In May of 2020, Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) and Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) launched a nationwide campaign to collect 100 000 signatures from mining affected communities calling on the President, of South Africa, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Minerals Resources and Energy to immediately take steps to ensure that the voice of mining affected communities is centred in mining-related legislation

On 12th of October 2020 we will deliver the first batch of 50 000 signatures of affected community members to the Union Buildings in Pretoria as the first step towards ensuring that our constitutional right to Free Prior and Informed Consent is recognised in the Mining Laws of the country.

The date of the 12th of October was specifically chosen to coincide with the date that the Xolobeni community was due to ask the Pretoria North High Court to dismiss the Minister of Mineral Resources appeal against the November 2018 Baleni (Xolobeni) judgement on the grounds that almost two years later, the minister has failed to prosecute his appeal. The Baleni judgement affirmed that communities must provide their consent before mining takes place on their land in line with the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent. The Minister, who has once again opposed this application by the Xolobemi community, remains distinctly out of step with the Constitution and the mood of mining affected communities who are increasingly agitated by the arrogance of the Minister and the state in this regard.

Historical Context:

Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) and Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) are fraternal organisations formed in response to the need to protect the integrity and interests of those impacted by mining.
MACUA and WAMUA form a movement aimed at raising the voice of communities who have not been consulted in the processes of allocating mining licenses, developing communities and in the distribution of mining rents and wealth, but who bear the brunt of the social, economic and environmental degradation impacts of mining.

The appalling outcomes which have condemned mining affected communities to poverty and ill health, are enabled by the exclusion of communities and in particular the failure of mining laws to recognise the right of communities to Free Prior and Informed Consent and by the failure to include communities in all relevant decision-making bodies that directly impact on their lives.

The experience of over 150 years of mining in South Africa has shown that it is marginalised mining affected communities, particularly women, who subsidise large-scale mining operations.

Between 2007 and 2018 the industry reported net profits of R221 Billion Rand. Mining affected communities saw less than R1.5 Billion or 0.9% of that sum, over a 10-year period. While this paltry amount of the reported value created was claimed to have been spent in affected communities, our research has shown that more than 70% of development funds allocated to communities have not reached its intended beneficiaries. With the outbreak of Covid-19, the lives of mining affected communities were again placed in imminent danger. While mines re-opened during the lockdown, largely to meet the bottom-line of profit generation, no mitigation measures were put in place to ensure the communities, wherein mine workers reside, were protected. Unsurprisingly infections and Covid-19 related deaths spiked in mining areas while mine bosses who contravened the Covid -19 Regulations were not prosecuted in what appears to be cosy deals between the state and mining companies. We refer here to charges being withdrawn, without explanation, against Impala Platinum who was originally charged with contravening the regulations. With the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the state more broadly, clearly failing to advance the interests of communities, we were compelled to resort to the courts to have our voices heard.

Even though the Labour Court Judgement we obtained on the 1 May 2020, confirmed that the Mine Health and Safety Act, places certain duties on the state and on mines to ensure the protection of mining affected communities and to meaningfully consult with communities on measures to prevent the spread of health risks such as Covid –19 Corona Virus, the DMRE still refused to meaningfully engage with communities to address the concerns of communities in what we experience as a continuation of our historical oppression, exclusion and exploitation.

There are now numerous court rulings in favour of greater community participation, including but not limited to:

• The ruling of February of 2017 in the Gauteng North High Court, where MACUA, WAMUA and others were recognised by the courts as relevant and affected stakeholders for purposes of consultations during the development of Mining Charter 3.
• The Baleni ruling of the Gauteng North High Court, commonly referred to as the Xolobeni ruling in November 2018, which affirmed that communities must provide their consent before mining takes place on their land.
• And more recently, The September 2020 the Gauteng North High Court again affirmed that our constitutional values require that communities be “part of the negotiating process from the start” when mining companies want to mine on community land.

The current Legislation as set out in the Minerals Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), does not ensure the fundamental protection of these rights and community interests and fails to prevent their ongoing and historical exploitation. It is instructive to note that the principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent is recognised in other South African laws, but the right is specifically excluded in the MPRDA. As a result of this lack of legislative protection, communities are compelled to continuously approach the courts for relief. Democracy is not meant to be realised through the courts and the pattern of intransigence with regard to community rights, experienced by communities at the hands of the DMRE and mining companies, is an afront to our democratic struggle and founding values of the constitution. The MPRDA and its regulations remain firmly structured around the colonial extraction and exploitation of the nation’s mineral wealth and subjugation of communities, without recognising the constitutional values of community and individual agency and the concomitant right to Free Prior and Informed Consent. There are numerous studies that confirm the exclusion of communities by the both the state and mining companies. The growth of MACUA & WAMUA attests to the increasing agitation and frustration of communities that remain locked out of the corridors of power where their futures are decided and where the wealth created from mining is distributed among the elite.

The MPRDA allows for the subjugation and disenfranchisement of affected communities. This framework of elite enrichment which drives the deep levels of inequality, in communities and the country, is an unsustainable path and will only lead to further conflict, division and massacres like the one our country suffered through in Marikana. We call on all South Africans to join us on the 12th of October at the Union Buildings to sign our petitions and to demand fair and equitable treatment of all citizens and for the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent.