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Murder exposes rampant sexism in South African mines

12 December, 2014A verdict of two life sentences handed down on 27 November 2014 nearly three years after miner Pinky  Mosiane’s rape and murder underground at Anglo Platinum’s Khomanani mine is only a partial victory as women still suffer systemic violence, exploitation and abuse in South Africa’s mines.

Mosiane was 27 years old and had been employed at the mine for three months when, on 6 February 2012, while working alone in an isolated area, she was brutally attacked. She was found alive by another colleague some time later reportedly lying in a pool of her blood with a discarded condom nearby. She died shortly after.

Acting NUM National Spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said:

“As a vulnerable woman and a mineworker, she risked her life to support her family and faced all kinds of safety hazards underground. The news of her untimely and brutal murder was difficult to bear for the NUM and its members. We hope that since her brutal death Anglo American Platinum has taken steps to improve the safety of women working underground so as not to deter women from seeking employment underground.”

Shortly after Mosiane’s death Chamber of Mines spokesperson Jabu Maphalala reportedly said: “The Chamber deals with safety issues such as rock falls, dust and noise, and does not deal with gender-specific safety issues”.

This is unacceptable given that the Mining Charter states that women should form 13 per cent of mining companies’ workforces yet most mines have not made sufficient attempt to accommodate and integrate women workers they employ and address the issue of their safety.

Anglo Platinum has been noticeably silent on the verdict. The company undertook to conduct its own investigation, the findings of which have not been made available and to improve safety of women working in their mines, exactly how they are doing this is unclear. It is reported that at the time there were 3815 workers of which 262 were women working at the mine.

Mosiane has not been the only victim off gender based violence underground in South Africa’s mines that has had a fatal end. Cynthia Setuke was attacked and murdered on October 9 2013 at Aquarius platinum mine's Kwezi shaft in Rustenburg. Her sister Ceciliah Setuke links the lack of action after Mosiane’s murder to the attack of her sister and asks how many murders it will take before working conditions for women underground are addressed.

Setuke says:

“Cynthia was a member of the National Union of Mineworkers. My understanding is that the unions fought for women to also have equality in areas where previously men predominantly worked. Fine, we were all happy that women can go and work in the mines underground but does this actually open doors to further abuse and humiliation to women? Is this what the union fought for? My understanding is that women must be able to work anywhere without any fear”.

The NUM welcomed the final judgement of the gruesome murder suffered by Pinky Mosiane saying that the sentencing would bring closure to this painful chapter for her family, relatives and friends. Sanki Molefe, a female miner and NUM Rustenburg Women's Structure Chairperson said: "The sentence itself cannot bring back the life of Pinky Mosiane. But we are happy that justice has finally been served."

She adds:

“After Pinky’s murder, The Department of Mineral Resources has issued a directive that women should not be made to work alone in an isolated area underground but when another woman was murdered at Aquarius, the mine claimed to not know of this. The directive must be implemented in all mines and measures put in place to ensure the safety of women workers underground.”

Justice for Mosiane worked too slowly to save another victim. Despite a limited pool of suspects, confined to those that were underground at the time of the attack on Mosiane, it took 20 months to arrest Tutu Rooi Oliphant, a contract worker at the Anglo Platinum. Oliphant was arrested while in prison on a 25 year sentence for raping a 5 year old child, an attack carried out after he raped and murdered Mosiane.