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Joint Media Statement by Civil Society Coalition on the MPRDA: Minister Ramatlhodi chooses a dangerous path

18 February 2015 at 1:06 pm

Photo: http://goldanduraniumbelt.blogspot.com/
Photo: http://goldanduraniumbelt.blogspot.com/
Photo: http://goldanduraniumbelt.blogspot.com/

Photo: http://goldanduraniumbelt.blogspot.com/

The Civil Society Coalition on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) notes with a growing sense of concern the manner in which the Minister of Mineral Resources, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, has chosen completely to ignore the calls by communities to be included in the development of a path to halt the destructive practices of mining.

Minister Ramatlhodi has made numerous public statements attempting to address the concerns of the mining industry around the President’s return of the MPRDA Amendment Bill to Parliament. The Minister has not, however, in a single one of these statements, made any mention of the fourth reason for the return of the Bill: the fact that provincial legislatures did not sufficiently facilitate public participation when passing the Amendment Bill, and that the Bill ignored the consent principle of customary law. These issues go to the heart of the injustice perpetrated by the government and the mining sector against mining-affected communities.

Across South Africa hundreds of communities are engaged in daily protests and activities sparked by the operations of mining companies. These communities are insisting upon recognition of their own development demands, justice and inclusive outcomes in particular where mines have severely impacted on communities and their environments. Communities are questioning whether the minerals that apparently belong to all the people of South Africa are serving the needs of those bearing the brunt of their extraction.

On Monday, 9 February and Wednesday, 11 February 2015, one of the communities in Mokopane, Limpopo which has been trying to engage the mining company IvanPlats held protests and pickets to call for justice and inclusion.

Two weeks ago communities of Witbank, Coronation and MNS among others in Mpumalanga took to the streets in protest at their continued exclusion and to call for redress and immediate and urgent action to tackle the severe effects of pollution and contamination emanating from the mines and power stations in their area of Witbank.

In KwaZulu-Natal the Fuleni community is engaged in an ongoing struggle with iButho Coal around an open cast coal mine located in the heart of the community and on the doorstep of a nature conservation area.

The communities around Marikana in the Northwest have held numerous protests during the last 2 years in a desperate attempt to shed light on the deplorable socio-economic conditions that they endure.

Communities in Gauteng and Free State have used a variety of methods such as legal processes and protests, in an attempt to claim their rights and get government and business to listen and respond.

In August last year Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) which represents over 70 community based organisations across South Africa mobilised over 3000 people to march on the Mining Lekgotla to call for the scrapping of the MPRDA and the inclusion of communities in policy development and legislation.

MACUA requested a meeting with Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi as far back as May 2014 when he was appointed, but to date he has not had the courtesy to respond to this request. Prior to that, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA) representing 14 civil society and community organisations, in early 2013, requested a meeting with the previous Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, but this request was also ignored.

Instead the Minister has gone from conference to conference to meet with business leaders across the world in order to sell the very minerals that communities are contesting. In all the presentations made from Cape Town to Davos, we have not discerned any significant concern or focus on affected communities and their consistent demand for a just and inclusive mining policy, regulation and legislation.

We have not heard the Minister speak with any consistency on the concerns raised by civil society about illicit capital and financial flows currently costing the people of South Africa billions in lost revenues, which are expressed in the recently African Union adopted report authored by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation on Illicit Capital Flows.

This report and others such as the report released last year by the Alternative Development Information Centre (AIDC) highlights that by far the biggest culprits of illicit financial flows are multinational mining companies.

The Minister seems to be deliberately ignoring the most pressing needs of society when dealing with the mining question and is intently focused on attracting and appeasing corporate business interests at the expense of both communities and South Africa as a whole.

We fear that this blinkered one-dimensional approach to the problems facing the industry is short sighted and will continue to lead to increased inequality, poverty (particularly as suffered by women), bloodshed, loss of life, land and livelihoods, environmental devastation and general instability in the country.

We note that the Minister has publicly committed himself to railroading the new MPRDA Amendment Bill through the parliamentary process within the next six months. We believe that this is not only unrealistic, considering the extent of community participation required to ensure that the Bill will be a true reflection of the will of the people of South Africa, but also because the consequent repeat of the failures in consultation that characterised the passing of the Bill will only result in more anger and resentment and thus further destabilisation of the country and the industry.

The rushed passage through the NCOP last year was a glaring constitutional transgression, and a deliberate attempt to exclude the voices of those most detrimentally affected by mining in South Africa. A repeat of this transgression will only result in further constitutional challenges and more uncertainty in the sector. It is in the Minister’s hands to seize the opportunity.

We call on the Minister urgently to meet with civil society and mining affected communities to urgently plan for a proper consultative conference where government, civil society and affected communities are able to work through the many challenging and vexing problems faced by communities and the industry. MACUA offers to assist by facilitating the representation of affected communities and civil society. MACUA is well placed to do so, being the largest representative organisation of mining affected communities.

Only inclusive solutions offer any hope of a stable and prosperous future.

Shortcuts and authoritarian impositions are clearly not the answer, but rather the most dangerous way forward.

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Issued by the Civil Society Coalition on the MPRDA:

  • Mining Affected Communities United in Action – MACUA
  • Women Affected by Mining United in Action – WAMUA
  • Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network – MEJCON-SA
  • Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance – VEJA
  • Govan Mbeki Joint Communities
  • ActionAid South Africa
  • Benchmarks Foundation
  • groundWork
  • NUMSA
  • Oxfam
  • Federation for a Sustainable Environment

Legal Advisors to the Coalition:

  • Legal Resources Centre (LRC)
  • Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
  • Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
  • Centre for Applied legal Studies (CALS)