On Sunday, 06 March 2022, Minster Mantashe addressed the media soon after he had met with traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape as part of his latest roadshow to shore up support for big Capital’s ( and the ANC’s) mining interests. During his briefing to the gathered media, Minister Mantshe accused communities of greed for asking the question about the supposed benefits that accrue to mining affected communities from the destructive practise of mining. Minister Mantashe accused the communities of not approaching the question with rationality and resorted to the age old Eurocentric racists trope of suggesting that African communities are somehow less human because they are not rational.
However, it is ironically the Minister who has left reason and rational thought at the door in his rapacious rush to exploit the resources of the earth for the benefit of the few.
In rational report after rational report, we have consistently shown the Minister and those who are tasked with protecting the interests of the most vulnerable in society, that the continuing systemic marginalisation and exclusion of mining affected communities from meaningfully participating in the decisions that directly affect them, has persistently contributed to the growing inequality in the country.
Various reports have highlighted the dire systemic inequalities which underpin the mining sector. From the High-level Report by Kgalema Motlanthe (2018), to the South African Human Rights Report on the National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-affected Communities in South Africa (2018), and the many reports produced by civil society (Including MACUA & WAMUA), which all confirm the same broad trajectory of the sector.
In our baseline research report which we published in 2018 in conjunction with ActionAid South Africa, we found that while the state remains a significant beneficiary of the mining regime as it is currently configured
(from 2007 to June 2018, the state received R160 billion in direct tax revenues during this period with an additional amount of approximately R45 billion estimated to have been paid to government as Royalties), community investments by contrast, has only amounted to R7.5 billion over the same period. But, as we show
in the report, none of the value from these community investments are experienced in the lived realities of
communities who participated in this survey. Up to 79% of respondents, those to whom these benefits
are meant to accrue, have not participated in or benefited from the claimed investments. By our calculations, this implies that close to R5.92 billion of the estimated R7.5 billion earmarked for community development did not reach its intended beneficiaries during this period. The extent of the unaccounted-for expenditure on
community development no doubt plays a significant role in maintaining the cycles of poverty that continue to manifest in mining affected communities.
The extent and scale of the potential misappropriation of funds meant for community development implies both that high levels of corruption exist in the way that funds are allocated to community development and that besides the potential corruption inherent in the way funds are distributed, that the projects meant to advance community development are not trickling down to communities in the way the Minister implies.
As the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Minister Mantashe has continued to erode the DMRE’s capacity to monitor Social and Labour Plan Implementation which is the main vehicle for community development, allowing mining companies to avoid the conditions of their mining licences while communities sink deeper and deeper into the poverty and inequality.
The recent uprisings in July of last year which pointed to the ways in which ongoing inequality threatens to explode in unpredictable and violent ways, should provide even greater incentives for the Media and the public to reject the false claims of politicians such as Minister Mantashe as they oversee the ongoing looting of the national wealth for the benefit of the few.
In a soon to be published research report by MACUA and WAMUA, where ten social audits were conducted in various communities affected by mining and incorporating many different mining operations who mine various minerals, we found consistent evidence of serial non-compliance by mining companies. Non-compliance ranged from, failing to consult with communities about their developmental needs as required by the licencing process, to routinely missing delivery dates for projects which are rolled over ad infinitum or leaving projects half done and incomplete.
In one serious case of corporate and regulatory failure, we found that Foskor mine in the Phalaborwa area where community unrest related to the mining sector’s non non-compliance has resulted in both death and destruction of property, we found that Foskor failed to fulfil its legally binding obligations under its 2013 – 2017 SLP. Far from a simple delay, or a single incomplete project, Foskor appears to have largely ignored its SLP commitments altogether, with the blessing and approval of the DMRE and by default, by the Minister.
The Ministers claims that communities are greedy belies the evidence which suggests that far from prospering on the back of mining activities on their land, communities are instead sinking deeper into poverty and despair as a result of the systemic structure of a colonial inspired system of wealth accumulation which only benefits capital investors, government functionaries and politicians.
The latest attack by the minister on the poor and marginalised, in favour of big capital and politically connected businesses, together with the findings of the Zondo Commission, which found that Minister Mantashe appears to be deeply ensconced in the corrupt system of state capture, amplifies the calls for the Minster to resign from his position.
We call for the Minister’s immediate resignation or dismissal from the position of Minister on Mineral Resources and Energy and for urgent dialogues to be called with mining affected communities and other stakeholders to ensure that the interest of communities, through the inclusion of Free Prior and Informed Consent legal principles, in mining legislation.