At the time of putting this Bulletin to bed, news came in about the discovery of human remains in abandoned and unsecured mines. The Bench Marks Foundation has asserted that the deaths in an old Free State mine lay at the door of the government. Watch this interview with David van Wyk on eNCA. And see also the statement of the government in our Resources Section below. What is clearly evident is that this problem is simply too big for one department, the DMRE, to resolve. We need a national plan on how to deal with the increased poverty and inequality in society, mine closure, tailings facilities and the other ills of mining. We can and must do more to hold those who cause damage to account. The DMRE must do more… faster!
Dear comrade, this edition is filled with news, views and critical opinions that track the organisation and the movements pushing for justice and an accountable democracy. June was Youth Month and the concerns of the youth are readily repeated at these times. This month saw the national assembly pass a long overdue bill on the National Health Insurance. We also report some progress on the decisions of the campaign our members have been involved with and in around the transition from analogue to digital.
The ongoing campaign around Raw Materials demands that we keep talking about it. Our regular feature From The Ground covers stories on tailings, youth concerns, phytoremediation and a first person reflection on a visit to Jagersfontein. How Africa treats nature and uses its resources is a serious challenge but selling them wholesale and raw to the European Union, China or the USA is not an option worth considering.
Read and pass on!
· EDITORIAL ·
Youth month commemorates the events of June 1976 which changed the history of this country. We do not want to bore you with the promises of politicians during this time but rather we hope that through critical reflection we can re-learn the sacrifices that brought us here. By sharing the story to the older and young generations about this time and those who recorded it: photographers, writers, singers, poets and creative people from all genres. BrandSA wrote on how Peter Magubane covered the revolution. This video on Magubane’s work on June 16 takes one back to the time flames and hopes.
We end with the poem of James Matthews called Cry Rage, Freedom’s Child. Poet Matthews was arrested after the Soweto uprising in 1976 and held without trial for four months before he was released.
“Freedom’s child / you have been denied too long / fill your lungs and cry rage / step forward and take your rightful place / you’re not going to grow up / knocking at the back door / for you there will be no travelling / third class enforced by law / with segregated schooling and sitting on the floor / the rivers of our land, mountain tops / and the shore / it’s yours, you will not be denied anymore.”
Image Source: canadianlabour.ca
According to the statement from Parliament, the Bill will also “create mechanisms for the equitable, effective, and efficient utilisation of the resources of the fund to meet the health needs of users and preclude or limit undesirable, unethical and unlawful practices in relation to the Fund. It further seeks to address barriers to access.”
It has another leg to go through for concurrence – the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) – but it is halfway there.
Many question – even from the left – whether this bill will meet the World Health standard of universal health coverage. This means that people must access the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It covers the full continuum of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
The union federation COSATU’s spokesperson Matthew Parks said the current status quo is not working for workers and the poor: “Both the public sector and the private sector, we can’t continue to believe that the status quo works. We have about 8.5 percent of our GDP spent on healthcare, half of that goes to taking care of about 14 percent of society which can afford private medical aid, as a consequence you see a heavily under utilised private medical industry but luxurious at times private medical industry.
Already in 2018 SAFTU, gave their support to the NHI thus: “SAFTU is clear that the NHI is the only way to end the present, disastrous and racialised two-tier health regime which provides top-class service to the wealthy white majority but a dysfunctional, understaffed and underfunded service to the overwhelming poor black majority”.
The Health Justice Initiative, however, argues that the NHI bill is likely to fuel further fragmentation as the current version of the bill is far from equalising access in a radical way.
“Is it possible to have a single pricing structure for whatever model is operating, so that you can actually regulate that space in a context where there are limited funds? The pricing structure for non-NHI medicines urgently needs attention, as it is said that the Medical Schemes will continue to operate for some time before NHI is fully implemented.’
Social solidarity is not a reality in the short term as the NHI is too busy with documentation at the risk of public health needs. Mining communities in particular, whose health is compromised by poorly regulated mining, need an NHI. We cannot be by-standers in the struggle for quality health care. We have no option but to make it work for us and future generations!
Image Source: EWN Image Source: EWN
Finally migrating? A bit of a victory…
The new minister of Communications Gungubele seems to have been listening to civil society demands, Or maybe they were just playing good cop or bad cop. In a recent announcement which made firm decisions of our migration from analogue to digital, they have at least conceded a few of our demands.
Firstly, the government has agreed to a staggered switch off.
Secondly, they have allowed a dispensation for those broadcasters who broadcast on the frequency 694MHz and below, to remain, as we have told them the rest of Africa has a two tier system. They noted that not permitting this would result in “border sites that may cause interference with neighbouring countries. We will thereafter progressively switch-off all remaining sites towards the final Analogue Switch Off date as set in step 2.
