Parched: Members of the community of Thekwana, Rustenburg, say they had to stop using water from boreholes near mining activity. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Parched: Members of the community of Thekwana, Rustenburg, say they had to stop using water from boreholes near mining activity. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Some have received the revised version of the Mining Charter with indifference. A community activist such as Glen Monnye of the booming Limpopo mining town of Mokopane, where most people live in shanties, argues it is "still screwing the poor and placing traditional leaders first".

But the revised charter should be music, not noise, in the ears of host communities such as Mokopane.

It is a promissory note, originally adopted on the eve of the coming into force of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 as a mechanism for correcting the wrongs of the past. It was negotiated in a tripartite process involving the government, labour and industry representatives.

But then and now, the process excluded communities as stakeholders in the negotiation process.

It speaks of transformation, redress, nondiscrimination, transformation ownership and control by the majority and the nonexclusion of blacks.

If this was the music, why then all the noise about the revised Mining Charter and the review of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act? Despite many years of campaigning under the banner "Nothing about us, without us", community-based formations under the umbrella of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) have banged on every door, pleaded and cried at every assembly, yet no one cares to listen.

Macua, its members and all members of mining-affected communities have protections under international and domestic law to participate in decision-making across the natural resource governance decision chain, especially one that affects them.

They are, for all intents and purposes, "interested and affected parties" with protection as indigenous people under the framework of free, prior and informed consent.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights identified the major characteristics that embody the concept of indigenous peoples, including: self-identification; a special attachment to and use of their traditional land whereby their ancestral land and territory have a fundamental importance for their collective physical and cultural survival as peoples; and a state of subjugation, marginalisation, dispossession, exclusion or discrimination because these peoples have different cultures, ways of life or modes of production than the national hegemonic and dominant model.

All of these apply to the Macua constituency.

Now to the elephant in the room. The scheme of the Mining Charter requires all holders of mining rights to have at least 30% black ownership.

Section 23 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act provides that the minister of mineral resources must grant mining rights if the applicants have given effect to the objective of empowerment.

The empowerment provision appears to be a pre-grant rather than a post-grant requirement. Is it just any black person who is entitled to this concession, and should they not at least establish some form of attachment to the land to be mined, some dispossession or harm they would suffer if they were not compensated in the manner of shareholding?

If priority is given to indigenous people, on what terms and on whose terms? Local-content policy the world over pays particular attention to project-affected people and so do local domestic laws such as the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and its local content framework of social and labour plans.

It is testament to a government that has abandoned its people and found new friends in white monopoly capital

There is an element of compensation for harm suffered as a result of mining activity on their land: the dismantling of food production systems; the loss of traditional livelihood-generating economic activity; disturbing peace and tranquillity; exerting pressure on social and community infrastructure; environmental disturbance; and the disruption of the way of life of the people, including their cultural heritage.

Moreover, local content is a resource rent tax, what a mining company pays in return for extracting a finite resource that belongs to the collective.

The social and labour plans are mandatory local-content requirements in SA — licence conditions that are carefully structured in law to respond to stated objectives.

Having traversed in the past eight months the length and breadth of post-apartheid mining towns — such as Lutzville, Kuruman, Kimberley, Richards Bay, Welkom, Musina, Lephalale, Ermelo, Witbank, Somkhele and Rustenburg — Oxfam SA and Macua observed a state of devastation, desperation and hopelessness among citizens that is appalling.

It is testament to a government that has abandoned its people and found new friends in white monopoly capital.

The Department of Mineral Resources is an absent actor. It lacks the capacity, the skills and the political will to get its act together.

Billions of rand belonging to poor South Africans in mining-affected communities is lost annually from the social and labour plans framework.

The department has no proper compliance monitoring and reporting framework for the implementation of social and labour plans and no idea how to enforce compliance.

The mining companies have consistently denied communities access to social and labour plans, their annual compliance reports and any other report such as those dealing with environmental management and communication between companies and the department on enforcement action.

In a democracy such as SA, it is not enough to deliver goods and services to the general populace without regard to the underlying democratic deficit in social accountability mechanisms. Social accountability is a constitutional imperative and such information should be subject to proactive disclosure and readily available on the websites of the Department of Mineral Resources and mining companies.

There exists a toxic collusion between the state and the mining companies that denies mining communities their rights.

Without information on what mining companies contribute to the Integrated Development Plan process at municipal level, how are communities expected to participate effectively in setting priorities, in scrutiny and oversight of implementation processes and holding the state functionaries and companies accountable for failure to perform?

A former Tanzanian president, Benjamin Mkapa, said that with leadership failure those who colonised and enslaved us, resulting in our underdevelopment, would continue to pilfer Africa’s natural resources.

SA must rise, so that Africa may rise as a champion that always held the promise of a bright future for all.

• Dlamini is the extractives head at Oxfam SA and Mbangula is the national chairman of Macua.

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