The Annual Conference will happen in October 2024 on the 15th and 16th. More details in terms of Venue and Theme to follow.

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14th July 2024

June 2024

Dear Comrades, June 16 has been squeezed out of the story by the tremor of law passing and the elections and its aftermath. POLITICS AND ELECTIONS DO NOT change – or state power does not change – all, there is a need for cultural and social movement by what was known as civil society organisation. Dealing with our values, mores and behaviour towards each other is clearly needed. Gender violence or more specifically violence against women by men is a scourge and, whilst government policy and regulation may assist, it is clearly in the realm of citizens – all people – who have to ensure that it does not continue.

The electoral defeat of the once mighty liberation movement leader, the ANC, has provoked deep discussion formally and informally. The SAFTU convened a workers summit which was very critical of the outcomes and together with COSATU were concerned about whether the DA would be getting strategic positions in government, meaning those that may reverse hard won worker rights.

This edition promises all: the announcements on the GNU and the absence of radicals in the electoral process that ushered it in. Regular features include what activists are doing  – from Soweto to Pondoland, and the risks of fighting for justice. It also provides information about the laws to fight gender violence, mine waste and more. The resources remain interesting.

we must remember June month commemorates the youth rebellions that began in Soweto in 1976. It also hosts the date when the Congress of the People launched the Freedom Charter at Kliptown, Soweto (26 June 1955). This historical perspective  is needed in assessing the changes unfolding, including the 7th administration. Is it a sellout? Time and how we organise to avert that, will be critical to ensure that the goals of radical transformation are not compromised.

Read, enjoy and pass on

· OPINION ·

Pan African thinker: Amilcar Cabral

This is part of a longer paper which will be shared on all our platforms soon. It is entitled: What would Cabral say about the 2024 South African Elections by Hassen Lorgat

But why Cabral or, better still, who is Cabral?

A few South African mass organisations, in particular SADTU (the teachers union) and Abahlali BasemJondolo, have some of his key texts on their websites. But these groups did not get together to talk about his ideas as a way of building unity in action. Whilst his works may be known in some quarters, very rarely do they appear to be influential. 

I will come back to that, but I believe some background to the person of Cabral is needed.

Amílcar Lopes Cabral (September 12, 1924, Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea [now Guinea-Bissau] – January 20, 1973, Conakry, Guinea) was an agronomist, nationalist leader, and founder and secretary-general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde; PAIGC), who helped lead Guinea-Bissau to independence. 

He was a leading African thinker of the 20th century. Early education was in Cape Verde, and university in Lisbon and there he founded the Centro de Estudos Africanos, where the student Agostinho Neto was also a memer.  They spoke of freedom, anti colonialism and african renewal.

After graduating in 1950, he worked for the authorities as an agronomist and travelled the country – conducting surveys of the land and the resources of the country – putting him in contact with the people, their poverty, their cultures and so on. Learning from the people, revolution was an answer, and with five comrades they founded the PAIGC in Angola (Neto was present at that meeting).

So, this poet, organiser, cultural worker, and political leader came to my mind because of the elections and the failure for us to have hard questions about the role of parties and groups supporting the working class and the poor in the current elections. He was a pan Africanist and a theorist of revolution who spoke frankly about the necessity of Africa to renew itself for its people. He supported the idea of speaking frankly and self criticism was the key watchword.

His theory was also rooted and not from textbooks. Amilcar was committed to truth telling and rebuilding a culture of politics that is honest, truthful, participatory and accountable to their members. In this regard, we find his opposition to claiming easy victories and showing off presumed victories as major ones. He was a democratic and a unifier. I have always said that democracy or participatory democracy is nothing if it is not accountable. That is the lesson of the unions that I learnt from: democracy during those days in the 80s meant mandate and report backs.

Whilst the motivation of his article and talk was the little directive to party cadres, Tell No Lies was integrated into his wider theory and understanding of our role in society. This I will show with reference to a few of his other writings, briefly, where he reiterates his commitment to national liberation. 

National liberation of all the countries in Africa ranks Amilcar as a Pan Africanist and wants us to rediscover our Africanness. He was an intellectual that demanded that we factor in the social, cultural aspects of struggle in our everyday lives. He was an organiser who disseminated progressive ideas through radio, poetry and the wider arts.

He was fundamentally honest and wanted us to consider our shortcomings – from within – and not simply looking outwards.  

Rice only cooks inside the pot, but we can share

This is captured in his use of the African phrase “rice only cooks inside the pot” as a metaphor to reiterate that change comes from within: just as rice can only cook inside the pot, thus underwriting the importance of human and national agency, self-determination, and contextual understanding in achieving meaningful change.

True, change and transformation can only come from within a community, nation, or individual. However, this self-reliance was not by nature and closed to the outside.

The phrase was not chauvinist as a local context whilst important, it had to be also rooted in a universalist and emancipatory understanding of human liberation. He believed in the interconnectedness of struggles for freedom and justice across the world.

The struggles of African people were indelibly connected with those of other oppressed groups globally. He advocated for a broader understanding of human liberation, encompassing social, economic, political, and cultural aspects. His vision was anti racist and universalist seeking to inspire movements for social justice, anti-colonialism, and human emancipation worldwide.

