By Ntombi Mhlongo
Thousands of emaSwati who ply their trade in South African mines face the possibility of losing their jobs over the next 10 years.
This was the scenario outlined by José Carimo, a Director at the Labour Recruitment Agency for the South African mining industry TEBA, to the Parliamentary Commission of International Relations, Cooperation and Communities, working in South Africa on Monday.
Also set to suffer is Mozambique, where it was stated more than 16 000 of its miners working in SA could lose their jobs as well. The reason, Carimo said, is because of the introduction of new legislation, new mineral extraction technologies and the increased interest of South Africans working in the mines.
In total, it was said that about 36 000 foreign miners from Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana and Eswatini could suffer in the next 10 years. The projections are similar to those published by the BTI Transformation Index in the Eswatini Country Report 2022 where it was stated that while South Africa is the hegemonic power of the region and makes use of predominantly male workers from Eswatini, a much lesser workforce will be needed in future.
It is estimated that about 60 per cent of workers in the mining sector in South Africa are from neighbouring countries, mainly from Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland.
In Mozambique, it is said that workers in the South African mines bring into the national economy around E1.2 billion rand per year (around 4 billion meticais).
Under an agreement signed 59 years ago, Mozambique has been supplying labour to the mines in South Africa. It is reported that about 27 years ago, the neighbouring country had as many as 55 000 Mozambican mineworkers, mostly from Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo provinces, in southern Mozambique.
Workers losing jobs in South African mines is nothing sinister as during the 1990s, the sector experienced major downsizing and retrenchments creating considerable social disruption and increased poverty in supplier areas.
However, the mines laid off local workers at a much faster rate than foreign workers. As a result, the proportion of foreign workers rose from 40 per cent in the late 1980s to close to 60 per cent in 2000.
In terms of impact, the loss of jobs by emaSwati in the South African mines could be detrimental as the country faces a huge challenge of unemployment which mostly affects the youth.
In 2021, a study uncovered that the jobless rate in the country is high such that Eswatini was rated 11th out of 94 countries in the world. The challenge with unemployment has been constant with each year in the kingdom and statistics published by trading economics revealed that the country was 11th out of 94 countries and the fourth in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in terms of unemployment rate.
Last month, it was reported that the unemployment rate in the Kingdom of Eswatini saw no significant changes in 2022 in comparison to the previous year 2021 and remained at around 24.39 per cent.
The unemployment rate refers to the share of the economically active population currently without work but in search of employment.
The unemployment rate does not include economically inactive persons such as the long-term unemployed, children, or retirees.