By Gudani Tshikota
For years now, mining companies have shown defiance against recognising communities affected by mining activities as key stakeholders. Consequently, mining companies have turned a blind eye on the rights and needs of communities that would be affected by their mining activities. These mining companies have been treading on illusion that they can repress communities affected by mining activities as these communities know nothing about the law, and they would in turn appreciate the bare minimum that the mines donate to them.
As MWAO, we have decided to wake mining companies up from their illusionary sleep and remind them that they are not doing a favour to communities affected by their mining activities. But they are in fact obligated by the law to mitigate the severity of their mining activities on the lives and being of community members. Gone are the days when mining companies would treat communities like an institution that should be donated to. Several court cases, including Xolobeni and Maledu solidifies community members as key stakeholders that should be consulted, in meaningful consultations before mining can take place and during the process of mining.
MWAO has now taken an initiative to conduct workshops on the MPDRA in communities affected by mining activities so that these communities can know their rights. Most communities do not even know that before mining can begin, they ought to be consulted and that there must be a Social Labour Plan wherein the mining company makes certain commitments to mitigate its hazards on the community. Through our awareness workshops, we aim to equip communities with skills and knowledge that would enable them to hold mining companies into account.
Furthermore, we are also conducting social audits in various communities affected by mining areas and where there are MACUA Branches. In these social audits, we train community activists to read and summarise the social labour plan and identify key projects committed to by the mining company that is in their area. Whereafter we then do door to door questionnaires asking community members certain questions that would enable us to see whether the project that the mining company committed to exists and if so, if it is effective.
Awareness, in the form of sharing key information with community members and making sure that such information is broken down into the simplest form that the mining community members can understand is a key initiative in this fight against mining companies.