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15th June 2024

History

Overall view of the unfolding development of BMF – prepared by John Capel Executive Director 2003 to November 2021-Period covered 2003 to 2019.

The history of the Bench Marks Foundation (BMF) is the work of many people but what cannot be denied is that Bishop Jo Seoka and John Capel played a critical role in its formation. The role of the Bench Marks Foundation Monitoring School in the development of the work of the organisation with mining communities is yet to be written. Here John Capel writes about the origins in 2003 up to 2019. Capel was the executive director of the organisation from inception of the organisation.

Bishop Jo Seoka attended the Hengrave conference of 22 countries in 1998 consisting of many groups some that would become our new partners: Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), Kairos Canada task force on churches, Hong kong Industrial Mission, Australia Christian Centre for Responsible Investment, along with Friends of the Earth Columbia, and church representatives of 22 countries. Round 2 of the Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility was launched.

 

When bishop Jo returned to South Africa he convened a meeting of some groupings to discuss and strategize what the role of faith and civil society organisations would be  in a  post -apartheid role and agenda will be. It was a difficult period and much of the thinking was based on sanctions in the 1980s. At the same time the landscape had changed and we struggled to arrive at a vision of the organisation.

 

In 2001 Bishop Jo Seoka, supported by Transnet, Bench Marks Foundation was launched with the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Piet Beukes was appointed interim secretary who arranged the launch and funding. Present were business leaders, churches, labour and government. We launched by promoting the Global Principles – Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance. After the launch we attended the 2002 Earth Summit and hosted a side event.

 

In October 2002 the International Secretariat of the Global Principles met in South Africa. John Capel officially attended representing Bishop Seoka. The steering committee then became the board, and Bench Marks Foundation was registered as an NPO. The round 3 text of the Global Principles Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance was developed, culminating in South Africa becoming the secretariat and giving a Southern input into the Global Principles.  This included issues of HIV and AIDS and the reworking of the context section of the principles along with input into other element of the principles, criteria and benchmarks. The South African team adopted the name Bench Marks Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility as its guiding tool for our focus on multinational companies.

 

The foundation stage of the organisation was complicated due to the history of where the church comes from in developing an agency, more particularly on what and how do we do. Historically the churches had been at the forefront of promoting sanctions on multinational companies during apartheid. Using the Sullivan Code of Principles that focused on workers’ rights; the right to freedom of association, the recognition of trade unions and the demand for a living wage.  After the fall apartheid and just before, churches internationally, decided that they must continue to monitor company operations around the world. In 1992 they developed the first round of what became known as the Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility: Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance, popularly referred to has Bench Marks Global Principles after failing at the 1992 Earth Summit to get binding regulations.

 

Inside the country, the SACC (South African Council of Churches) hosted two important conferences, the Brooderstroom and Utrecht conferences, looking at the new South Africa to come. Many important issues arose. The main issue was will business in a new SA do business differently; respect human rights, the environment and the integrity of creation. They felt not and called on a monitoring agency made up of government, business, labour and the churches to monitor the role of corporations in the new SA.

 

The organisation arises from the SACC calls and the interventions by the international churches in the USA, Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the UK, Ecumenical Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), along with the Task Force on Corporations, Kairos Canada and Australia Christian Centre for Responsible Investment, Friends of the Earth Columbia, and Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee.

These two divergent histories led to contestation as to the identity of Bench Marks Foundation, its core purpose and how to do it. Two issues were at stake, was this a church organisation or a multi-pronged organisation, made up of all the role-players. Do we rely on the experience of the 80s in promoting the Global Principles, in which period there was a lot of sanction pressure put to bear on MNC? In addition, would the organisation look at ethical investment by the churches or would it use the Global Principles to measure company’s performance. Would it use a carrot or stick approach? Or would it use both.

At the time the board wanted the Global Principles to be popularised and promoted by making sure all stock exchange companies and government departments had it and used it to guide their social responsibility. This action led to acknowledgement of two receipts of delivery.

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  1. A research paper by John Capel identified what was happening around this agenda. Of interest was a group of consultants, including Mokhethi Moshoeshoe, who in 2005 became a Bench Marks board member. Along with Paul Kapelus and others, Moshoeshoe had started the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC). AICC focused on reporting using the GRI-Global Reporting Initiative and the chair, Bishop Jo Seoka and John Capel would attend events on reporting. We were blown away by the reports the big mining companies were given and felt we had woken up to a new SA. But time would show these reports were well orchestrated pubic image and public relations exercises and were far from the reality on the ground. 

