Date: 28 April 2020
To: All Media Editors, Journalists and News Outlets
RE: MACUA Set to Join AMCU case to seek protections for Communities as Mines set to Re-open
On Wednesday 29 April, MACUA, represented by Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), is applying to the Labour Court to intervene in the urgent application brought by mining union AMCU, as a friend of the court.
MACUA will seek to highlight the vulnerability faced by mining affected communities during this pandemic and especially with the re-opening of mines on their doorsteps. Our application will also seek to emphasise that communities are key stakeholders in mining and that they should also be consulted and allowed to participate in processes that directly affect them.
While AMCU are calling for detailed regulations to be put in place to ensure mine workers will be properly protected from the novel coronavirus as they return to work, MACUA will be asking the court to consider the many and numerous ways that mining activities are irrevocable connected to the health and well being of mining affected communities, and to ensure that not only are communities consulted in terms of what regulations are adequate, but also in terms of ensuring that there are proper health facilities and care available to communities who are exposed to the Covid-19 virus and which is aggravated by their daily exposure to pollution from the mines.
On the 14th of April, various civil society organisations wrote to the President and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to express our concerns with the lack of clear measures to protect mine workers and affected communities in the regulations which allowed mining operations to re-open during the state of Disaster lock-down.
The Minister responded positively by issuing updated regulations ordering that a screening and testing programme must be put in place for workers, and that mining companies must make arrangements to transport their employees to work, as well as quarantine those who test positive for the virus. These new regulations do not, however, go far enough to ensure workers are protected , nor do they offer any protective measures for the communities from which these workers come or in which they live, and make no reference to, for example, the need for personal protective equipment and medical facilities.
“Mine workers are not separate from communities – they are part of us.” says Meshack Mbangula, National Co-ordinator of MACUA. “What happens when they come home? They don’t leave the threat of the virus behind at work. We are already at risk because most people in rural communities don’t have proper access to water and some have lung issues from the air pollution that comes with mining.”
“Mining can’t take place without mine workers or the communities that host and support them,” says Akhona Mehlo, attorney at CALS. “Mines have a duty not only to their workers, but to the public. The Mine Health and Safety Act recognises that. It not only mandates mines provide a safe environment for employees, but also includes measures that must be considered for non-employees.”
For many years we have argued that mining operations are irrevocable linked to and impacts upon mining communities. It is ironic then that a worldwide pandemic which has changed the world in ways that we could not imagine 3 months ago, has brough home that simple truth with deadly certainty.
To condemn communities to imminent danger in order to make profits from our mineral wealth, which will be sent to investors elsewhere, without providing communities with the dignity to decide on their own fates, is tantamount to a death sentence for the most marginalised and impoverished communities.
For further information please contact:
Christopher.Rutledge – MACUA WAMUA Advice Office Director
Meshack Mbangula – National Coordinator of MACUA: 0749775588
Nester Ndebele – National Convenor of WAMUA: 083 269 5705
Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) is a co-ordinating body representing and advancing the rights and interests of mine-affected communities across eight provinces of South Africa. The network is made up of 50 community organisations and calls for communities to be granted a greater say in issues that affect their human rights and which they believe is denied to them in current regulations governing the mining sector.
Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) is an official national platform formed within MACUA with the purpose of advancing the rights and interests of women in mining affected communities. WAMUA aims to advance and support women in mining affected communities to strengthen their participation in community decision making processes and influencing local, provincial and national policy and legislative process in the mining sector.