The Steelpoort community in the Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality in Limpopo has embarked on protest action against mining houses in the area, that have blatantly ignored the concerns of communities who bear the impact of their operations. As a result of rampant unemployment, the Unemployment Forum and community members at large, have since Monday the 17th blockaded roads in and around Burgersfort to highlight their straits. The community demand that the mines employ and provide business opportunities to local residents.
MACUA and WAMUA support the struggle of Steelpoort and all mining-affected communities across the country that face unrelenting and systemic oppression by the mining and extractive sector. We are in solidarity in the ongoing fight for gender, labour, environmental and developmental justice for marginalised mining-affected communities, particularly women and youth. Steelpoort is a town that is surrounded by approximately 8 mines: Dwarsrivier Chrome Mine, Tweefontein Chrome Mine, Tubatse Ferrochrome, Two Rivers Platinum, Modikwa Platinum Mine, Mototolo Platinum Mine, Lion Ferrochrome Smelter, and Marula Platinum (Pty) Ltd.
MACUA and WAMUA firmly stand in solidarity with the protest action of the community.
We strongly condemn how mining-affected communities constantly struggle to get access to Social and Labour Plans (SLPs), which set out legally binding commitments made by mines to host communities in which they operate. The Steelpoort community is simply asking for opportunities to develop, and benefits endowed to the community, from mines that profit from their land and resources.
Through conducting social audits in various mining communities, MACUA and WAMUA have compiled extensive research on SLPs within the greater Limpopo region as well as at the Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality. Our research has investigated the level of compliance of various mining companies who have a legal and moral obligation to develop host communities as they reap the greater portion of the wealth located in these communities. While conducting the research, we have uncovered issues relating to the extent and lack of compliance with the implementation of SLPs among mining companies across the board. There are very few exceptions, and even where there are exceptions, we found that mining companies continue to subvert the intention of the law which requires them to contribute to local community development.
Meshack Mbangula, the National coordinator of MACUA noted that “we are currently working on submitting and publishing reports of the various social audits conducted in communities across South Africa. This will empower and equip mining-affected communities with a tool to call both mines and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to account for the ongoing looting and dispossession of communities.”
According to Phyllia Ngaotje from the MACUA WAMUA Advice Office, “preliminary findings of social audits conducted on mines within the Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality show that there is a lack of engagement by mining companies with local host communities. They further show that mines such as Sefateng Chrome Mine, have orchestrated specific communication protocols, in conjunction with the local municipality and traditional leadership, aimed at denying mining-affected communities the ability to engage them directly, particularly relating to SLP projects and issues of recruitment.”
She also points out that “projects which were supposed to be completed by Sefateng Mine are unknown and practically do not exist in the affected communities. Bokoni Platinum, on the other hand, has exercised its exclusionary practices in 2020 by attempting to deny the Monametse-Mokgotho community an opportunity to participate in the sale of the mine. Prior to community-led interventions based on the social audit results, and engagements around that, the mine fabricated a project in the community which did not exist, and through engagement and the social audit process this was uncovered and rectified in conjunction with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.”
Mining-Affected Communities will not be silenced!
MACUA and WAMUA call for accountability from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, to ensure that mines fulfill their obligations in terms of the SLPs submitted in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
We call on the mines, in and around the Steelpoort region, to end their oppressive and exclusionary recruitment and labour practices and to engage with communities in good faith.
We further call upon the Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to urgently engage affected communities on SLPs and the Mining Charter process as they promised to do in March 2021.
We note the failure by the Portfolio Committee and Parliament to act democratically, to listen to the voices of the people affected by mining, and to deal with over 50 000 petitioners. Petitioners who, in December 2020, demanded justice, consultation, and free prior and informed consent and whom the Portfolio Committee and Parliament continue to this day to ignore. This disregard only contributes to the ever-growing anger and social unrest that festers in mining areas.