The board at this time was made up of the Rt Rev Dr Jo Seoka (chair), Allan Wentzel of (CDT Foundation), Drs Piet Beukes (Dutch Reformed Church), Eddie Makua of the SACC and Fr Vincent Brenner of the SACBC.  

  1. Slowly the organisation began to take shape with a number of experiments. and with several studies done on mining with ECCR in London and our own studies on SA Retail Supermarkets operating on the continent.  A survey was done on church investments and the response was weak. This led to a research focus developing that would eventually be the backbone of the organisation. We had to know what we’re talking about when approaching companies. It also led to a common understanding that before the organisation could involve other role players, as a church founded organisation, we had to be strong first and know what we are talking about.

The initial experimental research led us to taking on a big study across the platinum belt, focusing on the 6 big players and using the Global Principles to measure their social, economic and environmental performance. The findings were shocking. At the time corporations led in projecting a public image of doing good. Journalists were at first weary of publishing the results. We had to conduct tours of the Platinum Belt and be interrogated over the findings.   Thus, begun what was to become well known, the Bench Marks Policy Gap series of studies and we received a lot of media coverage. The response of the big six platinum producers was to take out more advertising on bill boards in communities and Anglo American developed a new website called The Full Story.

Our strategy started to develop as:

  1. 1. Research on corporations– gap between policy and practice
  2. 2. Church ethical investment
  3. 3. Voice power-media advocacy
  4.  

However, we faced a challenge with the first Policy Gap study. We interviewed hundreds of community members and had to report back to them. This was not successful and raised concerns for the Foundation. What is the role of communities once we had done the research?

In addition, our focus at the time was local churches and forming Ethical Investment Advisory Groups (EIAG) in line with a two-fold agenda; monitoring, using research and secondly ethical investment by the churches. EIAG were formed in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and in the Northwest and the programme run for about two years. There was a lot of support for the concept of ethical investment but ministers we were engaging had no power over their fund managers.  Later on, the Board formed the CIG, Church Investors Group, made up of fund managers of the churches. In the end this went nowhere as the churches were not ready.

Our starting point had to be creating awareness with the first Policy Gap launched in 2007 with two more Policy Gap studies following in 2008, one in Zambia and the other in Limpopo.

In this period Bench Marks Foundation also begun a process of linking into universities and a relationship started to develop with the North West University sociology department, with Prof Freek Cronje who started working with Bench Marks on our Policy Gaps series of studies. We were however interested in having a teaching and research centre that would work alongside us, offer new knowledge and allow us to examine other sectors of the economy. We began talking about it and slowly work was done internally in the university to solicit support. 

This period sees a clearer focus with shift to include community power –   Community Monitors School and deeper research that broadens out and emergence of new ideas.  This includes the Rating Agency, Independent Grievance Mechanism (now called the Independent Problem-Solving Service-IPSS) and ICF Independent Capacity building Fund and Bench Marks Centre, the Marikana Massacre and new novel approaches.

 

Now well known in media circles and amongst the mining corporations Bench Marks Foundation begins to rethink a number of strategic issues. Recognising that we were not getting very far with the EIAG groups and that were not directly empowering community organisations. In line with the founding objectives of the organisation, Bench Marks began experimenting in 2009 with 7 community activists on how communities could monitor mining companies. Called the Community Monitoring School.

 

This then expanded and became a model for other communities and by 2013 one hundred monitors were enrolled in the programme each year. Eventually it was exported to eight countries.  The models and methodologies were continually adapted has we learnt what worked and what did not, and slowly a clear methodology was arrived at, but would evolve and change and as we moved forward. 

 

In this period, we did a study on Glencore in the DRC with shocking findings of how Glencore used artisanal miners to get their minerals and the damage to communities and the environment. If this was controversial; our two subsequent studies on De Beers, on the West Coast and in Botswana were even more controversial. The Botswana study, called De Beers, Botswana and the Control of a Country was very controversial with findings going against the much-hailed model of community ownership of mines through the state. Called to the launch that year, 2009, De Beers arrived with fifteen people, from their London head office, Botswana and SA operations, with their own report and journalists. After 3 journalists had asked questions, first looking at De Beers to see if this was okay, the chair of BMF closed down the meeting in anger. De Beers also went on a media attack on the Sunday, two days before the launch vilifying the findings and attacking the lead researcher’s history of connection to the SA communist party.

