The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation has ordered Whale Rock Cement (Cheetah Cement) to stop carrying out operational activities at the Mining Area at night, between 18h00-06h00 as well as to stop operating a certain forklift.
This order came into effect as from 19 August 2022 until such a time that sufficient light is installed and the forklift serviced to the satisfaction of a designated Labour Inspector.
Meanwhile, Cheetah Cement’s Public Relations Officer, Tabby Moyo, said that the suspension for overnight mining would not affect the company, as mining during daylight hours provides sufficient raw materials for production.
He further said any other irregularities observed by the ministry will be resolved as soon as possible.
‘’The mine is a minor operation as it is only the limestones that are mined to be used as raw materials for the production of cement, thus it is not an ongoing operation, even if the company
is mining for that limestone during the day it produces more than enough of what is needed.’’
Moyo adds that the management of the mine has not received the notice from the ministry as it has only been handed to the Mine Workers Union and thus once the company is in possession of the notice the matter will be addressed promptly.
‘’The mine is not operating at full capacity thus this is one of the issues the company has been looking at to rescue the number of workers at the mine as most of them are idle as they are not mining throughout the day,’’ he said.,
This comes as a total of 115 employees of the Cheetah Cement plant near Otjiwarongo are
facing retrenchment, according to various media reports.
In regards to the forklift in question, he said, the management is not aware of the allegations made by the ministry as the ministry failed to communicate the results of the inspection they conducted at the mine.
However, a worker at the mine who chose to remain anonymous said the lighting issues and forklift, he said that, ‘’the management does not care for the employees when it comes to health and safety of the employees, because what they are saying is that those things are expensive to maintain’’.
The order by the ministry was issued after three months when Whale Rock Cement was ordered by this Ministry to cease its operations in some areas due to non-compliance with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Standards on May 10, 2022.
This ultimatum was later withdrawn by the Ministry on May 23, 2022 after the Ministry conducted follow-up inspections and was satisfied with the level of compliance as well as arrangements that were put in place.
After the order to resume with its operation in May 2022, the Ministry has been conducting follow-up inspections to ensure continued compliance with the OSH Standards at the Mine.
The Ministry however identified the aforementioned shortcomings that lead to the current order.
‘’The issue of occupational safety and health is non-negotiable. Non-compliance with the provisions of OSH puts workers at risk, resulting in non-reversible and mostly regrettable consequences which sometimes may even lead to injuries and worse of all fatalities. Employers are once again reminded that it remains their legal duty to ensure that their workplaces are safe at all times,’’ said Balbina Daes Pienaar, the ministry’s acting Executive Director.