But Cabral was an organiser, a movement builder, and an honest comrade. Speaking at the first Tricontinental conference in Cuba, he did not simply succumb to dominant lines and discourses but stood independent in mind for what he desired. 

He said something that gets repeated in the essay that is the subject of our discussion today – a year after Tell No Lies – which confirmed his view that every revolution needed its own theory, linking it up with the others, but fundamentally a theory that was derived from the peoples’ own experiences. In The Weapon of Theory (1966) he argued against taking the simple way out arguing:

We are not going to use this platform to rail against imperialism. An African saying very common in our country says: “When your house is burning, it’s no use beating the tom-toms.” On a Tricontinental level, this means that we are not going to eliminate imperialism by shouting insults against it.

One must ignore the military language, which I will come back to later, adding 

For us, the best or worst shout against imperialism, whatever its form, is to take up arms and fight. This is what we are doing, and this is what we will go on doing until all foreign domination of our African homelands has been totally eliminated.

Our agenda includes subjects whose meaning and importance are beyond question and which show a fundamental preoccupation with struggle. We note, however, that one form of struggle which we consider to be fundamental has not been explicitly mentioned in this programme, although we are certain that it was present in the minds of those who drew up the programme. We refer here to the struggle against our own weaknesses.

At the end of the Weapon of Theory speech and article, Amilcar reiterates the need for organisation and modesty thus:

We will not shout hurrahs or proclaim here our solidarity with this or that people in struggle. Our presence is in itself a cry of condemnation of imperialism and a proof of solidarity with all peoples who want to banish from their country the imperialist yoke, and in particular with the heroic people of Vietnam. But we firmly believe that the best proof we can give of our anti-imperialist position and of our active solidarity with our comrades in this common struggle is to return to our countries, to further develop this struggle and to remain faithful to the principles and objectives of national liberation.

ARTICLES

The New Cabinet: Letter from the President

President Ramaphosa wrote and spoke to us – the Bench Marks Foundation leaders and activists –  to explain his decision to form a Government of National Union. Watch it here. And read the full speech here.   

The new GNU reads as follows:

The Deputy President is Paul Mashatile.
The Minister of Agriculture is John Steenhuisen.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture is Rosemary Nokuzola Capa.
The Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development is Mzwanele Nyhontso.
The Deputy Minister of Land Reform and Rural Development is Chupu Stanley Mathabatha.
The Minister of Basic Education is Siviwe Gwarube.
The Deputy Minister of Basic Education is Reginah Mhaule.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies is Solly Malatsi.
The Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies is Mondli Gungubele.
The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is Velinkosi Hlabisa.
The Deputy Ministers of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs are Dickson Masemola and Zolile Burns‐Ncamashe.
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans is Angie Motshekga.
The Deputy Ministers of Defence and Military Veterans are Bantu Holomisa and Richard Mkhungo.
The Minister of Electricity and Energy is Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
The Deputy Minister of Electricity and Energy is Samantha Graham.
The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation is Blade Nzimande.
The Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation is Nomalungelo Gina.
The Minister of Employment and Labour is Nomakhosazana Meth.
The Deputy Ministers of Employment and Labour are Jomo Sibiya and Phumzile Mgcina.
The Minister of Finance is Enoch Godongwana.
The Deputy Ministers of Finance are David Masondo and Ashor Sarupen.
The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is Dion George.
The Deputy Ministers of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment are Narend Singh and Bernice Swarts.
The Minister of Health is Aaron Motsoaledi.
The Deputy Minister of Health is Joe Phaahla.
The Minister of Higher Education is Nobuhle Nkabane.
The Deputy Ministers of Higher Education are Buti Manamela and Mimmy Gondwe.
The Minister of Home Affairs is Leon Schreiber.
The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs is Njabulo Nzuza.
The Minister of Human Settlements is Mmamoloko Kubayi.
The Deputy Minister of Human Settlements is Tandi Mahambehlala.
The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation is Ronald Lamola.
The Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation are Alvin Botes and Tandi Moraka.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development is Thembi Nkadimeng.
The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development is Andries Nel.
The Minister of Mineral and Petroleum Resources is Gwede Mantashe.
The Deputy Minister of Mineral and Petroleum Resources is Judith Nemadzinga‐Tshabalala.
The Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation is Maropene Ramokgopa.
The Deputy Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation is Seiso Mohai.
The Minister of Police is Senzo Mchunu.
The Deputy Ministers of Police are Polly Boshielo and Cassel Mathale.
The Minister in the Presidency is Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
The Deputy Ministers in the Presidency are Nonceba Mhlauli and Kenneth Morolong.
The Minister of Public Service and Administration is Mzamo Buthelezi.
The Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration is Pinky Kekana.
The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure is Dean Macpherson.
The Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure is Sihle Zikalala.
The Minister of Small Business Development is Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
The Deputy Minister of Small Business Development is Jane Sithole.
The Minister of Social Development is Sisisi Tolashe.
The Deputy Minister of Social Development is Ganief Hendricks.
The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture is Gayton McKenzie.
The Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture is Peace Mabe.
The Minister of Tourism is Patricia De Lille.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism is Maggie Sotyu.
The Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition is Parks Tau.
The Deputy Ministers of Trade, Industry and Competition are Zuko Godlimpi and Andrew Whitfield.
The Minister of Transport is Barbara Creecy.
The Deputy Minister of Transport is Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
The Minister of Water and Sanitation is Pemmy Majodina.
The Deputy Ministers of Water and Sanitation are David Mahlobo and Isaac Seitlholo.
The Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is Sindisiwe Chikunga.
The Deputy Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is Mmapaseka Steve Letsike.
The Minister of Correctional Services is Pieter Groenewald.
The Deputy Minister of Correctional Services is Lindiwe Ntshalintshali.

