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

#5

Dear Freind, this second edition of 2022 sees the Foundation trying to consolidate its resources and committing to do more with less, to work smarter. It contains a number of important resources for citizens as it deals with the sanctity and essence of water in our lives and relations between humans, the Right to Say NO, and so on. 

We also focus on the relocation of a mining community of Magobading, which tells a sordid tale, according to the community of “dispossession” without just compensation. The community has made way for mining and has – after 20 years – nothing but poverty to show for it. 

This is a warning to the 1 000 households that Anglo American Platinum seek to resettle in two communities in Skimming-Leruleng. In an earlier bulletin, we spoke of the need for increased community organisation to ensure that the community is not short-changed. We reiterated the communities Right to Say No to development that undermines and underdeveloped the poor and working people and the environment. In an earlier editorial, we wrote: “Over the years, communities have learnt ways and means of fighting for justice: find ways to avoid community divisions and counter corporate divide-and-rule tactics, and use this time to bring in chiefs and other traditional leaders to work alongside the people and not for their own narrow self-interests.”

Read and enjoy.

EDITORIAL

The year ahead began with a bang… and has not stopped. South Africa truly, and the world, has been a busy place. The recent State of the Nation address by the President and the Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance show that the country has a long way to go before justice for all can be realised.

The judiciary has been a busy space as well and we hope you remain an active citizen by reading widely and connecting with like minded people.

Many NGOs and other non-profit bodies have closed, including museums. That is a tragedy. We have managed to remain afloat and home with the impending lifting of Covid restrictions. The departure of two senior staff members, as reported in the last edition, has assisted us somewhat but we are working day and night to ensure we come out not only alive but kicking. We hope things will look brighter this year.

To map out the road of 2022, the Bench Marks Foundation staff met in a two day annual planning and strategic alignment workshop. This was the first in person meeting after two years of largely home office. So apart from discussing important content, this was a much needed and appreciated chance for staff to meet face to face again! Everyone acknowledges how important it is to be able to build on personal relationships while driving the cause of the organisation forward.

Meeting comrades and friends after 2 years of Covid isolation forced us to explore what was hindering us from having a more successful 2022.

We have to work smarter, with less funding and resources. This means greater internal cohesion and deeper democracy. At all times, it means transparency and accountability to those who partner with us, our donors, those we work with and our allies and friends. 

Programmatically, we will be guided by the principles of coordination and not subordination, mutual transparency and accountability and delivery to the best of our abilities to those we work with: the mining communities, the faith communities and society at large.

Importantly, we reflected on how the constituencies we are working with have changed since Covid, and the stories were horrendous: exacerbated by increased poverty and inequality. Some traditional constituencies have been “gated” off from us and it will require much work to reconnect and rebuild communities. This is critical for society.

We also reflected on vision, mission, values and strategic objectives and generally speaking we were on course. We agreed that there was a need to do research on the financial sector, if funding permits. This could in the near future focus on those financial institutions, particularly banks, that finance ruinous mining which exacerbates the climate catastrophe, which damages people, livelihoods and community well-being.

Thereafter all units or work areas presented their strategic priorities and annual plans. This was the first step of building organisational cohesion. We were convinced that without a united and dedicated team we cannot do our work.

Please connect to all our platforms and engage with us.

Moses Cloete
Deputy Director Bench Marks Foundation

ARTICLES

REMEMBERING RICK TURNER IN OUR TIMES

Comrade and Professor Rick Turner was a scholar, political theorist and activist who worked in Durban in 1970. On one fatal night on 8 January 1978 when he was assassinated by the Apartheid police in front of his two young daughters. Turner was only 36 years old and we believe that his ideas live on.

Under the banner of the Study Project on Christianity in Apartheid Society (SPROCAS), he published in 1972 the utopian The Eye of the Needle: A Guide to Participatory Democracy in South Africa, in which he envisioned a decentralised socialist society. In chapter 9, entitled Participatory Democracy for South Africa, Turner wrote a treatise for radical change those within the church and outside of it.

Firstly, he argued that on a personal level “ we all need to learn to live in a way that embodies our preference for people over things. We must realise that love and truth are more important than possessions. We must do this to be human.”

Secondly, he encouraged us to engage in the intellectual and cultural terrain; and develop “critique of the dominant South African values… We must attack racism, but we must also attack the unquestioned acceptance of material values underlying racism.”

