f… am I doing here! Is all this worth my life and Zenon’s life?” Another thought: “There will be time to analyse later – now I am here and this problem needs to be solved. Here and now!”
In the meantime, security arrived with long sharp weapons, wearing balaclavas and with dogs on chains. These are trained dogs – no leash will stop them in action, they must be chained. Security arrived in two cars – 6 whites and 2 dogs, a show of force that gave me some time to make a decision and provide any security in this sick situation.
You will probably ask what they even wanted from us? The expectation they put forward was downright silly: to sack 20 people – half the current staff – and hire people from Oukasa in their place. South African labour law is very complicated, siding strongly with the worker and protecting the employer rather poorly. So far we have already had about 10 cases filed by former employees, and we have only won one. More often than not, we ended up either having to re-employ them or pay out five months’ severance pay. And now I have a bunch of terrorists in front of me who want me to fire 20 of my employees. On what grounds? If I sack them, I will have a court order to re-employ them in a fortnight’s time. I will have 60 people employed instead of the current 40. How can I explain this to people who are holding me and my people hostage?
I asked the white workers to call the police hoping to stop the attackers or at least help remove them from our area. After a long while, three police officers arrived, all three black: one woman and two men. This was another example of how corrupt police work and of the attitude towards whites in South Africa.
Source: Kurier kamieniarski
Author: Jacek Kiszkiel | Published: 18.11.2020