Our research findings from the beginning told us two things. One was that communities were severely incapacitated in consultations with the industry and communities ended up giving their land away believing investment of mining will lead to a better a life. Instead, they found themselves suffering and in deep poverty with their land for cultivating crops and feeding livestock destroyed. In other communities mining operated at the doorstep of communities, fencing communities in. Blasting and dust caused cracked houses and health problems.

 

We realised that we needed to level the playing field between mines and communities, recognising that communities were at a huge disadvantage when it came to mining.  What was needed was an Independent Capacity Building Fund (ICF) to allow communities access to specialist expertise and advisors to address skewed power relations and to level the playing field so communities could make informed choices and deal with the industry as equals. 

 

Secondly, we recognised that communities lack access to justice and began calling on the industry to support an Independent Grievance Mechanism (IGM) to resolve problems between mines and communities with developmental outcomes. Now called the Independent Problem Solving Service. At the February 2012 Mining Indaba, we made the first call on this to a panel of mining CEO’s who were asked in principle to accept that communities were seriously disadvantaged when it came to consultations with them and to accept communities had no recourse to justice. In principle they accepted the idea of an Independent Grievance Mechanism, later on called the Independent Grievance Problem Solving Service, companies agreeing in principle were Rio Tinto, Anglo-American and BHP Billiton.

Our research findings from the beginning told us two things. One was that communities were severely incapacitated in consultations with the industry and communities ended up giving their land away believing investment of mining will lead to a better a life. Instead, they found themselves suffering and in deep poverty with their land for cultivating crops and feeding livestock destroyed. In other communities mining operated at the doorstep of communities, fencing communities in. Blasting and dust caused cracked houses and health problems.

 

We realised that we needed to level the playing field between mines and communities, recognising that communities were at a huge disadvantage when it came to mining.  What was needed was an Independent Capacity Building Fund (ICF) to allow communities access to specialist expertise and advisors to address skewed power relations and to level the playing field so communities could make informed choices and deal with the industry as equals. 

 

Secondly, we recognised that communities lack access to justice and began calling on the industry to support an Independent Grievance Mechanism (IGM) to resolve problems between mines and communities with developmental outcomes. Now called the Independent Problem Solving Service. At the February 2012 Mining Indaba, we made the first call on this to a panel of mining CEO’s who were asked in principle to accept that communities were seriously disadvantaged when it came to consultations with them and to accept communities had no recourse to justice. In principle they accepted the idea of an Independent Grievance Mechanism, later on called the Independent Grievance Problem Solving Service, companies agreeing in principle were Rio Tinto, Anglo-American and BHP Billiton.

Joel Bakens book, The Corporation, showed that a corporation was a legal persona and enjoyed the same rights as people. Working with various specialists and following from Johann van Wyk’s PhD, we realised that if we had such a tool, we could expand our rising research and be able to give a tool to communities and other countries as a simple method of measuring performance of companies. We would also be able to measure other sectors of the economy. In particular, it would reveal: Are they responsible or not? and are they good or bad neighbours?  Part of the thinking was how this tool could assist with promoting socially responsible investment. The main purpose being to expand our research across the continent in all sectors promoting the Bench Marks Global Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility.

In 2011 there was more participatory research beginning with a review of Policy Gap 1 on Rustenburg to see if any of our numerous recommendations have been implemented. Only to find that things are worse and not better 6 years down the line.

 

After the release of Policy Gap 6 on the 14th August 2012, two days before the Marikana massacre, Lonmin told us that if we read the latest SDR (Sustainable Development Report) we would have come to different conclusions on their operations. We decided to examine Lonmin’s reporting over a period of 10 years, comparing one report against the next to iron out what commitments they made; what was actually done and critique their reporting.

 

For example, Lonmin promised to build 5 500 houses yet only 3 show houses were built. We said it was difficult to separate fact from fiction and that the intentions recorded that did not even match their own commitments. Lonmin could not respond and said they were going back 5 years to review all their reports. This information was fed into the Farlam Commission on Marikana by Kelly Forest, who requested to use our report but never gave credit to Bench Marks for the fact finding. Eventually Amnesty produced a report based on the Farlam Commission findings taking credit for our work.

 

In 2013 we released Lonmin’s SDR, 10 years of reporting and lifting the veil over such reports and was rather meaningless. It was called Coping with Unsustainability. This was followed by Kumba Iron Ore, an Anglo-American Company, called Floating or Sinking-Social Licence to Operate; another on Life before and during mining, focusing on a relocated uprooted community.