Thirdly, “on the organisational level, we must ensure that all organisations we work in, prefigure the future. Organisations must be participatory rather than authoritarian. They must be areas in which people inexperience human solidarity and learn to work with one another in harmony and in love. The churches must be made into such organisations.”

We remain inspired by Prof Turner and hope that his ideas and struggle for justice and equality continue to enfuse our activism. We must do more to stem the rampant poverty and inequality, the violence against women, the victimisation and violence against non-nationals. Read and discuss it with others as there is much to learn in it. This would be a fitting tribute to a brilliant freedom fighter who worked with the new unions and some of the early Black Consciousness leaders.

A VISIT TO MAGOBADING
Nothing has changed

After many years of broken promises, the Magobading Relocated Community outside Burgersfort in Limpopo Province is becoming increasingly agitated. They are very angry with games being played by the corporation Anglo Platinum. The community has been disappointed at every opportunity to engage with Anglo Platinum mine.

The community was “relocated” 20 years ago to make way for the Twickenham shaft of Anglo Platinum operations. It has been twenty years of conflict, failed promises and conflict. And the community has had enough and has decided to fight back. Recently, they confronted the company about the developmental priorities in the village.

Speaking to leaders of the community, they informed us that “Anglo did not fully consult with us in the renovation of the dilapidated community hall. They have agreed with us that any work in the community will only be done after consulting with the community.

But this renovation is not our priority. What we wanted Anglo to do was to do work around the Hlakanang Primary School which does not have sufficient classes built to accommodate all the pupils from the local community. The school is overcrowded, with three make-shift classes made from green net cover in the parking area. Children come in shifts, one group in the morning and another mid-morning. This situation greatly disadvantages our children and must be put right.”

This form of schooling does not help the community, they insist, but merely serves to reinforce the vicious cycle of the social conditions dominated by poverty and inequality in their area.

As a result, the Magobading community has taken it upon themselves to demand the immediate construction of additional classes in the school.

The corporation has channelled the communities relations through their Stakeholder Engagement office at the Mompetsi camp but it has failed to meet with the community about their real and dire need. Instead, they unilaterally arranged a meeting at their office, which angered the community.

This meeting was organised after the community requested that Anglo meet them to discuss their concerns at the school. The company did not respond and Magobading committee members waited in for the concerned officials to arrive at the school. It was then that it was decided that the community would demonstrate outside the Mopetsi camp gates until three members were allowed into the camp area. This then led to the planned meeting to address the Hlakanang Primary School issue. Community members continued to demonstrate outside the gates while the meeting was in progress, which lasted for several hours.

This scenario arises from an agreement reached in 2018 between the Magobading community and Anglo Plats on how to resolve the long-standing impasse over undertakings made arising from the communities relocation. These concerns included, amongst others, promises of employing members of the relocated communities in the mine and on community projects, dealing with lack of quality housing and so on.

Anglo Platinum has played hot and cold with the community, reluctant to fully implement the agreement. After 20 years, Anglo continues to exploit the communities’ dire socio-economic as well as psychological needs since their dislocation from their ancestral homes, next to the graves of their loved ones. Anglo Platinum still refuses to recognize the current Committee by remaining mum and indifferent to the community’s request to intervene on emergency poverty relief over the 2021 Christmas period. Natasha Viljoen, Anglo Plats CEO, and her team have remained unresponsive to the community’s plight, ushering in a completely new and highly problematic approach to community engagement.

By Eric Mokuoa

DEAR MR PRESIDENT


We are concerned about the increased threats and attacks against non nationals. Xenophobia is real… and deadly. A few weeks ago, the EFF red berets went out to demand that locals be appointed in restaurants and that 60% of the jobs be preserved for them. A few months before, during the election campaigns, political parties on the right used the issue of foreign immigrants to win votes. Daily the media and the police implement xenophobia. The political parties have all moved to make this a political hot potato. Some of your ministers joined in the fray.

The left and progressive forces were silent. At least now, some voices have come out to organise against it. 

We note your mild efforts to tone down those who blame the foreigner for all our ills. Declarations and Summits and Speeches mean nothing for those who fear injury, dispossession and death.

