RE:Open letter to presiding officers of South Africa’s Legislatures and the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy.
You have failed the marginalised and excluded mining affected communities.
15 September 2023
1. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula – Speaker of the National Assembly.
2. Solomon Lechesa Tsenoli – Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
3. Amos Masondo – Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces.
4. Zet Luzipo – Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy.
Dear Presiding Officers
During the Rivonia Trail of 1964, Nelson Mandela was recorded as uttering the following words:
“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit, and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom. This was our feeling in June of 1961 when we decided to press for a change in the policy of the National Liberation Movement. I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.”
In a deeply ironic assertion of the truism; that “all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice, first as tragedy and then as farce”, today we are reminded that, despite the long intervening strides of history, the marginalised and excluded mining affected communities, have been so thoroughly neglected, excluded and oppressed, by the current mining legislative regime, that the moral obligation to act, rather than submit, has once again presented itself as a defining moment.
The untimely and rushed introduction of the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill (B23-2023, while amendments to the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Act has been denied space and passage through the parliamentary process, has once again highlighted the disdain and disregard that marginalised and excluded mining affected communities are faced with when dealing with politicians who have internalised the perpetuation of social, economic, and political hierarchies that had been established under colonial rule.
A BRIEF HISTORY of our engagements will assist us in placing the full context of exclusion and disregard that mining affected communities have faced when dealing with the Sixth Parliament and the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy.
1. Since the swearing in of the Sixth Parliament in 2019, MACUA has been writing to Parliament to highlight the need for urgent amendments to the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).
2. In December of 2020, MACUA members travelled from across the country to Parliament to hand over 50 000 signatures on a petition to Parliament calling for elements of Free Prior and Informed Consent to be included in the MPRDA.
3. Despite submitting the petitions, we nonetheless had to Follow this up with numerous letters of correspondence to the PC and the Speaker, and it was eventually agreed that we would meet with the PC and the DMRE on the 9th of March 2021.
4. During our meeting with the PC on the 9th of March 2021, to discuss the 50 000 signed petitions, the Chairperson of the PC and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy committed to starting a process of engagements with MACUA and WAMUA on their demands.
5. The Minister committed to a meeting with MACUA to discuss their concerns and to confirming the meeting to the PC within seven days.
6. The meeting with MACUA was arranged, but never took place as the Minister cancelled the meeting at the last minute.
7. The PC in turn committed to a follow up meeting with MACUA during the following quarter and the Committee also promised to try and include the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy in this meeting.
8. Nothing came of these commitments.
9. MACUA continued to write to the PC and in June 2022, we invited the PC to receive a briefing and copies of our Social Audit Reports which provided a portfolio of evidence which corroborated our previous studies we had presented to the PC in March 2021.
10. We did not receive any feedback from the PC and eventually we wrote to the Speaker in August 2022 to advice that we would be sending a delegation to Parliament that would sleep outside Parliament until parliament agreed to accept our social audit report which shows the extent of exploitation suffered by mining affected communities.
11. Eventually it was agreed that the Parliament would accept the report and that a meeting would be arranged with the PC.
12. A meeting was duly held with the PC on 30 August 2022.
13. At the meeting of the 30th of August 2022, The Chairperson of the PC, said that “the Portfolio Committee will go through the submission so that feedback can be given.”
14. At the meeting of the PC on the 20th of September 2022 the Chairperson “reminded Members that the Committee had agreed to discuss the issues, compile a report on the issues that MACUA had raised, and indicate how the Committee would deal with the issues going forward. The Secretary explained that the Department would be responding to presentations made by MACUA and WAMUA”.
15. On the 23 of September 2022, in a PC meeting, the Chairperson indicated to the DMRE that “the Committee wanted to know when they could have the report (concerning the MACUA Social Audit) back. It was worrying that the Department did not ask how they should respond to the MACUA problem. The Department tended to address the Committee, not the issues raised.”
16. It thus came as a disappointing surprise that at the PC meeting of the 21 February 2023, the agreements and decisions that the DMRE would provide a report on the MACUA Social Audit Report and the substance of the claims made therein, had summarily been discarded and replaced, without any due and proper consideration, with what was then characterised as a complaint relating to the relationship between MACUA and the DMRE.
17. On the 02nd of March 2023 we again wrote to the PC to call on the PC to use its powers to initiate a parliamentary process to amend the MPRDA without further delay. We warned at the time that If the process is not started now, then we would have lost at least another 2 years before a new process could start.
18. We were again compelled to write to the PC on the 19th of May 2023 after members of the PC had abused the Parliamentary platforms to launch unjustified attacks on MACUA and after the PC had engaged in deliberate behaviours to exclude MACUA from participating or making inputs into oversight visits of the PC to the Northern Cape, Free State and Gauteng Provinces.