The steps, they explained as below:
- a) Step 1: Immediately switch-off analogue services above the 694MHz band to release spectrum for other telecommunications use and the set date for this step is the 31st of July 2023.
- b) Step 2: Temporarily accommodate some of the high population areas below 694MHz, and switch-off within a given period and the set date for this step is the 31st of December 2024.
2.2. A two-step approach towards Analogue Switch-Off is deemed to be a viable approach for the industry.”
But the proof of these decisions lay in the practice. We need to ensure that support for communities, and individuals migrated is promptly handled. Failure to do so, would result in them experiencing a de facto black out. In addition, there must be increased support for the indigent and the working poor. They can start by reopening the registration process for those seeking assistance for a simple reason that the vehicle they were using – the post office – was dysfunctional for most of the time. And it continues to be so.
This and the reasons for costs / affordability, as well as the question of whether these products are available, all demand that more is needed, not less, to ensure the poor do not lose out.
RAW MINERALS FEATURE
We demand more of and from our leaders
Just the other day, we received correspondence from our allies in the global North seeking to combine our actions around the Critical Raw Materials Act. The call to combine struggles amongst civil society groups all over the world is a great leap forward for the struggles of the poor and working people of the world.
The letter described the initiatives of the bosses and their representatives as “a new regulation the EU is working on to boost mining for the energy transition, defence and space exploration. In this new regulation, the EU wants to enable fast tracking and the facilitation of ‘public acceptance’ for raw materials projects (extraction, processing, refining, recycling, etc.) with increasingly less constraints.”
They correctly warn that we – the “resource-rich countries – now targeted for metals and minerals in high demand.” The concern of our allies is for a more ambitious strategy from the EU for better benefit sharing, added value, community rights and civil society space.
In other correspondences of the EU CSO comrades, they correctly point out that the “EU wants to ensure access to critical raw materials, our main concerns with the current draft legislation lacking ESG safeguards and insufficient measures to ensure and define value addition in Global South countries. With it, we’d mainly like to engage Global South CSOs which may be strongly affected by the EU’s push for mineral extraction with up to 90% of the EU’s supply to come from non-EU countries.”
Quite frankly, we demand more from our leaders. Many are either living under rocks or deliberately lying about the meaning of these raw materials act and the initiatives around it.
From the above account, it is clear that they cannot do what they want without our consent and that is why revisiting what happened to Indonesia is important.
Indonesia: the years of living dangerously
In earlier editions of the Bulletin, we spoke of the problems Indonesia faced when it sought to use its raw materials for the development of its own people. To recollect our earlier concerns, Indonesian leaders have argued consistently that whilst the country is rich in mineral resources, it contributes next to nothing to the country’s economy and the people’s well being. President Jokowi Widodo has said: “Indonesia always exports raw materials, while it is better to process and consume them through downstream industry or domestically.”
The problem is that the patterns of business or seeking to eke livelihoods has continued to follow colonial patterns. The country exports its minerals and, according to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the coal sector alone was said to contribute only 5% to Indonesia’s GDP in 2019. But Indonesia boasts huge deposits of natural resources, including tin, nickel, cobalt and bauxite, and they sought to turn these materials to the benefit of their people. They began listing some of these materials, in particular nickel and bauxite, as strategic. Their leaders reasoned that these raw materials were critical for electric vehicle production and to widen and deepen indigenous economic development of downstream industries. Simply put, this involves processing raw materials into finished products to provide added value products at HOME. This would mean, instead of selling crude oil to a country, Indonesia and the others could refine these into petroleum, diesel and plastics which will benefit the poor in those countries and their neighbours.
What is vitally important is for those governments seeking to develop their countries and the regions not be isolated. Those who try need solidarity from like minded governments as well as the citizens.
What Indonesia wants is modest and respectable:
- They want to grow their economy and away from exporting of raw materials, as well as develop their downstream industries in their country
- Downstream activities, they have argued, means that the processing of raw materials into finished products happens in their home country so that value is added. The example given is that instead of selling crude oil, these can be refined at home into petroleum, diesel and plastics. Then they can trade these goods with whoever.
- They want to transform raw nickel into higher end products like lithium batteries for electric cars, which their investment board correctly said will result in economic growth and greater social advancement for the people.
In the old days, the EU and the leaders of the global North would not have gone to the World Trade Organisation to compel Indonesia to open its markets… they would have initiated coups and killed the leaders!
As civil society groups,, we demand from the world’s largest nickel producer Indonesia – who as Earthworks has so aptly put it, “sits at the crossroads of climate protection, clean energy and human rights” – higher standards of human rights adherence, not less. This we will not concede as we support our governments.