These men and women we have appointed to the executive are drawn from all corners of our country.
They reflect the diversity of our nation.

The first GNU post 1994. Photo Credit: News24

Not a GNU, but a neo-liberal elite pact
[EXTRACT]

Why does it matter what it is?
A critical understanding of the ANC-DA grand coalition will enable poor communities, workers, the unemployed and the broader public concerned with meaningful and substantive social change to work out how to relate with, act beyond and often go against the 7th government since the 1994 transition. Critical here is for poor communities, workers and the unemployed to see through what will be continued neo-liberal policies under the guise of national interests or unity.

The deal is definitely working for the ANC to continue in power, for the DA to co-govern as part of its longer-term strategy, and smaller parties to occupy a few cabinet and parliamentary positions. But it is not given that this political arrangement will necessarily work for poor communities, workers and the unemployed and even the vulnerable black middle class. It will definitely not achieve genuine and substantive national unity based on meaningful socio-economic transformation.

It is entirely possible that the ANC-DA grand coalition will not countenance sustained mobilisation and  protests by poor communities, workers and the unemployed. Most likely, such protests will be portrayed by the ANC-DA coalition as rocking the boat and a disturbance to national unity. This logic will be extended to economic policy where the ANC-DA grand coalition will confine policy options away from redistributive economic measures. This would mean that resistance by the Amadiba Crisis Committee against mining in Xolobeni will be labelled as going against the national interest and unity. The same will be said by the political elite against workers demanding a living wage or poor communities fighting budget cuts on key social expenditure.

Poor communities, workers and the unemployed have immediate needs which include the basic income grant, permanent employment in public works and industries, and the delivery of quality free basic services such as housing, sanitation, water, electricity, roads, education, health, transport, and communication. These can be easily sacrificed by a version of national unity that will require respect for the markets and investors. Our analysis and characterisation of the ANC-DA coalition means that workers and the unemployed must develop the capacity, means and tools to sustain their vigilance against the mollifying effects of a political elite presenting itself as serving the national interests under the false cover of a GNU.

Only revolutionary measures can help to exit the neo-liberal crisis. The ANC-DA coalition cannot meet that challenge. The needed revolutionary measures include wealth redistribution, state-led industrialisation, the overall structural transformation of the economy and its socialisation. Without these, the deal-making of the political elites will deepen the social crisis instead of building national cohesion and unity. The deep social crisis will persist and get worse if the left and popular classes don’t pose a meaningful political challenge.

Read the full text here.

International Solidarity – Angela Davis calls on us to Stand with Palestine 

Solidarity with Palestinians and their decades-long struggle in defense of their land, culture, and freedom has long been a central theme of my political life. I am gratified to see so many young people — especially young Black people — supporting the struggle in Palestine today. The emotional turbulence so many of us have experienced for the past five months as we’ve witnessed the unprecedented damage the Israeli military has inflicted reminds me just how central the Palestinian quest for justice is to liberation struggles here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, as well as to my own sense of self in our extremely complicated political world.

The state of Israel is the purveyor not only of a settler-colonial project but also of one that actively continues its violent expansion in the 21st century. Over the past months we have witnessed widespread, unnecessary death and extraordinary devastation that has led to the uprooting of practically the entire population of Gaza. Massive demonstrations all over the planet and deep collective grief about the conditions in Gaza have turned my attention back to the emotion-laden political mobilizations during the summer of 2020. People everywhere, including in Palestine, felt both rage and profound sadness at the racist police lynching of George Floyd. Some might say that the issues driving the George Floyd mobilizations and the current protests against the war on Gaza are different. But are they?

The collective mourning elicited by the racist violence that claimed the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others galvanized demonstrations aimed at the systems, structures, and histories that enabled such racist state violence. And those demonstrations were implicitly directed at the global imperialism that furthers the proliferation of racial capitalist strategies. Some of the protests also highlighted the lessons the U.S. has learned as a direct result of its close alliance with Israel, which has included trainings offered by the Israel Defense Forces to U.S. police departments all over the country. Whether or not the Minnesota police ever directly learned combat moves from the IDF, the increased militarization of policing here is directly related to global capitalism, including the economic and military ties between Israel and the U.S.

Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinian people in Gaza — who, along with those in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and inside Israel itself, have been conscripted to serve as involuntary embodiments of the foundational enemy of Israel — has produced unimaginable grief and sorrow. Gazan families will never fully recover from the deaths of their loved ones, from the destruction of their homes (as many as 70 percent of homes and more than half of all buildings have been damaged or destroyed), from their monthslong attempts to survive without food and water, or from sleeping in the open as human counterparts of the scarred landscape, which may not recover in the foreseeable future. The vicious and dehumanizing verbal assaults by representatives of the government and armed forces have compounded this trauma. In announcing a “complete siege” of Gaza, the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, announced: “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed.” He justified this action by adding, “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.” The international press widely quoted these remarks in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas.