We are tired of summits and talk shops. Take the important SAHRC investigation of 2008, for which they did not even want to include Xenophobia in the heading: Report on the SAHRC Investigation into issues of Rule of Law, Justice and Impunity arising out of the 2008 Public Violence against Non-Nationals

They reported that “Human rights and constitutional principles were violated on a massive scale in May 2008, when non-nationals as well as national and regional minority South Africans were attacked by other South Africans in their communities of residence across the country.” Their recommendations were detailed but we fear not implemented. Please dust them off… and implement.

You will also recall that in 2019 you passed the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP).

In the preface, you wrote:

“As our nation marks 25 years of freedom and democracy, we are called upon, however, to acknowledge that this vision is undermined by recurrent manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. We are not alone in this, because racism and xenophobia, often cloaked in nationalism, is on the rise. However, to the extent that these challenges manifest in our own society, we bear responsibility for eliminating behaviour that violates the letter and spirit of the Preamble to our Constitution which says: “We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” Racism and racial discrimination continue to be felt in our society alongside other forms of prejudice, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, hate crimes and hate speech.”

In the glossary, it educates us all about the meaning of racism and xenophobia:

Racism: Means prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Xenophobia: Means an attitudinal orientation of hostility against non-nationals in a given population.

That is a good start, but where are your LIVING action plans and priorities? Not the PAPER ACTION PLANS. Who is implementing this programme and how are they accountable to us?

In daily talk shows on radio, one hears the anger from many who claim that the “foreign” workers are competing with them for those jobs. You know that the corporations are not creating jobs for all, and foreign nationals too are left without state support. I recall that when I visited an European country, the trade unions organised support services – including language learning programmes – to include and organise workers who came from other countries. These workers suffer daily and many are unable to obtain documents to enter educational services as well as obtain housing and health care. Others do get support but this is not always in the spirit of solidarity.

When the media reports, even the SABC, the foreigner is often associated with crime and the causes of our poverty. You know this is not true. South African mines have benefited from the work of the workers from the subregion for over 150 years and it is time to rethink the question of who has been robbing whom.

The non-nationals have their own organisations, speak to them regularly to learn what they need since, as we all know, immigrants have a great, creative and vibrant spirit for survival and renewal.

Whilst we are at it, tell the SAPS not the implement Xenophobia in action but to treat humans as they want to be treated. We must start with them. Also, please dust off the recommendations of the 2008 inquiry into the Alexandra violence which president Mbeki refused to call Xenophobia. Whatever you want to call it, Afrophobia, racism, hate crimes – what we all want is action to protect the most vulnerable in our societies. This is the poor, working people, women, children and marginalised groups including non nationals.

THE MEET - UP

A meeting place to learn about organisations, networks, movements and people resisting injustices and whom we work with.

