In a powerful and inspiring event, over 90 women gathered virtually to attend the Mandela Mining Precinct’s Women in Modern Mining – Her Story webinar. The event, hosted by the MMPs Successful Application of Technologies Centred Around People (SATCAP) Programme, featured remarkable women from various organisations who shared their personal and career journeys, shedding light on the challenges faced by women in the mining industry and celebrating their resilience and achievements.
Keynote speaker, Nonkululeko Mabuza who is a General Manager at Impala Shaft 16, shared her journey from being a mining graduate to becoming the first female mine manager at the main shaft in Impala. Hailing from Mpumalanga and being one of five children, Nonku’s journey in the mining industry began when she joined Impala as a mining graduate. During her university years, she did vacation work at Impala, which laid the foundation for her impressive career.
With dedication and passion, she climbed the ranks within the organization, eventually earning the prestigious position of General Manager at Impala Shaft 16. Her appointment as the first female mine manager was a significant milestone, not only for her but also for women in the mining industry.
“Being a woman in what is often perceived as a “boys club” presented its unique obstacles such as lack of moral support from colleagues, as they had the opportunity to discuss and encourage each other for example in their change room, while I was all on my own in mine’” she says. As the first female mine manager at her plant she also faced scepticism from those who felt the job is not suitable for a woman. Yet, Mabuza persevered, proving her worth through experience, knowledge, and sheer determination.
Her lowest moments in mining came with the burden of managing loss of lives in the mines. The gravity of such incidents weighed heavily on her, emphasizing the importance of safety and the need for continuous improvements in the industry.
The webinar sparked conversations about the strides made by women in the mining industry and the path that lies ahead. One speaker, Boitumelo Nkomo, Women in Mining Project Coordinator at Minerals Council South Africa gave perspective with regards to representation in the industry and emphasized the need for gender transformation.
Representatives from two of the trade unions that work closely with the MMP SATCAP Programme to improve worker’s conditions in mines, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and Solidarity, shared messages of support. Melanie Roy, from NUMSA gave a labour perspective on women empowerment in modern mining. She spoke passionately about evolving gender gaps in the labour market, as well as representation of women in senior leadership among other things. While advocate Hanlie van Vuuren from Solidarity, expressed that lack of skills, qualifications and experience should not be used as reasons for women to be excluded from taking leadership and critical roles. She emphasized the importance and need for mentorship in the workplace and skills development. “All skills can be learnt,” she said.
The programme included a panel discussion about mentorship programmes and training for 4IR Future Skills for Women. The discussion featured WIMSA Deputy Chair, Maria Combrink, Mlabs CEO, Nicoli Koorbanally and Tshimologong Digital Skills Academy’s, Carol Jaji who all shared the objectives of their organisations and the opportunities they have available.
Thandiwe Mokgoatlheng, an Engineering Manager at Impala Platinum 1 shaft in Rustenburg and Nandipha Sihlali, a SATCAP supported student at University of the Witwatersrand and Student Representative Council member, shared their career journeys and stories of resilience with the attendees. While MMP interns Sibongile Kganakga, Ampfarisaho Ramuhovhi and Elethu Fihla presented a study on “Women in mining modernisation: The ergonomics of modern mining equipment used by women in modern mining towards supporting of health and safety”.
“Through initiatives like this webinar, the MMP SATCAP Programme aims to empower women, provide a platform for their voices to be heard, and drive positive change in the industry,” says SATCAP Programme Manager, Sherin Ramparsad.
“As the mining industry evolves, the stories of strong women such as the women we hosted today serve as beacons of inspiration, reminding us all that barriers can be broken, and with determination, women can flourish in traditionally male-dominated fields,” she concludes.
Access the full recording of the webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0EkbVV2CPY