The President, the Cabinet and the Legislature have declared that they will intensify the war on the people and the environment. The collateral damage of this war was already evident when assassins gunned down Bazooka Radebe in Xolobeni, the community who had dared to oppose the pernicious land grab by the Department of Mineral Resources and the Australian mining company MSR.
Now, spurred on by the pronouncements of the President that the DMRE has been given the green light to speed up the provision of mining licenses and the ramping up of mining, another community activist, Mam Fikile Ntshangase, who was opposed to the destructive expansion of the Tendele coal mine in Somkele Kwazulu Natal, has been gunned down in cold blood.
The fact that mining companies collude with the elements of government to undermine the rights of communities and the environment is becoming increasingly apparent even to those who do not live the daily reality of the systemic violence unleashed on mining communities, by a legislative regime geared towards profit maximisation for the few.
In the Xolobeni matter the Minister of Mineral Resources was linked to a private meeting with MSR, and in the Somkele matter, details are emerging of how Tendele Coal mine has colluded with the National Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, the Provincial government and the office of King Goodwill Zwelentini.
Tendele has publicly characterised the communities legal challenge as a threat to the mine’s continued existence, stating that, with the current mining area depleted, it needed to expand its mining area, or face closure.
Tendele has also embarked on a campaign targeting the Government (including provincial and national governments), the Ingonyama Trust Board, traditional leaders and fellow community members who were made lucrative offers if they acted against those families opposed to the mine, and to pressure the families into signing relocation agreements.
Tendele requested the MEC for Transport, Community Safety & Liaison KZN, Minister Ntuli and Department officials to set up a “task team”, to deal with “the two court cases opened by MJECO against the mine (which) remain a threat and needs [sic] to be withdrawn”. This Task Team has since described their role to include “deliberat[ing] on the court cases which pose a threat”.
MACUA and WAMUA have also noted the statement released on the 23 October by a few stakeholders who benefit from the mine, which included both AMCU and NUM. We are disturbed that so-called progressive Unions who should be on the side of the community, the environment and justice, has chosen to align themselves with the mine and what appears to be a murderous campaign to mine at all costs.
But Somekele and Xolobeni are not isolated cases. Across South Africa our members are reporting similar collusion between the few who benefit from mining, against the majority who do not. The patterns of assassinations, bribery and deliberate campaigns to buy over traditional leaders and thugs to intimidate and oppress community voices, are repeated throughout the lived experience of mining communities across South Africa.
This pattern is underpinned by the lack of legislative protections both for the environment and the communities who often face destitution and poverty in the face of greedy miners who use their money, power and violence to override any concerns raised by the community.
It is in this way that the Presidents call in his economic recovery plan for increasing the pace of mining licence approvals have placed communities directly in the firing line. Ultimately, the blood, destruction and devastation unleashed on communities must rest at his door.
As MACUA and WAMUA we have long been calling for the legislation which allows this wanton systemic violence to be unleashed on communities, to be amended or replaced with legislation that the courts have said, should protect the rights of communities to be included and meaningfully consulted on issues that directly affect them.
Yet the President, the Minister and Parliament, avoid this question even though there is now evidence of an increasing number of communities demanding the right to have Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) on mining projects that directly impact on them. Recently we attempted to hand over 50 000 signatures calling for FPIC to the Minister and the President, but they steadfastly avoided the voice of the people and instead, today another community activist has died simply for demanding what is constitutionally guaranteed to her and her community. Yet another activist has died at the hands of thugs who serve the interest of the mine and the strategy of accumulation by dispossession being promoted by the President, the Minister and Parliament.
26 Years after our country ushered in the constitutional values which make Free Prior and Informed Consent possible (at least in the eyes of the court), we are still faced with a legislative regime that allows mines to behave as if they were in the heyday of colonial Apartheid, using violence and coercion to extract maximum profit from the bodies, souls and land of the black oppressed majority.
Today the white supremacy of Apartheid has been replaced by the supremacy of Capital. The state, mining companies, a few entrepreneurs and a few well-paid union shop stewards appear to be more interested in their own vested interests than that of the broader community and the environment.
The mining sector has never produced wealth for the masses (this we have shown in our ongoing research and evidence collection) and has always been the violent passion of a small group of men, who in their arrogance believe that their right to accumulate wealth at any cost is more important than the rights of communities to live within the protections of a constitution based on Human rights.
We reject the idea that Mining is the only solution open to communities. We know from our lived experience and our own research that communities are always worse off after mining has commenced on their land.
We reject the idea that we should kill and murder our environment and its people so that a few can grow disgustingly rich while we remain in poverty caused by the very actions of those who benefit.
This will not do.
As MACUA and WAMUA we will not stand by while the worst excesses of Colonial Apartheid are repeated and made manifest today through the use of hierarchy, thugs, bribery and corruption, to rob our people of their land.
The growth of MACUA and WAMUA and the huge demand that communities have shown to join MACUA and WAMUA, has shown that there is a crisis brewing among mining affected communities. The crises of deepening poverty, exclusion and dispossession cannot be wished away by ignoring the problem.
While it may initially be easier to ignore the people and listen to capital, the people cannot and will not be ignored all the time. The time is coming when this government and this parliament will have to answer for its lack of understanding, compassion and their failure to uphold their legal and ethical duty to ensure that the constitution protects all people within its boundaries, not only the interest of capital and greed.
We call on The President, the Minister of Mineral Resources to immediately ensure that the South African Police Services are deployed to protect the community of Somkele who are resisting the mines efforts to impose an eviction on them.
We call on the President to ensure that the Police service are instructed to urgently bring the perpetrators of mam Ntshangase’s murder to book and to spare no effort in showing mining companies like Tendele that they will not allowed to fan the flames of murder and division so that they can line their pockets while the community lives in poverty.
We call on the President to urgently meet with us to discuss the breakdown of the social compact between the government and mining affected communities and the 50 000 signatures we presented to their offices calling for Free Prior and Informed Consent.
We call on Political Parties to ask the Chairperson of the National Assembly why she feels that the voices of 50 000 people who are calling for Free Prior and Informed Consent is not sufficient to draw her attention and for Political parties to demand that this matter be debated and taken forward by Parliament urgently.
We call on the public in general to raise their voices in support of the marginalised and exploited who are left to face the monied classes who use the power and might of the state as well as the violence of thugs to dispossess communities.