Today 500 Members of MACUA and WAMUA, representing the voices of over 50 000 people, gathered at the Union Buildings to hand over our signed appeals to the President, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and Parliament.
The delegation of MACUA members who arrived from various parts of the country and who travelled great distances to deliver the petitions, noted the complete disregard and disrespect that the President and the Minister had for the thousands of mining affected communities who have appealed to them in a respectful process.
The President and the Minister refused to engage with our numerous attempts to engage them in a productive and respectful way and eventually the Presidents office sent a low ranking official to receive the petitions. The Ministers office was in turn more prepared to speak to the media than they were to speak to the communities whom they claim to represent.
The President and the Minister`s arrogant refusal to engage us, was in truth, a true reflection of the standing of mining affected communities, and their continued disregard for our voices points to an increase in conflict at the local level as communities become increasingly impatient with the state orchestrating the enrichment of a few at the expense of the majority.
Despite the Ministers arrogant refusal to meet with mining affected communities, MACUA reached out to the Director General of the DMRE, Thabo Mokoena, who eventually agreed to receive the Petitions and to hand them to the Minister.
We have noted the DG`s commitment to us to open up a bilateral discussion with regards to how to move forward in relation to our demands for Free Prior and Informed Consent, even though we remain sceptical as the Political head of the DMRE, the Minister Gwede Mantashe has made it abundantly clear that he is far too important to consider our concerns, that he prefers to meet with people who have Capital and that the lives of mining affected communities are nothing but fodder for profit generation.
While the Executive has shown the same kind of arrogance that has led to the rise in social unrest that has plagued South Africa, we fully expected that Parliament would be more open to hearing and acting upon the voices of excluded and marginalised communities.
But this too was proven to be an idealistic pipe dream as the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy, the body tasked with holding the Minister to account also refused to meet with us despite initial commitments by his office that he would do so. Over 40 coordinators from branches across South Africa, waited for the Chairperson to arrive on Sunday 11th of October to meet with them, but he simply failed to pitch and then refused to answer his phone when we tried to call him.
If both the Executive and the Legislature continues to treat those who are excluded and marginalised like worthless distractions, then our country is doomed to social conflict for years to come.
Despite reaching out to the PC, they have never acknowledged our communications and many requests to meet with them or engage with them on the matters that affect us.
Our members have said enough is enough,
The time for banging our heads against a closed door is fast coming to an end. If the people who are supposed to represent us and supposed to take our issues into consideration remain closed, aloof and arrogantly dismissive of mining affected communities then they should understand if communities are no longer prepared to be the big losers while their wealth is stolen from underneath their feet.
We once again urge the President, the Minister and Parliament to live up to the high ideals of our constitution and to ensure that our concerns are treated with the same urgency and preference that they appear to give to their comrades and pals in big business.
We demand, as does the constitution mandate: Nothing About Us Without Us
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.