Thursday, August 16, 2007

Apartheid Koffiefontein, My Industrial Relations, 1988

1988. Koffiefontein Mine Entrance & The GM's Mercedes

In March 1988 De Beers celebrated its centenary, giving every employee a gift diamond and a letter from chairman Ogilvie -Thompson. Some outcast blacks and coloureds sold their centenary diamonds to other employees.

Unrest: 10 000 troopies and Savimbi's UNITA troops killed Angolan, Cuban and Soviet forces in Cuito Cuanavale, Southern Angola. (Sean Moroney, Editor, Africa, Volumes 1, 2, Facts on File, New York, 1989). As troopies patrolled township carnage in SA, generals thought they were saving SA from communists. But "End Conscription" okes also avoided conscription at an annual rate of 5000. (Ibid Moroney).

"Koffiepit's not part of your job," hissed Ballon, "so I'm not recognizing it in your performance-appraisal."

"You asked me to begin Koffiepit." I said. "Added to my job evaluation work, I've published ten Koffiepits, and worked unpaid overtime, using my camera and car."

"You'll be paid for Koffiepit, but I'm transferring you to Industrial Relations."

Masterful Frikkie (48) bald IR boss, had been a surveyor then a teacher in Rhodesia, before emigrating after the Bush War to SA. "Don't let Koffiepit come between us hey?" said Frikkie puffing his pipe. "IR's busy hey? Last year in SA, a record 5.5 million work days were lost due to strikes hey?" (Ibid Moroney). "We work in a bending-over-blackwards politicized and militant environment hey?"

1988. Some Koffiefontein Mine White Bosses, "Beggars' shadows"

I handed over Koffiepit to Dweet, who struggled to publish three Koffiepits in six months, helped by Frikkie, Alleman, Zeppelin and Ballon. Alleman shot springbokke with German-GM and management on De Beers farms. Dweet despised Alleman, making Alleman grovel whenever she typed for him. "You're a deluxe box," said Dweet.

"You're a cow with an ox's face," said Alleman. Four years older than me, Alleman had begun work as a post office clerk, read his BA through UNISA, then worked at SASOL oil refinery in 1980 when MK terrorists blew it up. (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, Abacus, Little, Brown and Co., London, 1996). He'd moved to Koffiefontein so his wife could be closer to her Boer pa who farmed nearby. Boer divided his farm into three sections, giving his daughters their inheritance before he died, as canalized water-rights from Vanderkloof Dam were expensive.

Alleman and I cycled to work along McHardy Crescent, even on minus 8 Centigrade, frosty mornings. "Lekker by the sea," said Alleman while peddling past the old slimes dam, upgraded as a recreational area. I taught Alleman job description writing. Alleman's English was better than my Afrikaans. For Koffiepit, Alleman had checked my Afrikaans copy and did translations. Ballon's IR was bad, as he'd employed Alleman as a senior personnel officer. Other personnel officers, like me, were more experienced, lesser paid minions.

Like Nel and Ferreira at Kleinzee, Alleman at Koffiefontein was another De Beers affirmative-action Afrikaner: not forgetting Engelse affirmative-actions like Mike and me. De Beers had "career paths" to "fast track" favoured graduates (often whites / foreigners), like miners, personnel officers, metallurgists, geologists, mining engineers, accountants and engineers into management positions. Blacks and coloureds could also follow the career-paths on merit, but their lack of specialist tertiary-education stopped their promotions.

Playing Luister, my IR work sorted out a white staff consultative committee and a white / coloured monthly-paid artisan consultative committee. I recorded multi-racial grievances and disciplinary actions on computer files and taught vigilante Jonas and Moses to do likewise. I lectured black shop-stewards about De Beers-NUM recognition-agreements, and lectured white employees about IR. I did white inductions, white exit-interviews, ghost-wrote German -GM's briefings, and collected Frikkie's stationery from mine stores.

Vigilante Jonas and Moses, IR practitioners, had worked at Prieska, when Koffiefontein mine had closed. At our daily meetings, Jonas and Moses briefed Frikkie on IR problems. Moses had a karate black belt, and Moses and Jonas recorded grievances and disciplinary statements for mostly black, monthly-paid workers, and arranged multi-racial disciplinary hearings with Frikkie and management, which Jonas and Moses attended as IR advisers and interpreters. English, Afrikaans, Tswana, Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa were spoken. Jonas's interpretings were brilliant, except for Shangaan, his weakest language.

1988. Koffiefontein Mine, Non White Metallurgy Plant Trainees & White Trainers.

Frikkie used the legal principle of balance of probabilities when judging someone innocent or guilty. It seemed unfair to me, as accusers didn't give evidence beyond reasonable doubt. Frikkie scraped the bowl of his pipe, lit up and puffed, while we discussed the latest grievance or disciplinary case. Jonas unrolled toilet paper from his pocket, twisted wads to clean his nostrils, then examined results. "We must stick to procedural and substantive fairness hey!" puffed Frikkie.

See The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. Cuba's Mythical Victory (R. Allport)

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