 

In between there was a study on Coal and Grievance Mechanisms, followed by the Soweto Report: “Waiting to Inhale” A survey of household of health in four mine-affected communities.  Policy Gap 12, which was a focus on community health and wellbeing around old mining areas (Soweto and West Rand) was launched in 2016. It received overwhelming media coverage and resulted in a lot of outcomes. There have been a number a follow up actions with the City of Johannesburg mayoral office, police, the DMR, the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), the CSIR, Save the Children and engagements with DRD gold on mine rehabilitation, driven by communities. A number of documentaries such as Josie Gold; a French and Aljazeera and another documentary were made. Further to this the NIOH with Bench Marks will carry out scientific testing on impacts of mine dust on members of communities to legitimise Bench Marks Findings.

 

Policy Gap 13 dealt with 12 Years of Reporting by Anglo American Platinum over the period 2003 to 2015. Called Coping with Unsustainability (2), it audited Amplats reporting, showing no consistency, changing reporting formats and intentions not separated off from actual achievements.

Central to Bench Marks work is influencing the public discourse, perceptions of mining, and working with the media to create awareness and to put forward another narrative of mining. When we began looking at corporations, what we knew, was that Sustainable Development Reporting was led by perception creations, allowing the industry to market using public relations as a means to pretend they were socially, economically and environmentally sound. Human Rights was low on their agenda and hardly featured in company reporting. We then decided to counter this perception with community experiences, exposing the gaps between policy and practice.

 

Our first big exposure arose with Policy Gap (1), focusing in the North West on the six big platinum producers. The report gained lots of media coverage with editorial columns written on it. This was the beginning of changing the public and media perceptions on mining.

 

In this period and onwards, voice power media advocacy grows, giving community voice. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of Rands of media coverage, reaching up to R10 million in this period 2007 to 2011 and growing to R20 million a year from 2012 to 2019. Bench Marks is viewed as the first port of call from the media and we dominate the airwaves, both in print, radio and television coverage.

On the 14th August 2012, at the launch of Policy Gap 6, a Review of the Platinum Belt, Bench Marks warned about mayhem on the platinum belt, as communities were suffering more, workers were on a strike at Lonmin and already 10 people had been killed.

 

The following day we issued a press statement warning of a potential disaster and on the Thursday 16h August 2012, the chairperson of the Foundation, the Rt Rev Dr Jo Seoka met with the strike leaders. He asked them how he could help and was asked to request that management meet with them and bring some food and water. Lonmin depicted the striking rock drillers as a bunch of criminals and refused the request and intervention by Bench Marks Foundation. On leaving the premises of Lonmin, the Bishop found the area cordoned off and was told to leave by the provisional police commissioner. On leaving his phone rang and the voice on the other side said, “Bishop they are shooting at us” and all he could hear was the sound of helicopters and gunfire and then the phone went dead.

 

The media went into a frenzy stating that this was the result of inter union rivalry. On the Sunday night the 19th August, the executive director went on national television with the general secretaries of NUM and AMCU. He stated this was not an interunion rivalry as portrayed by the media and that none of the rock drillers belonged to any union. Diffusing the tension between AMCU leaders that were very worried at the time. Dealing with root causes of the problem, Bench Marks Foundation begun to change the narrative. For the next 6 weeks television crews from around the world queued up at the offices of the Foundation and just about every evening BBC world, Canadian and other countries skyped Bench Marks for commentary. CNN hosted a show where the executive director was first up in the news. Jo Seoka began a journey with the strikers who had now joined AMCU and arrived at a better deal for those workers who were not killed. In total 34 workers were killed on the 16th of August at the altar of profits.

 

What we have been doing over many years; which was to expose the truth around mining impacts and practices now hit the world stage. Mining was on the backfoot and were exposed.

 

Following this massacre many new organisations formed, focusing on mining and many others adapted their work to look at various aspects of mining. We gave tours to the Norwegian Government, engaged with the Norwegian (oil) Sovereign Fund. We entertained journalists from around the world, conducted tours of Marikana and further met many government leaders, the World Bank and leading academics to share our understanding of the root causes of this massacre.

Miners Shot Down was an indirect result of Policy Gap 6, a review of the platinum belt and Rehad Desai present at the launch and used our monitors and began visiting Marikana. The result of this was the documentary Miners Shot Down.