Read the full text here.

Anti GBV law PASSED

According to the Presidency, the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill is a “critical step forward in ensuring the safety and security of women from all walks of life”. “The establishment of a council dedicated to drive a whole-of-society approach to combat this scourge is fundamental. The council will be the statutory body charged with providing strategic leadership in the elimination of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa,” the Presidency said. Whilst welcoming the bill, some activists have raised questions about its late introduction and wondered about effective implementation. Meanwhile, the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill paves way, among others, for the provision of the establishment of the Investigative Directorate against Corruption. “The Directorate, which will over time incorporate the existing Investigating Directorate, will have investigative capacity with priority given to particularly serious criminal or unlawful conduct committed in serious, high-profile or complex corruption, commercial or financial crime. “The legislation directs that the Directorate be given the infrastructure and resources needed to perform its functions,” the Presidency said.  Read more about the bill here.

Gender Section 187(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa reads: “Commission for Gender Equality must promote respect for gender equality and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality”. The Commission is a catalyst organisation for the development and attainment of gender equality. Section 187(2) grants the Commission “the power as regulated by national legislation, necessary to perform its functions, including the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby and advise and report on issues concerning gender equality”. The Commission for Gender Equality Act 39 of 1996 (as amended), has been promulgated to give effect to S187 (3) of the constitution to guide the establishment of the commission. The Act provides for the composition, powers, functions and functioning of the Commission on Gender Equality; and to provide for matters connected therewith. Section 11 outlines the powers and functions as follows: The Commission: (a) Shall monitor and evaluate policies and practices of (b) Shall develop, conduct, or manage: (c) Shall evaluate: (d) May recommend to Parliament or any other legislature the adoption of new legislation which would promote gender equality and the status of women; (e) Shall investigate any gender-related issues of its own accord or on receipt of a complaint, and shall endeavour to: (f) Shall as far as is practicable maintain close liaison with institutions, bodies or authorities with similar objectives to the Commission, to foster common policies and practices and to promote co-operation in relation to the handling of complaints in cases of overlapping jurisdiction or other appropriate instances. (g) Shall liaise and interact with any organisation which actively promotes gender equality and other sectors of civil society to further the object of the Commission. (h) Shall monitor the compliance with international conventions, international covenants, and international charters, acceded to or ratified by the Republic, relating to the object of the Commission. (i) Shall prepare and submit reports to Parliament pertaining to any such convention, covenant or charter relating to the object of the Commission. (j) May conduct research or cause research to be conducted to further the object of the Commission. (k) May consider such recommendations, suggestions and requests concerning the promotion of gender equality as it may receive from any source.

FROM THE GROUND

Heads and tails of mining

Earthworks, the Bench Marks Foundation, and Federation for Sustainable Environment held a highly successful workshop on tailings dams and mine waste on the 26 and 27 June 2024. Organised by the South African Civil Society Tailings Working Group, it had over 40 participants from affected communities and it included trade union participation. It set out to educate affected communities and the wider public why tailings dams are not only for the engineers and the mining corporations. Such dams are a societal threat waiting to explode. In future editions, we will share the conclusions of the workshop.

Echoing our sentiments, the public broadcaster asked: 🎙️Who is really responsible for tailings and why is it that our current laws and regulations in South Africa are not preventing or mitigating the detrimental impacts of tailings dams?  

They assert that their ultimate goal is of zero harm to people and the environment. In addition, they promise that tailings must adhere to the principles of transparency, accountability and safeguarding the rights of project affected people.

Their Standard comprises six topic areas, 15 principles and 77 auditable requirements, and will ultimately be supported by implementation protocols that will provide detailed guidance for certification, or assurance as applicable, and for equivalence with other standards.

The second standard is the civil society response to the crisis of tailings management, called SAFETY FIRST: GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE MINE TAILINGS MANAGEMENT.

COMMUNICATIONS is a fundamental Human Right Whilst open space and the right to communicate exists formally, it is hamstrung by the costs of connectivity – data costs largely borne by the poorest citizens of the country. It is in that context that the campaign for public service broadcasting by all – public and privately owned organisations – must be seen. The recent closure of some print media organisations – whilst they did not always report on the causes of the poor and marginalised in SOuth Africa and the world consistently – is a moment that marks a dampener on our rights to communicate.

Two days after June 16 Anniversary, News 24 announced that five of its print editions would be closed and this may result in job losses numbering close to 800 workers.

Editions closing their print pages may evolve into online versions. According to a media release, they are: Beeld, Rapport, City Press, Daily Sun and Soccer Laduma, as well as the digital (PDF) editions of Volksblad and Die Burger Oos-Kaap, and the digital hub SNL24. Transitioning Rapport, City Press and Daily Sun into digital-only brands. Selling On the Dot, the media logistics business, and the community newspaper portfolio to Novus Holdings, subject to regulatory approvals.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that our future is digital. But our digital news services no longer face competition from only other local publishers. Our main competitors now are Facebook, Google, Instagram and TikTok; all of which are well funded and based offshore,” said Davidson. In this regard, we must condemn the scandalous reporting on Palestine as pointed out by many. Here we think those of us working with mining communities must read beyond the headlines as the historian Assal Rad explains the mission she has undertaken to “fix” misleading headlines in this insert by Al Jazeera’s Listening Post.

