Updated: Oct 5, 2020
As part of a drive to identify opportunities for economic development in its host communities, Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) has procured 75 000 cloth face masks from four cooperatives, one from each of the mine’s four host communities.
“Since the lockdown, which was part of Government’s comprehensive approach to managing the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have struggled to stay afloat and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost. Small businesses in our local communities were some of the hardest hit which is compounding the scourge of unemployment,” explains Werner Duvenhage, managing director of Richards Bay Minerals. “We want to help communities become more resilient over the long term and that is achieved by creating jobs and generating sustainable incomes.”
This initiative by the mining company is a much-needed boost to the local economy and has led to the creation of 88 employment opportunities. Just as importantly, the masks being manufactured by these small businesses are being distributed in local communities to support government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. RBM spent R1.5 million during the first phase of the project and an additional R500 000 has been made available for the second phase, with delivery of the masks expected soon. The second phase of the project was initiated due to the increase in demand in local communities.
“We hope that this project will help members of our host communities generate an income and that they will continue to be economically active beyond the life of the contract,” added Werner.
The SMMEs contracted by RBM employ majority women and youth, which are vulnerable groups that normally struggle to make inroads in formal employment. South Africa’s unemployment rate is currently estimated at 31%, with youth unemployment said to be averaging 53%.
Vusi Mhlongo, manager of Mackedama Dresssmaker Studio, one of the cooperatives that is manufacturing masks, said that he was encouraged by the support from RBM. He said the textile industry in South Africa has been under a lot of pressure due to imports and he hoped this initiative will create new opportunities for his company and others in the host communities.
“I hope that this will show other big companies that township businesses are capable of taking on large projects,” he said.
As part of RBM’s broader Covid-19 relief efforts , the mine has already contributed more than R6 million to assist local communities with the provision of water supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitisers and educational materials aimed at ensuring that communities are informed. This week, working with the Traditional Councils of its four host communities and two local NGOs, RBM distributed food parcels worth R1.2 million as part of its Covid-19 community relief programme. This was in addition to the R900 000 worth of food donations made at the start of the nationwide lockdown earlier this year.