BOARD MEMBER HENK SMITH Today we meet board member specialising on legal issues for the organisation Henk Smith is not widely known in the media circles, but on the ground he has a great reputation as an organiser, expert in customary law, and particularly how law can be used to enable justice oriented solutions for the poor and marginalised. He is closely associated with AIDC, Amadiba Crisis Community, Alliance for Rural Democracy and other communities in the North West Province. Aljazeera noted his role in the Constitutional Court ruling, which confirmed a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal in March this year in favour of the Richtersveld Community. The Supreme Court of Appeal reversed an earlier Land Claims Court decision which enabled the San, who were forcibly removed from diamond-rich land in the 1920s, to win back their land. “The Supreme Court of Appeal found that in the 1920s, when diamonds were discovered on the subject land, the rights of the Richtersveld Community were ignored by the state which dispossessed them,” the judgement stated. Attorney Henk Smith, of the Legal Resources Centre, said they were entitled to “the transfer of ownership rights as well as compensation, and the value of the diamonds that have been mined in the past 75 years has to be taken into account.” He added: “You have to look at how much compensation the community would have received had they been the owners in the past 75 years.” He declined to state an amount, but said: “It is a good deal more than the current value of the mine which is between nil and 400 million rand ($57 million).” “This is a dramatic ruling. It is the first time a SA court gives content to people’s rights in terms of customary law…” Smith added: “This is a dramatic ruling. It is the first time that a South African court gives content to people’s rights in terms of customary law in such a significant way.” Alexkor secretary Peter Williams said the company had already entered into negotiations with the community, and would continue trying to make a deal. “We have made an offer to them and they have made a counter-offer, but both parties rejected the offers. I can say that we offered quite a substantial amount without going into details.” I also turn to an earlier article which moulded Smith into this legal activist that we work with today. It is a valuable reflection by Robin Palmer Land Policy Adviser Oxfam GB September 2001 entitled Lawyers and Law Reform in South Africa: A Review of the Land, Housing & Development Work of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC)  “Henk Smith (LRC Cape Town) described the processes in which he and LRC colleagues engaged around the time of the change of government. The struggle lawyers and NGOs got together every quarter as a loose alliance to compare notes and the LRC played a prominent role in these meetings. As people got unbanned, they turned to the LRC. The ANC set up drafting processes and I worked on these. There was lots of early drafting of the Restitution Act, the first piece of Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP) legislation. The ANC needed to get something through quickly. I saw at an early stage that the politicians were not really interested in this, but the LRC people were very well positioned. It took a lot of energy to get the new Department of Land Affairs established, and it needed compromises with the old guard. The LRC people were accessible to all, so we were often drawn into conflicts, sometimes without knowing it. We were often used, as well as sought after. The LRC was an important part of those debates and directions, of implementation and prioritisation in defining goals. There were difficult judgement calls. It was more than a debate; it was about power, a poverty focus and directing resources. We were not called in for technical advice and support only. It was exciting that it was a transparent process. Henk’s LRC Cape Town colleague, Kobus Pienaar, notes that the group mentioned above developed key insights which went into the Green and White Papers on Land Policy. Moreover, Henk and Geoff Budlender played a key role in getting values ensconced in the new Constitution. They were also involved in drafting the Restitution of Land Rights Act and the Communal Property Associations Act. Henk played a critical role on the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (in the old ‘Coloured’ reserves).’ A number of key NGO land activists, such as Sue Lund, moved directly into the new Department of Land Affairs, whose first (and unexpected) Minister, Derek Hanekom, had been chair of the ANC’s land study group. As Kobus put it, they all grabbed the windows of opportunity available, and for the LRC moving towards reclaiming land and supporting developmental processes on the land was a logical and stimulating step from its previous work of resisting forced removals. The key role played by the LRC at this time was also emphasised by a number of people from other organisations. One was Sue Power of the Surplus People Project (SPP), which works in the Western Cape and has had a long working relationship with the LRC. Sue said ‘the only reason we have certain legislation is because of the LRC.21 It lobbied DLA and Parliament, pushing it every step of the way. Not many people were involved, but it was an enormous volume of work.’ Josette Cole, formerly of the SPP, believes that ‘The LRC lawyers are close to the coal face grappling with what appeared to be small, but what were in fact large issues, making and interpreting new law.’ She stressed that Geoff Budlender was very involved in the hard fight to include social and economic rights in the Bill of Rights. Ben Cousins, Director of PLAAS (Programme of Land and Agrarian Studies) at the University of the Western Cape, endorses these views. He returned to South Africa in 1993 after nearly two decades in exile. He had heard about the LRC’s successful court case in the late 1980s against privatisation in Namaqualand, in which it had got the High Court to quash the whole idea of ‘economic units’ in the ‘Coloured’ reserves. He was very impressed by the LRC’s politically sophisticated lawyers thinking so creatively about land and law.”

MAGOBADING RELOCATED COMMUNITY
Photos and text by Ilan Godfrey with thanks

“Jerry recalls how families huddled to witness the disturbing scenes, as the mechanical arm reached into the ground-breaking soil then bone. He quivers at the thought of seeing his father – buried six months earlier – and then his younger brother – buried three years earlier – lifted from the earth. “This is the bad side of Anglo,” he says.

The grievances of the community continue to mount, their loss and heartache compounded, while the inaccessible corporate machine that has overturned their lives spins a web of legal formalities that hold up any meaningful redress. Yet with nowhere to go, there is very little they can do but continue to find ways to challenge the mine on the promises they made and have not kept.

Community members claim that false promises and unscrupulous treatment have bred suspicion and frayed relations between community members and the mine. This has been exacerbated by claims that identification documents of local community members are forged to allow for the employment of people from other parts of the country. This gives the impression that local communities are benefiting from mining activities when in actual fact they are not.

