Exxaro Collaborates with Trade Unions to Curb COVID-19 Stigma

“Viruses don’t discriminate, people do.” A powerful HIV-related slogan that reminds us that we are all at risk of contracting COVID-19, regardless of our gender, race, age, abilities, or social standing. Yet, we still tend to stigmatise those affected by the virus, labelling them as being ‘high-risk’, ‘infected’ or ‘victims’. This us versus them mentality segregates families, communities, and countries, undermining all efforts to prevent and treat COVID-19. 

Exxaro recognises the importance of standing against stigma to unite and protect all South Africans. As such, the forward-thinking mining group has partnered with various trade unions on an anti-stigma communications campaign to support employees who have been affected by the virus. 

Exxaro Coal Central (ECC) joined forces with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and UASA The Union to drive conversations to educate mineworkers on COVID-19 stigma. In doing so, Exxaro hopes to encourage all its employees to be more accepting and compassionate to COVID-19-affected individuals, both in the workplace and at home.  

In his opening address, Daniel Stapelberg, Business Unit Manager at ECC, said, “Trade unions have a key role to play in ensuring that employees understand workplace issues in the context of COVID-19, and need to support them on the best steps to take for protection against the virus. ECC is appreciative of this collaboration with union leadership on echoing collective messages where stigmatisation is concerned.” 

Ernest Sibande, an AMCU member from Exxaro’s Dorstfontein West Complex (DCMW) agreed, adding, “Our people are our greatest asset – their safety and health is our priority. Without our employees, there won’t be a production, and without production, the livelihood of our families is compromised. We stand with those who are affected and infected by this virus.” 

Gideon Makhubela, another DCMW miner and UASA member continued, “We’re losing our loved ones and carrying so much fear in our minds. This fear causes some people to discriminate against those who have been affected by the virus. I appeal to everyone to take responsibility and educate themselves with factual information.” 

Tsepang Mahloana, an AMCU member from Dorstfontein East Complex (DCME) concluded, “COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, it could hit any one of us at any time. If there’s one thing we should take away from this experience, it’s to learn to show empathy to those who have been affected by the virus. Our collective effort shouldn’t go to waste.” 

The anti-stigma campaign is currently being rolled out across Exxaro’s business units and operations. The mining leader is confident that, as a collective, both the organisation and country will get through the pandemic together.