19. We again reminded the PC that our petitions submitted to parliament in 2020 had called for:
a. The Speaker of the National Assembly to put in place or instruct the Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources and Energy to investigate the conditions which allow mines to divide communities and bring violence to their doorsteps. (as it relates to the assassination of Fikile Ntshangase and the violence directed at other activists and human rights defenders).
b. The Speaker of the National Assembly to take urgent steps to ensure that mining affected communities and specifically women in mining-affected communities, are represented on all statutory and regulatory bodies with immediate effect and that urgent steps are taken to ensure that our right to FREE PRIOR and INFORMED CONSENT is recognised in the law.
20. Accordingly we urged the Committee to re-evaluate our engagements to date and to urgently align their process with the legal requirements of the Parliamentary rules on Petitions as set out in Section 56 (d) and 69 (d) of the Constitution , read with the Rules of the National Council of Provinces and National Assembly which required that a report on our petition be handed to the National Assembly for further action.
21. In addition, upon receiving a request from the PC, we submitted a report to the PC on the 01st of June 2023 in which we unpacked our experiences of a closed-door-dead-end type of engagement with the DMRE.
22. In our report we reported to the PC that the DMRE had maintained that they will not undertake an amendment process of the MPRDA during this Parliaments term.
23. In a follow up letter to the PC on the 17th of July 2023, we pointed out that the decades long failure by the DMRE to effectively address concerns raised by mining affected communities, despite the abundance of evidence, and court judgements which affirmed that a clear need exists to amend the MPRDA, together with the evidence presented in our reports which shows an incapable DMRE further denying communities access to remedy and justice, should prompt the PC to urgently initiate an amendment process as they are entitled to do according to the rules of Parliament.
24. In our correspondence we warned that failure to act now and with urgency, will not only stand as a breach of the legal duty imposed on the PC by the rules of Parliament, but will also stand as a vivid reminder to mining affected communities and the public at large, that our political representatives continue to fail the marginalised and excluded while they maintain the status quo which continues to deepen inequality and injustice.
25. The PC has yet to respond to our repeated calls for justice to be prioritised for mining affected communities and instead when the PC published it programme for the Third Term in July 2023, there was no space allocated to mining affected community concerns or for the amendment of the MPRDA.
26. Instead, the PC has now included the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill, which was only submitted on the 23rd of August 2023, and which will now be prioritised and rushed through the parliamentary process to the exclusion of the decades long call by Mining affected communities for the MPRDA to be amended.
What this clearly shows is that despite the claims by both the DMRE and the PC that there was not enough time to process amendments to the MPRDA, that with sufficient political will, and with sufficient focus, that a Bill can be processed, if it advances the interests of the right people.
In the case of the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill, it advances the interests of the Market and of Private Capital, and hence the rules of parliament can be pushed to its limits to accommodate an urgent parliamentary process.
But in the case of marginalised, excluded, and impoverished communities, who have been suffering increasing impoverishment under the yoke of a grossly unequal and unjust mining legislative regime, and where the informal mining sector has been witness to a bloodbath of young black men who are dying in unconscionable numbers, their interests and well-being are not considered a priority by the very politicians who have sworn to advance their interests.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
But as mining affected communities, we will no longer be second class citizens whose interests and well-being can be shoved aside so that politicians can prioritise the primitive wealth accumulation strategies of the comprador classes.
As mining affected communities, we will no longer be shoved aside while the comprador politicians weave their legislative webs which keep us impoverished and excluded.
As mining affected communities, we will no longer give comprador politicians a free ticket to use the powers of the Constitution to entrench our oppression and exclusion.
Accordingly, this letter serves as a Notice to the Portfolio Committee and Parliament, that they are no longer welcome in our communities for as long as they are acting as sell oputs to the interests and well-being of mining affected communities.
This letter serves as Notice to the Portfolio Committee and parliament that they are no longer welcome in our communities for as long as they are acting in the interests of private capital while ignoring the interests of communities.
This letter serves as notice, that you have left us with no choice.
We have tried to engage you through the democratic structure of Parliament, but you have used the structures of what should be a democratic parliament to silence our voices and to further exclude us.
By corrupting the parliamentary process in your ongoing efforts to ignore and exclude the voices of the marginalised and excluded, you have left us with a moral dilemma similar to the one that faced our nation in 1961, and which was articulated by Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia Trial.
We are faced with the choice to either Submit to the tyranny of a Parliament that excludes us, or to FIGHT.
We Can Not, and Will not Submit.
So we must Fight.
For as long as our interests are not prioritised and advanced, we will not rest, and we will not allow this Parliament to think that it will have a free ride in our communities.
We are waiting for you.