SOS and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) urge political parties to pritoritise the SABC June 20, 2024 As a  members of the SOS Campaign, the Bench Marks Foundation supported the call by the campaign and others for politicians at this historic moment in our country’s history to prioritise Public broadcasting. This was our call:

The SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS), along with many CSOs, urge political parties to prioritise credible legislative developments that foreground the independence and sustainability of the SABC. As the new government is sworn in and the President inaugurated, this is particularly important for those in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies (PPCC) in the 7th Administration.

The proposed SABC Bill, deferred by the former PPCC to the new administration, poses significant threats to the principles of impartiality and autonomy. We urge the PPCC to place the SABC Bill at the forefront of its agenda and institute its immediate withdrawal.

Recent media reports of Media24 closing down the print operations of some of its major print newspapers, including City Press, Rapport, Beeld, and the Daily Sun, exacerbate the importance of a strengthened SABC, which plays an essential function in sustaining our news ecology. The SABC is a key institution in filling in the gaps in news coverage and circumventing a potential news desert. Its role becomes even more crucial as we navigate the complexities of post-elections governance.

The independence of the SABC is vital to ensure an informed electorate and to uphold the democratic process. During national elections, the SABC duly ensured that all are kept abreast of the latest developments through comprehensive elections coverage. This was of particular importance for those without alternative access to information. Such a role cannot be replaced by any other media or news organization, given that 30 million watch the SABC’s TV channels alone.

Read the full text here.

Photo Credit: Thokozile Mntambo

‘Sunflower activists’ plant a seed on big-mining turf Community wants vegetation cover to fight dust hazard, but owners say the time is not right [This article was written by Bobby Jordan and appeared in the SUNDAY TIMES]‘Sunflower activists’ plant a seed on big-mining turf Community wants vegetation cover to fight dust hazard, but owners say the time is not right [This article was written by Bobby Jordan and appeared in the SUNDAY TIMES]

Despite the best efforts of members of Bambanani co-operative in Snake Park their sunflower crops on the slopes of White Mountain, a tailings storage facility left over from gold mining in the area, have failed.

The first crop didn’t take root, and the second was ravaged by cattle. Now a community sunflower project on a Johannesburg mine dump called White Mountain faces a new obstacle — the law. Residents of Snake Park in Soweto who are planting the flowers to stop toxic dust billowing off the dump and onto their doorsteps are at loggerheads with the mining company that owns it, Pan African Resources (PAR). The “sunflower activists” have vowed to continue planting even though they are trespassing and have been warned to stay away for their own safety. “There is dust every day,” said Thokozile Mntambo, a Snake Park community activist. “We don’t want them to mine that dump, we want them to rehabilitate it.”

PAR, which specialises in extracting residual gold from mine dumps and tailings dams, says it does plan to rehabilitate White Mountain, as soon as it has finished remining it. But it wants the sunflower activists to stay out of the way. “Our position lies mainly in the interest of community safety,” PAR head of investor relations Hethen Hira said. The company risks losing its environmental compliance licence if it allows residents to trespass on the site. The sunflower farmers may also be doing more harm than good by farming in toxic landscape, Hira said. The standoff is further complicated by a web of commercial transactions attached to the towering dump site, which is just one piece of the patchwork of mine dumps and slimes dams — technically known as tailings storage facilities (TSFs) — stretched across 400km of the Witwatersrand. The government is supposed to enforce the relevant environment regulations but many feel it lacks the capacity to do so effectively, particularly as settlements encroach onto old mined areas. JSE-listed PAR bought the site and other similar assets from Australian company Mintails about two years ago. It intends remining the waste in the coming years and has its own remediation plan, which includes fencing the sites, cleaning up spillages and implementing dust and water control. Inadequate regulation has prompted several civil society interventions, including the establishment of the Snake Park Bambanani co-operative, which was set up in April last year specifically to try to rehabilitate White Mountain. It forms part of a broader phytoremediation project — using plants to clean up contaminated soil, air or water — led by the corporate watchdog group Bench Marks Foundation. “We chose sunflowers because they have easy access in South Africa, and you don’t need intensive training to have people plant them,” said Bench-Marks project leader Eric Mokuoa.

The latest crop failure was largely due to cattle accessing the unfenced area. Additional resources were needed to bolster the project, but to date PAR had rebuffed requests for help, Mokuoa said. “They did not necessarily agree with what we are trying to do. They felt they should do their own research work. They never came back to us. But they are not doing anything, while telling us they are waiting for money for rehabilitation.”

