By By Gilbert Moela and Tholakele Thabane

Just about a week ago, on 28 May 2024, MACUA held an online webinar with a purpose to highlight the outcomes of the Mining Affected Communities (MAC) Summit and to unpack political parties’ manifestos.

It is not the manifestos in their entirety that MACUA was particularly interested in, but their stance on climate change and challenges that mining affected communities grapple with.

The webinar also served as a wake-up call for mining affected communities to exercise caution when casting their votes.

The mining affected communities continue to be neglected by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) as it remains disinterested in addressing abuses of mining companies and the violations of their mining licences, which is often compounded with lack of consultations with host communities and lack of up-to-date Social Labour Plans.

It was in this breadth that MACUA warned mining affected communities to vote with caution, because ministers like Gwede Mantashe, who lead institutions like DMRE, continue to fail to exercise their responsibilities as public representatives. They fail to champion struggles of vulnerable communities whose rights are violated and trumped at the expense of communities.

It was trite that mining affected communities assert their rights, as nothing should be decided about them without their active participation. The response from the marginalised communities was great as they came out in numbers to cast their votes and make their voices heard.

In fact, at the time of writing, the results were very indicative that the masses have spoken that enough is enough. Surely, this is a lesson that parties who disregard the demands of the people will have to leak their own self-inflicted wounds just like the African National Congress.

As the 7th Parliament administration, constituted of various political parties, is under construction as the Independent Election Commission is tallying the votes, MACUA warns elect candidates of public institutions to be cognisant of the promises they made in their manifestos. The masses will hold you accountable.

The attendees during the MACUA’s webinar highlighted a number of issues that continue to plague mining affected communities that should be prioritised in the policy agenda.

1. Negligence of the DMRE: A systemic problem One of the most prominent issues discussed during the webinar was the consistent negligence and neglect from DMRE. Mining communities across the country have faced immense difficulties in trying to engage with DMRE’s officials. Despite numerous invitations, the DMRE has consistently failed to show up at events and summits organised by mining affected communities, including the MAC Summit held in early February. This lack of interest from the DMRE is clear that the department does not care about one of its primary stakeholders: mining affected communities.

2. Mining licences without Social Labour Plans and consultations: A disturbing trend highlighted during the webinar was the DMRE’s practice of granting mining licences to companies without the mandatory inclusion of Social Labour Plans (SLPs) and consultations with the affected communities. This lack of consultation deprives mining affected communities of their right to be heard and effectively participate in decisions that directly impact their lives. The DMRE’s disregard for community engagement further aggravates the existing challenges faced by mining communities.

3. Compulsory consultations and transparency: The webinar stressed the importance of meaningful consultations and prior consent with host communities before granting mining licences. The current lack of transparency and openness in the process undermines the rights and well-being of mining affected communities. This is evident in the case of Bakwena Ba Mogopa versus Glencore’s Rhovan Vanadium Mine in North West, Seriti’s failure to provide an SLP in Phola and Ogies, Tendele Coal Mine’s attempts to expand mining operations without an EIA. The list is endless. It is imperative that mining companies and the DMRE adhere to the principles of transparency and accountability to ensure the fair and just treatment of mining affected communities.

4. The absence of mining affected communities in political parties’ manifestos: The participants in the webinar also expressed their disappointment with the lack of mention of mining affected communities in the manifestos of political parties. One of the speakers, Bongani Nkosi, the branch coordinator of the Phola branch in Mpumalanga, emphasised the need for mining communities to vote for parties that acknowledge their concerns and priorities. Another speaker, Pamela Segakweng, the chairperson of the Bakwena Ba Mogopa- Community Development Foundation in Brits, North West, echoed similar sentiments, stating that no political party currently addresses the issues faced by mining affected communities in their manifestos. The absence of mining affected communities in political party manifestos raises concerns about the representation and inclusion of these communities in the political landscape. This also suggests that the 7th administration will largely be composed of political parties that do not seriously consider challenges faced by mining affected communities. This is alarming and mining affected communities should unite in action and continue to campaign and lobby policymakers and politicians, especially those occupying public offices.