President Jacob Zuma called on a commission of enquiry on Marikana led by retired judge, Ian Farlam. Kelly Forest, one of the evidence leaders asked Bench Marks if she could make use of our research, in particular the study on Lonmin’s social and labour plans. Called Policy Gap 7.  This is seminal study on company reporting, called Coping with Unsustainability. This report also received wide media coverage and ended up as key evidence before the Farlam Commission. It led to a lot of recommendations by the commission. We also had a group of monitors monitoring the proceedings.

 

Jo Seoka was also an expert witness. All in all, the Farlam commission was a huge disappointment. Part of the findings still relied on the false analysis of inter-union rivalry. Only low-level government officials were implicated, and with those who gave the order not being fingered. Bench Marks, through the chair, Jo Seoka, started working with northern partners network, eventually called Plough Back the Profits. The target was BASF, the German Chemical company, the biggest buyer of Lonmin’s platinum. AGM activism began to take place and BASF came to South Africa on many occasions. With regard to their supply chain responsibility, BASF came under much criticism for not doing proper human rights due diligence and were asked to apply pressure on Lonmin for compensation of the victims. 

This meant realigning the organisation and developing an integrated approach and not working out of silos to align all the programmes of the Foundation.  This was called the integrated strategy.

 

At this stage we had the research department also consisting of the new tool, the Corporate Personality Index (CPI) – the Bench Marks Rating instrument; The Bench Marks Centre at the Northwest University; the Bench Marks Community Monitoring School, and two new initiatives called the Independent Capacity building Fund (ICF), and the Independent Problem Solving Service (IPSS), a further development of the Independent Grievance Mechanism. 

 

To be successful with new programmes we needed an approach where all programmes of the Foundation talk to each other and allow for more focussed direction.

 

In 2016 investigations took place around company led grievance mechanism, and a concept paper was drawn up. The Corporate Personality Index (CPI), based on the Principles for Global- Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance evolved into simple questions allowing communities to measure companies from below, whilst allowing companies to respond to the same instrument. Test cases were done in South Africa and Zambia and an App was developed to capture and analyse the findings.

 

The IPSS and ICF, begun to gain a clearer picture of how community monitors could investigate and take up issues with companies, dealt with from below. A facilitated dialogue, involving two impartial facilitators with Amplats and a relocated community was initiated with the support of the company and community. This led to a process lasting a year and a draft agreement capturing all the issues. Magobading Community was relocated in 2003. Many promises were made, such as two jobs per family, housing, land and a trust fund agreed to. Implementation is proceeding also covering water access, graveyards, sewage, and a host of issues that would see the community better off.

The slogans “Dialogue is not possible in an unequal power relationship” and “Dialogue amongst equals opens the way to solutions” forms the backbone of the ICF and IPSS approach.

The IPSS and the ICF take centre stage in Bench Marks objectives; one to level the playing field and the IPSS to resolve problems, conflicts, disputes using a dialogue between equals to resolve issues in a non-adversarial manner.  After realising that it was not just enough to hold companies accountable through research and community monitoring, the last 3 years have seen these two projects develop significantly. We acknowledge that communities have capacity constraints amidst skewed power relations between the mine and community and the ICF addresses this. With the ultimate objective of having a Fund paid for by the industry and or other sources to level the playing field between mines and communities.

 

Mining communities continue to be seriously disadvantaged arising out of prevailing power imbalances, where companies and local government display insensitivity to community interests, livelihoods, way of life, water and air quality, along with the degradation of community’s broader environment. 

 

Communities are able to mobilise and raise issues and demands. Yet communities often do not have the necessarily knowledge and expertise to assimilate and make informed decisions. Communities also experience difficulties in developing counter proposals, such as on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Social and Labour Plans (SLPs) and coming up with innovative alternatives.  

 

The ICF aims to address the skewed power relations and the knowledge and skills gap that exists in communities. The ICF’s long term objective is aimed at addressing this knowledge and skills gap that operates on two levels. Firstly, to empower communities with the requisite knowledge and information, from prospecting to operational to closure stages, along with identifying which stage the mining is in. 

 

For example, Bench Marks supported the Xolobeni community right to say No to mining at the prospecting stage by showing them other mining areas and the devastation of mining.  Yet, other communities accepted mining believing they would be better off and only to find they lost their land, livelihoods and cultures and to be thrust from a rural existence into a market economy that they were completely unprepared for. The first stage is dealing with the law, environment, air, water and land issues for communities to make informed decisions to counter corporations and arrive at better outcomes.