The project is detailed in a Bench Marks report published earlier this year. “It was not easy to gather people and to convince them to go to the tailings and work the lands,” said the report, which also includes testimony from some of the workers. “We didn’t know what to expect and whether the chemicals in the soil would affect us,” said Bambanani member Nobulawo Sitshaluza. “But with faith and hard work we pushed through. We used our own tools and didn’t really have protective gear. We sourced manure from the farmers and kept our spirits up every day. We sang, we played. Yes, sometimes we fought, sometimes we cried, but at the end of the day it was fun and a great experience.” Mntambo says Snake Park residents no longer have the luxury of waiting for promised rehabilitation plans. She says she and her eight-year-old child have asthma. “My brother has eczema, and my sister passed away because of TB. But when that happened we didn’t know that it was the heavy metals from the dust. The mine dump has been abandoned for many years without any fence, security or signposting. It is a place where everyone in Snake Park enters without any permission. “We were not extracting metals to get gold like zama zamas. We are community activists who are only trying to rehabilitate our environment. This is happening because PAR has never made a public participation meeting with the community.” However, Hira said extensive community engagement took place during the environmental impact study required for the mining application, with the last community workshop in April. “TSFs or mine dumps can be unstable and prone to failure if not properly managed,” he said. “We are required to ensure that appropriate awareness of these dangers is adequately communicated to surrounding communities … to educate communities on these matters and avoid activities or settlements encroaching on the TSFs. There have been well documented devastation effects on communities around failed tailings dams and this is a safety risk we are not willing to take.”

TSFs also contained a toxic combination of chemicals used for processing gold, including cyanide, “which could be taken up by plants and making any products derived from them dangerous and unsuitable for consumption”. Hira said the company understood the community’s frustration and would gladly consider crop projects once the land had been properly rehabilitated. He said PAR had a 10-year track record of successfully remining dumps, which provided social investment and had the added benefit of eliminating the illegal miners “that are a scourge of communities”. The department of environmental affairs did not respond to queries. Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said there was a “well-established justification” for phytoremediation projects such as sunflowers, but these were not a quick fix and required site-specific evaluation. “There are other issues to consider, such as buy-in from the mining company,” Liefferink said. First prize was the total removal of the dump, as proposed by PAR. “That would remove the source of the pollution from the community.”

Despite the best efforts of members of Bambanani co-operative in Snake Park their sunflower crops on the slopes of White Mountain, a tailings storage facility left over from gold mining in the area, have failed.

The first crop didn’t take root, and the second was ravaged by cattle. Now a community sunflower project on a Johannesburg mine dump called White Mountain faces a new obstacle — the law. Residents of Snake Park in Soweto who are planting the flowers to stop toxic dust billowing off the dump and onto their doorsteps are at loggerheads with the mining company that owns it, Pan African Resources (PAR). The “sunflower activists” have vowed to continue planting even though they are trespassing and have been warned to stay away for their own safety. “There is dust every day,” said Thokozile Mntambo, a Snake Park community activist. “We don’t want them to mine that dump, we want them to rehabilitate it.” 

PAR, which specialises in extracting residual gold from mine dumps and tailings dams, says it does plan to rehabilitate White Mountain, as soon as it has finished remining it. But it wants the sunflower activists to stay out of the way. “Our position lies mainly in the interest of community safety,” PAR head of investor relations Hethen Hira said. The company risks losing its environmental compliance licence if it allows residents to trespass on the site. The sunflower farmers may also be doing more harm than good by farming in toxic landscape, Hira said. The standoff is further complicated by a web of commercial transactions attached to the towering dump site, which is just one piece of the patchwork of mine dumps and slimes dams — technically known as tailings storage facilities (TSFs) — stretched across 400km of the Witwatersrand. The government is supposed to enforce the relevant environment regulations but many feel it lacks the capacity to do so effectively, particularly as settlements encroach onto old mined areas. JSE-listed PAR bought the site and other similar assets from Australian company Mintails about two years ago. It intends remining the waste in the coming years and has its own remediation plan, which includes fencing the sites, cleaning up spillages and implementing dust and water control. Inadequate regulation has prompted several civil society interventions, including the establishment of the Snake Park Bambanani co-operative, which was set up in April last year specifically to try to rehabilitate White Mountain. It forms part of a broader phytoremediation project — using plants to clean up contaminated soil, air or water — led by the corporate watchdog group Bench Marks Foundation. “We chose sunflowers because they have easy access in South Africa, and you don’t need intensive training to have people plant them,” said Bench-Marks project leader Eric Mokuoa.

The latest crop failure was largely due to cattle accessing the unfenced area. Additional resources were needed to bolster the project, but to date PAR had rebuffed requests for help, Mokuoa said. “They did not necessarily agree with what we are trying to do. They felt they should do their own research work. They never came back to us. But they are not doing anything, while telling us they are waiting for money for rehabilitation.”

