Despite the claims by those in support of Tendele’s illegal activities that they respect the rule of law, the court has reminded us that claiming to respect the rule of law, and actually respecting the rule of law, are completely different things.
This press statement is issued in the wake of the recent KwaZulu Natal Division of the High Court ruling which interdicted Tendele Coal Mine from proceeding with its illegal operations on the communal land of the Mpukonyoni Community and the threatening Press Statement issued by some of the parties to the court interdict.
Firstly, we wish to applaud the recent judgement granting the interdict, as yet another example of the important role our courts play in protecting the interests of citizens and the environment, which could so easily be trampled on by powerful actors who use their access to money and capital to selfishly extract wealth from the earth and from communities at all costs.
It is trite now, as attested to be the Kwazula Natal High Court’s previous ruling that found Tendele to be in breach of the law, that the entire project to destroy the environment, to break up communities, and to leave a legacy of destruction and poverty, was disrespectful of the law from the start.
Laws are set in place for a reason, and we are all required to act with due diligence and appreciation of how our actions will impact on others. When companies, with access to vast sums of money, start ducking and diving around the law, then we should all stand up and notice, for such behaviours are indicative of the behaviours we saw during the Gupta era. The promises of payments of large sums of money to activists and other stakeholders so that they can use their influence to support the mines illegal activities, smacks of the grand corruption our society seeks to end.
Secondly, while we are mindful of the deep structural questions of poverty that underpins the debate around mining in South Africa, we are also aware that South Africa is filled with examples of companies like Tendele, that come into communities, destroy and violate the land and leave destruction and poverty in its wake.
It is because we understand that mining is a limited affair that has historically underpinned the very colonial apartheid system that bred our poverty, that we must reject the short-sighted rush for immediate satisfaction for the few at the expense of the land and its people.
Evidence will show that those close to the mine will become wealthy and rich, while the ordinary people who they claim to speak for, will continue to wallow in poverty and hunger.
By Tendele’s own admission, the mine will only be able to mine for a limited period. During its first period of mining, the promises the mine made in its licencing application have not been fulfilled through its Social and Labour Plans, and yet we are asked to believe that the broader community will benefit.
During its original mining application, it also promised the community wealth and prosperity, and yet that promised wealth and prosperity has been shifted out into the future. But that future will never come for the vast majority of the community.
There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that, just like every mining affected community in South Africa, and every mining community in Africa, the community of Mpukunyoni will also become increasingly more impoverished as the wealth of the community is sucked out by the mine and its connected groups. Leaving nothing but destruction and poverty.
If only for this reason, we are determined to ensure that the law and all its prescripts are followed. We do this, not to frustrate those who are genuinely in need of opportunities, but rather because of them.
Our history shows that the colonialists came and made big promises and cheated us in trade and left us slaves and subjects of a system of colonialism which still thrives today. We cannot allow companies like Tendele to engage in neo colonial dispossession of our land and opportunities.
Thirdly, we wish to condemn the threating language of the press statement issued by those who are in support of the mine, and we call on all law-abiding members of the community to reject such attempts to oppress the voices of those who disagree and to remind ourselves that many have sacrificed for our right to dissent and to stand for truth.
We must not sell out our rich history of resistance against colonial dispossession, at the altar of short-term monetary gain and we must protect the land and our people.
As the court prepares to hear our application on the 9th of June 2023 in the KwaZulu Natal High Court we wish to reiterate our objection to mining in the area for the following reasons:
1. Environmental Impact: Opening a new mining operation would likely have a significant negative impact on the environment. Mining activities often lead to deforestation, habitat destruction, and water pollution. South Africa is known for its rich biodiversity, and disturbing traditional areas for mining purposes would harm delicate ecosystems, potentially leading to the extinction of unique plant and animal species.
2. Disruption of Traditional Livelihoods: Many communities rely on the land and its resources for their livelihoods. Opening a mining operation would displace our communities, disrupt our traditional way of life, and potentially lead to social and economic hardships. It would undermine our cultural heritage, as our connection to the land is deeply rooted in our history and identity.
3. Health and Safety Concerns: Mining operations are associated with various health and safety risks, both for the workers and nearby communities. Dust and toxic emissions from mining activities can lead to respiratory problems and other serious health issues. The communities residing in the area may suffer from the exposure to harmful substances and pollutants released during the mining process.
4. Water Scarcity: South Africa is already grappling with water scarcity issues, and mining operations require substantial amounts of water for various processes. Opening a new mining operation in our area will exacerbate the existing water scarcity problems, leading to further strain on local water supplies. This could have detrimental effects on agriculture, human settlements, and overall ecosystem health.
5. Cultural Heritage Preservation: Opening a mining operation would pose a significant risk to our cultural assets, as the excavation and industrial activities will destroy or degrade them irreversibly. It is crucial to preserve and protect these cultural resources for future generations.
6. Economic Sustainability: While mining operations can contribute to economic growth and generate employment, the benefits are short-term and unsustainable. Once the resources are depleted, the mining operation would cease, leaving the local community without a viable economic alternative and with a land that has been devastated and destroyed. It is essential to consider long-term economic sustainability, not only short-term gain, and explore alternative industries that promote diversified and resilient economies.
Israel Nkosi: Mpukunyoni Community Environmental Justice Organisation
Cell: +27 76 781 2193
Meshack Mbangula: MACUA National Coordinator
Cell: 074 977 5588
Sifiso Dlala: Action Aid South Africa
Cell: 078 849 8621
Gilbert Moela: MACUA WAMUA Advice Office Communication Officer