 

The second stage is to provide capacity to communities to resolve problems using the IPSS where mines are operational and whereby communities are suffering a host of problems from health and wellbeing, to loss of livelihoods and having no access to courts or dispute resolution facilities. This then entails a capacity building programme through the ICF giving communities access to a range of expertise and advice to assist revolving problems. The outcomes of problem solving must be developmental in nature and address poverty, inequality and livelihood development.

 

Thus, the ICF plays a large role is bringing in the required expertise to assist communities to achieve developmental outcomes. In addition, arising from the Bench Marks Corporate Personality Tests a host of issues will be raised and these will be identified either for direct capacity building for communities to engage corporations and local government or to filter into the IPSS’s various problem-solving mechanisms.

 

Currently, in 2019, approximately forty activists are undergoing training, with the target group being largely young people with a 50-50 split between men and women. A core group of six key activists who went through the 2017 training and twenty in 2018 training programme. They have recently completed a train the trainer course and are the facilitators for the 2019 programme, which is being carried out at three centres. The Centres are sponsored by Bench Marks Foundation in North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.  Three of these activists also act as local coordinators and filter these stories on to the Tunatazama App.

 

A Bench Marks Educator is responsible for the coordination of all training activities, including the development of materials, support of the facilitators, monitoring of progress and reporting. The educator accounts to a reference / strategy group, consisting of the IPSS-ICF Project Manager and a Bench Marks staff member. The Bench Marks Senior Researcher is giving specialist support to the training process along with an external academic from the University of the Witwatersrand. The

Executive Director plays a high-level oversight role.

Linked to the activist training programme is the Bench Marks Community Monitor Programme, which involves approximately one hundred monitors across forty villages situated in the South African mining belt.  They are responsible for monitoring and documenting issues and problems, along with their addressing problems where feasible. Three activists are responsible for collating the information generated and loading it on to an App entitled Tunatazama – We are Watching you.  Their stories from the ground strengthen community activists and allow Bench Marks regular information as to the situation on the ground.

In order for communities to be provided with the necessary specialist support, Bench Marks is facilitating the building of a knowledge network involving organisations and individuals with different expertise. This is based on an assessment of the various forms of skills and knowledge required by communities in their daily struggles. This is a key role that a coalition of NGOs can play.  This would also apply to community training programmes, along with their possible certification. We envisage the experts working with communities both on a short and long-term basis, depending on the nature of the issue. An emphasis is being placed on the expert/community interaction being carefully mediated due to the propensity for misunderstandings arising.

 

Bench Marks is starting with a relatively small, core group of organisations and individuals, where good, functional working relationships are developed. The intention is to build on this on an incremental basis, informed by the community needs involved. While we envisage most experts being drawn from South Africa, specialist support will and is being drawn largely from academia. Close relations exist with UCT (University of Cape Town) and WITS University.

In summary, the problem solving approach promoted by Bench Marks entails the following.

It consists of three main components:

Firstly, capacity building and support in the form of knowledge, information and skills for community representatives. This is carried out through training and education, along with the provision of advice and information.  This is the key provision.

Secondly, flowing from capacity building and support, conflict/grievance handling and problem solving carried out directly with mines and government by trained and supported community representatives. The majority of problems and grievances are aimed at being addressed in this manner.

Thirdly, where problems are not resolved through direct engagement, or where a particularly complex situation prevails, problem solving carried out through facilitated dialogue with the use of skilled, impartial facilitators and following a structured process.

Problem solving is supported by a specialist research and advisory service. This, along with capacity building, is supported in turn by the Independent Capacity Building Fund.

Bench Marks has been at the cutting edge of the CSR, human rights and with a sustainable development agenda.  It is breaking new ground, showing up the reality versus corporate spin. It is highly innovative, imaginative and continually learning and adapting approaches.  Fundamental to Bench Marks is an ethical driven approach and pro poor values, centring our work on those most harmed. Benchmarks work is deeply rooted in communities and works across the region, in the DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The complexities of how programmes relate to each other, support and strengthen the organisation expressed in its integrated strategy, is leading the organisation to greater heights. Mining CEOs engage the organisation directly, along with major international organisations, including the UN, international NGO’s, World Bank, global companies such as BASF and government leaders from across Europe, that include the German, Swiss, Swedish, Norway, UK.

This history is based on the memory of the executive director, who took up the cuddles to set up and structure and orientate Bench Marks Foundation and might not represent all views. All members of the board were given a chance to input to the process and some did, and this is the outcome.