The project is detailed in a Bench Marks report published earlier this year. “It was not easy to gather people and to convince them to go to the tailings and work the lands,” said the report, which also includes testimony from some of the workers. “We didn’t know what to expect and whether the chemicals in the soil would affect us,” said Bambanani member Nobulawo Sitshaluza. “But with faith and hard work we pushed through. We used our own tools and didn’t really have protective gear. We sourced manure from the farmers and kept our spirits up every day. We sang, we played. Yes, sometimes we fought, sometimes we cried, but at the end of the day it was fun and a great experience.” Mntambo says Snake Park residents no longer have the luxury of waiting for promised rehabilitation plans. She says she and her eight-year-old child have asthma. “My brother has eczema, and my sister passed away because of TB. But when that happened we didn’t know that it was the heavy metals from the dust. The mine dump has been abandoned for many years without any fence, security or signposting. It is a place where everyone in Snake Park enters without any permission. “We were not extracting metals to get gold like zama zamas. We are community activists who are only trying to rehabilitate our environment. This is happening because PAR has never made a public participation meeting with the community.” However, Hira said extensive community engagement took place during the environmental impact study required for the mining application, with the last community workshop in April. “TSFs or mine dumps can be unstable and prone to failure if not properly managed,” he said. “We are required to ensure that appropriate awareness of these dangers is adequately communicated to surrounding communities … to educate communities on these matters and avoid activities or settlements encroaching on the TSFs. There have been well documented devastation effects on communities around failed tailings dams and this is a safety risk we are not willing to take.”

TSFs also contained a toxic combination of chemicals used for processing gold, including cyanide, “which could be taken up by plants and making any products derived from them dangerous and unsuitable for consumption”. Hira said the company understood the community’s frustration and would gladly consider crop projects once the land had been properly rehabilitated. He said PAR had a 10-year track record of successfully remining dumps, which provided social investment and had the added benefit of eliminating the illegal miners “that are a scourge of communities”. The department of environmental affairs did not respond to queries. Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, said there was a “well-established justification” for phytoremediation projects such as sunflowers, but these were not a quick fix and required site-specific evaluation. “There are other issues to consider, such as buy-in from the mining company,” Liefferink said. First prize was the total removal of the dump, as proposed by PAR. “That would remove the source of the pollution from the community.”

Image Courtesy: GroundUp

SLAPPS We remind readers that Coalition Against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA) – a movement born from the urgent need to confront and dismantle the oppressive force of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) across our continent. Convened by the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) and the Bench Marks Foundation, CASA stands as a beacon of hope and resilience for activists, human rights defenders, and all those committed to preserving freedom of speech, accountability, and justice in Africa.

SLAPP suits are legal actions by powerful individuals or entities to intimidate and silence their critics by generating negative publicity. These suits are particularly damaging to free speech and healthy debate, as they often target individuals who communicate with their government or speak out on public issues. Despite having no legitimate legal claims against their critics, SLAPP suits are effective because they can force critics to spend significant time and resources defending themselves, even against meritless claims. The process can take years and cost thousands of dollars, which means many people agree to muzzle themselves, apologise, or “correct” statements to avoid these suits. SLAPP suits undermine the principles of free speech and healthy debate, which is why they are a serious concern.
Tharisa Mine take environmental activists to court for “defamation”

A SLAPP suit involving two Rusteburg environmental activists, filed by Tharisa Mine, has been postponed to the 5th of September 2024.

“On the 19th of June 2024, we were informed once again that the case has been postponed. This is frustrating for us because we need to get on with our lives and not have this case hanging over our heads like a dark cloud. We were given a temporary court order to stay away from Tharisa Mine and only go there by appointment. In other words we can’t protest against the mine and its operations. This is despite the fact that the mine continues to violate our rights on a daily basis”, said Odirile Kgatea, one of the defendants.

In March, Tharisa mine applied for an interdict against two environmental activists, Oridile Kgatea and Rodney Kotsedi. According to the interdict application, the two activists made defamatory statements about the mine and interfered with its operations. The high court in Mahikeng, North West, granted the interdict, but on the 2nd of May 2024, the court was again due to hear an application for a final interdict against Kgatea and Kotsedi (brought by Tharisa Mine).

The activists said the community of Madithlokwa, adjacent to where the mine operates, has lodged several complaints that blasting by the mine has damaged their houses and exposed them to dust and flying debris. The activists further state that the mine has contaminated water in the area. Kgatea and Kotsedi were represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Wits University. The Bench Marks Foundation also assisted with preparing the pair for appearing in court.

According to CALS, this interdict application falls into the definition of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, popularly known as Slapp suits. International organisations such as Earthjustice have spoken out against Slapp suits, arguing that these lawsuits “target activists, journalists, protesters, and other public figures to entangle them in endless legal proceedings meant to silence their voices.” CALS is currently campaigning to have Slapp suits eradicated and has engaged in litigation supporting human rights activists in other provinces including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State.

“The hearing has been postponed to the 13th of June. The judge told Tharisa mine that their papers were not in order. I think Tharisa Mine is doing this deliberately to waste our time and make us attend endless court appearances.” said Odirile.

The Bench Marks Foundation is currently working on a community manual with a chapter that will focus on Slapp suits in order to make community based activists aware of how to protect themselves.

by Ntebo Pakhisi

The eco-warriors of Pondoland

[Courtesy of Vryeweekblad] ANNELIESE BURGESS speaks to Malcolm Campbell, convenor of the Amadiba Crisis Committee’s technical committee, about the Xolobeni community’s latest battle to protect its land (after stopping dune mining and Shell’s seismic surveys for oil). This time, they want the route of the N2 toll road to be changed so that it does not cut through the most environmentally sensitive part of their land — because they think the road might be a plan to sneak the 22km dune mine back onto the table.