Tumelo of the relocated Magobading community describes how, in 2013, after applying for a job on the mine and passing all the relevant tests (including the “Dover Test” to operate machinery underground and a psychometric test), he was led to believe his application was successful. A number of years later, with no job having materialised, a friend approached him to share some surprising news: he had seen Tumelo’s name on a list of people in employment at Anglo Platinum’s Twickenham Mine.”

UPCOMING EVENTS AND MEETINGS

The future events will be shared on our Facebook and website for the coming month, but they are many. Here we want to share critical information that we believe will assist communities and other constituencies we work with, with their work.

USEFUL RESOURCES

A brand new study comes to the conclusions all of us who work in the sector expected, but it remains a valuable resource which we heartily welcome. What we do not welcome is the tardiness of the regulatory bodies, the authorities in doing what is right. The study is called: UNEARTHING THE TRUTH HOW THE MINES FAILED COMMUNITIES IN THE SEKHUKHUNE REGION OF SOUTH AFRICA.

The partner organisations are: Centre for applied Legal Studies, Sekhukhune Combined Mining-Affected Communities (SCMAC) and Amnesty International South Africa.

One of the recommendations reads:

“The research team recommends that the three mines urgently comply with their legally binding obligations under their respective SLPs. This includes, but is not limited to, furnishing communities with all information required for transparent, informed and consent-based participation in consultation processes, including, but not limited to, SLPs, annual compliance reports, environmental impact assessments, all reports pertaining to environmental legislation, and any information relating to changes in the mining operation, licensing and conditions.

To the government of South Africa, we recommend, among others, to develop and implement an action plan outlining the steps that will be taken to ensure that the DMRE increases its capacity to monitor SLP compliance with clear timelines for their implementation, including supporting community-based monitors to supplement its compliance monitoring, and take any necessary action to ensure a more effective enforcement of the provisions of the SLPs. We further recommend that, whether through regulations or legislative measures, that all company

SLP reports to the DMRE are publicly disclosed and made available and accessible to employees, communities and other stakeholders.”

The activist guide Building People’s Power for Water Sovereignty comes out of a workshop on the water crisis hosted by Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center on 23 May 2017, and is aimed at being a daily tool for use by those who want to have access to clean water as a basic human right. It is also designed to be used in a workshop setting to empower people scientists (individually and collectively) to engage in water science and politics, thus being able to contribute and participate in policy decisions on distribution and protection of water resources.

WoMin launches SIX *new* Information Sheets on the Right to Say NO: These useful resources explore a range of critical themes and issues, including what the Right to Say NO (R2SayNO) is and the destructive economic system communities are resisting as well as understanding the laws and instruments communities can draw on to support their R2SayNO, and more! These tools (available in English, French and Portuguese) are for use in community, movement-building and activist organising spaces, policy-making, academic platforms and beyond.

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has ruled that an Indigenous community’s right to free, prior and informed consultation was violated by oil projects, and called for stronger protections to guarantee Indigenous communities’ rights to decide over extractive projects in their territories. As part of the ruling, the judges said Indigenous communities must not only be consulted about extractive projects on or near their territory, but they must also give their consent to such projects.

On RACISM, XENOPHOBIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCES, amongst the Human Rights Watch Report’s findings, it was stated:

  • That xenophobia manifests not only as violence, but also as discrimination and barriers to accessing education, healthcare, employment, housing, etc.; and
  • That crimes against non-nationals may be, and are often, motivated by xenophobia and this should be an element in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.

“Supporting activism through feminist schools It was in our engagements with these two groups that the women raised the need for women-only spaces where they can learn and share with each other issues that are of concern to women. Therefore, the schools were a response to the calls above and were part of our work as activists and scholars. We use “feminist schools” to refer to the learning platforms and to describe the conceptual angle, the methodology and the politics of the learning approach. The space provided at the feminist schools was to collectively reflect on community and women’s issues and to further give them distance and space to take stock and think through their vision and some of their tactics and resistance strategies. The feminist schools were a voluntary consciousness-raising platform that used the dialogical approach and were carried out in “fellowship and solidarity” (Freire 2005: 86).”

Co-developing Local Feminist “Conceptual Vocabularies” While Strengthening Activism Through Critical Consciousness Raising with South Africa’s Mine and Farm Women, by  Asanda-Jonas Benya & Sithandiwe Yeni 
To read more, write to us and we can email it to you.

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. **Photograph used in this edition of the bulletin header image: courtesy of Ilan Godfrey.

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