1 in 4 women in the Platinum belt have been raped

Nkanini informal settlement in Marikana where most miners live. Photo: Muzi Mzoyi.

A recent report by Medecins Sans Frontieres  (Doctors Without Borders) has revealed that 1 in 4 women have been raped in Rustenburg.
This, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) means that around 11,000 women and girls in Rustenburg are raped each year. The report states that 95% of rape survivors have never told a health professional of the incident, and only half of those surveyed knew that HIV could be prevented after being raped. According to MSF Epidemiologist Sarah-Jane Steele, the findings show that rape is not only highly prevalent in the Rustenburg municipality, but that opportunities to reduce the more serious health impacts of rape are being missed.

Rustenburg, North West, South Africa

Most of the dedicated facilities for rape survivors are at district hospital or community health centre (CHC) level. The capacity of each of these designated public health facilities varies, dependent upon the number of trained staff available that can conduct the examinations.

In February 2012, the body of Binky Mosiane, a female mineworker was found in a pool of blood in a mine shaft.  She was raped and murdered. The slow progress of the investigation that followed sparked outrage from various groups, which led to a petition criticising authorities for not taking stronger action to ensure justice. In 2014, Tutu Rooi Oliphant was found to have raped and killed miner Binky Mosiane during working hours at Anglo Platinum’s Khomanani mine.

Forced contractual sex on mines

Forced contractual sex is rife on the mines. According to David van Wyk, a researcher from Bench Marks Foundation, the men in the team insist on doing the hard physical labour underground, “and when they come to the women on the team, particular men would do a particular woman’s physical work in return for sex”.

This is done to meet targets to secure bonuses, which the men feel the women hold them back from receiving.

Mining bosses turn a blind eye, he says, and so do the unions.

Research by the Bench Marks Foundation, which monitors corporate social responsibility performance, revealed how transactional sex has become a norm in the mines. According to the mining charter, women should form 12% of mining companies’ workforces.

While this allows women access to work previously reserved for men, it comes at a high price. Researcher David van Wyk says the mining charter does not specify how women are to be deployed in mines, so a hostile environment persists.

Also read:  Gender based violence campaign highlights the need to work together

Mosiane’s case, according to him, is an extreme example of what has become the norm.

Rustenburg sits within the Bojanala Health District where MSF, in partnership with the North West Province Department of Health, is piloting the expansion of a patient-centred response to sexual violence, including a clinical mentorship programme for professional nurses on the care and management of sexual violence. The district has a population of approximately 1.3 million people.

According to the North West Province Department of Health, out of 783 total health facilities in the district, there are only 11 designated public health facilities – including the MSF/DOH Kgomotso Care Centre in Boitekong – providing post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV, and support forensic examination for rape survivors.

A body map by Nombulelo Ntonga, a widow of Marikana, featured in an international exhibition called Plough back the fruits. The paintings and testimonies of the widows are a powerful indictment of corporations that refuse to see just how cheap their investments have made the lives of workers.

Thumeka Ngqawana, the chairperson of Sikhala Sonke, an organization based in Marikana which aims to address the challenges facing women living in the area, told Elitsha that rape is rife in Marikana. She cited 2 cases of child rape that they are dealing with. “The problem is men who want to control women and the socio economic issues like high unemployment and lack of housing”, said Ngqawana.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson, Luvhuwani Mammburu, said that the mining companies and law enforcement agencies should do more to protect women mine workers and arrest those who commit rape.

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