MALCOLM Campbell is an architect, urban designer and development planner, and the deputy chair of the University of Cape Town council. His activism, which dates back to his student days in the 1970s, attracted him to the plight of the Amadiba people.

“I bring with me professional technical expertise, but also an understanding and appreciation of community struggles and what it takes to fight for what you believe in,” he says.

“The Amadiba are very proud of their tradition of resistance.”

“In the sixties there was fierce resistance against initiatives by the state to interfere with their land rights. They resisted fiercely. The right to the land is something that is sacred to them. By the end of that struggle in the 1960s, more than 500 people were in detention. They see the current struggle as a continuation of that old tradition of standing up to outsiders who want to impose things on them that they believe will not benefit their communities. Their history is very important to this community. For example, when there were discussions about certain issues recently, the people ‘climbed the mountain’ to make the key decisions. Old customs are still part of the lifeblood here.”

Xolobeni, on the Wild Coast, lies between the Mzamba and Mtentu rivers. It is home to the Amadiba clan of the AmaMpondo people and is as remote as it gets – at the end of almost impassable roads in the deepest heartland of the rural Eastern Cape. The Amadiba have ruled this territory for more than 300 years in terms of customary law and the roots of resistance to outsiders who want to impose their customs run deep.

To understand the latest struggle of the Amadiba against the construction of the N2 toll road across their territory, we have to go back to apartheid when they were one of the few communities in the old Transkei that retained their own leaders and chiefs and refused to accept those imposed on them by government.

Half a century later, the spirit of the Amadiba was once again called upon to fight a new enemy. In 2002, titanium-rich minerals were discovered on their land and the government issued a license to an Australian mining company to mine 9 million tonnes over a period of 22 years in open pit mines.

A large part of the community was opposed to these mining activities because of environmental reasons and the impact it would have on their way of life. To fight this mining threat, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) was established. The committee aims to preserve the Amadiba’s “understanding of life, community, indigenous belief systems, ecology, land and sustainable ways of life”

Read the full text here.

Protesters over Tendele Coal Mine land grab threatened with violence –  KwaZulu-Natal

Tension is brewing in Mtubatuba in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal where coal mining company Tendele is proceeding with the expansion of its mining operation which has demolished houses and removed residents from their homes and ancestral lands. On Wednesday, 6th June, Community members and activists held a protest organised by MCEJO (Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation) in the KwaMyeki village in Mtubatuba where the mine has already operationalised its bulldozers, excavators, and machinery without an approved EIA nor having informed or consulted the community.

The protesters were threatened by a group of local business people, some of whom were carrying arms and are said to be working with the Tendele mine. The threats happened in full view and presence of the police. While the protesting group had permission to hold the protest, the police did not warn or arrest those who were making threats of violence with firearms and intimidating the protesters. The conveners of the march had to cut it short due to safety concerns for the community. A photographer on the scene was also prevented from taking photos of the mine machinery carrying out its destruction.

“Human rights defenders in South Africa are still not feeling safe. The pro-mining group threatened to shoot us in the presence of the police who stood by watching without taking any action. It is very sad that we are experiencing such failures of the police to do their work and protect the citizens of this country and prevent crime as per the constitution and the work they are supposed to do”. Robby Mokgalaka, groundWork’s Coal Campaigner
 
On the same day, in solidarity with MCEJO, MACUA (Mining Affected Communities United in Action) led another protest in Lyme Park, Brynston, Johannesburg at the head offices of Petmin which is the holding company of Tendele Coal Mine.
 
Tendele is yet to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment and public consultation processes required to obtain a licence, but this has not stopped the mining company from commencing and expanding operations in the area. With machinery active 24/7, the  mine has already relocated and a number of families away from their land. This has cost the community their land, livelihoods and homes. The areas targeted for this phase of the mine expansion are Emalahleni, Ophondweni and Mahujini settlements.
 
“Our clients are entitled to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being in terms of section 24 of the Constitution, as well as a number of other rights regarding land, culture, water, food security and livelihoods. They have rights to information, consultation, mitigation, compensation and being part of decisions made about them. Tendele has violated these rights and continues to do so on a daily basis. And very sadly, our government turns a blind eye. Yesterday our clients exercised their right to a peaceful protest, and even this was not respected by the pro-mining contingency or upheld by the State. Not only were our clients voicing their justifiable dissatisfaction with Tendele’s commencement before it had completed its EIA and consultation process, which in itself has been grossly flawed, but also the relocation of approximately 150 families without proper planning and compensation, in the midst of violence, intimidation and coercion”. Janice Tooley, All Rise Attorneys for Climate and Environmental Justice

Read the full text here.

RESOURCES

📚 The Congolese Fight for Their Own WealthThe DRC’s vast mineral wealth contrasts with its extreme poverty, caused by exploitation and conflict. This dossier by TNI emphasises sovereignty and dignity, echoing Congolese activists’ visions for freedom. 

Moses Cloete serves as the editor at large of this edition. Unless otherwise indicated the writing and presentation of the Bulletin is by Hassen Lorgat. Marta Garrich helped with additional editing and layout of the newsletter. Simo Gumede is responsible for the members and partners database management.

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