African governments have been slow to take up this matter. During the past few months, Botswana has sought to renegotiate the terms of “their” arrangements around diamonds. It was followed by Namibia who, during March 2023, reported that the state-owned company NAMCOR had made a third oil discovery. Many have demanded that Namibia put the interests of their people and the sub-region first. Namcor has partnered with Shell (SHEL.L) and QatarEnergy in the Jonker-1X deepwater exploration well, in the Orange Basin offshore southern Namibia. In addition, some have cautioned that the country take deep care about the ocean habitat and the wider environment. This discovery will add to the oil producing capacities of the African continent, along the African Atlantic coast which it shares with its Opec member Angola.
But the greatest political speech “award” must go to the president of Kenya, William Samoei Ruto. His speech has been widely shared on social media, which may suggest that Africans are at last taking notice.
The President of the Republic of Kenya and Chair of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) presented the keynote address during May 2023. In a speech entitled “The Continent at the Crossroads; Graceful just transition and NDCs implementation responsive to African development aspirations and economic realities”, President Ruto made the following points:
- The Summit seeks to galvanise a critical mass of African society behind pro-poor, just, equitable, locally-led, and science-based decisions in NDC implementation and overall climate action.
- Africa’s abundant wealth of natural resources, immense endowments of untapped green renewable energy and our youthful demographic profile are key levers in mitigating and reversing climate change.
- We must shift the global narratives around Africa and climate change. “At the moment, conversations about climate change in Africa focus on the fact that Africa’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is minimal at only 4 per cent, yet the impact of consequent climate change on our people is huge. The discourse also mainly focuses on the important questions of compensation for loss and damage, and funding for adaptation and resilience.”
At the forthcoming African Climate Summit that will be held in Nairobi this year, African leaders and civil society must be firm in what our collective demands are at COP28.
The Kenyan leader urged that we have to work on changing the continent as faced with perpetual challenges, weak and corrupt. We have to overcome this narrative and image of the continent and the “emerging psychology of victimhood implicates both African and global leadership in a politics of pity and helplessness. It also denies the world’s youngest continental repository of unparalleled abundance the agency to articulate appropriate solutions to its own problems and to offer its unique, indispensable contributions on the broader global stage,” the Climate conference will be an opportunity to show that united front.
One of the steps praised by Ruto is the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), spoken off in our last article in the Bulletin. Ruto praised it as a step in the right direction “to the extent that it seeks to enhance trade within the continent and presents the continent as one large trading area. “Such a framework would position Africa as the world’s most competitive industrial, investment and trade destination”.
We urgently need an African Reconstruction and Development Programme which must include the demand for reparations for slavery, colonialism as well as ensuring that the democratic socio-economic and political rights of Africans are enhanced. The Lagos Plan of Action spoke of the Environmental Rights thus, “priority areas of environmental concern requiring immediate action”: (a.) Maintaining safe drinking-water supplies and environmental sanitation; (b.) Desertification and drought; (c.) Reforestation and soil degradation; (d.) Marine Pollution and conservation of marine resources; (e.) Human settlements; (f.) Mining; (g.) Air Pollution Control; (g.) Environmental education and training, legislation, and information. The Lagos Plan stressed the need for the creation of an environmental matters intergovernmental committee as well as the cooperation of Member States for the progression of Africa’s environmental development.
Ruto made time to address the media to the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) which he said has” potential negative impact(s) on African exports. Our exports are produced in older and smaller industrial facilities that are not managed to minimise emissions compared to their European counterparts. The EU’s mechanism is transmitting the most emphatic demand signal and lays down a set of incentives that make low-emission production competitive. This is exactly what Africa can offer through transition,” he said.
How Africa engages will depend on our “unbought and unbossed” leaders stepping up and engaging with uncaptured trade unions and civil society organisations in the process.
We demand that our leaders unite around an African programme. They must support the right of Africans as part of the Global South to determine our own destinies. Indonesia must not be isolated. We must demand an end to corporate bullying and the imposition of the rule of elites. To the South African leaders we must say, when you take your office you promise to uphold our constitution, human rights… Now is your chance to show it. By asking for our leaders to take ownership of our mineral wealth, this must not be seen as a free hand to exploit or run over rough-shot on the rights of communities and the environmental rights.
To our European comrades, we have called on them to assist us in campaigning on a just playing field. We call on the EU and governments of the Global North not to use other stratagems, multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) to undermine the rights of countries and the peoples of the Global South to determine their own destinies.
To the EU governments and the European parliament, we demand they recognise that the world’s resources are limited and must be equitably shared. For their part, the EU must reduce its consumption of resources and move towards a low-resource, sustainable economic model that promotes sharp increases in recycling and the multiple use of products.
Madagascar and the New Frontiers of Sacrifice Zones
The African country is rich in minerals, including rare earth elements. But extracting them from the ground poses enormous environmental and social risks.
Madagascar, a collection of islands off the east coast of Africa, is among the countries most impacted by climate change. It is a resource-rich country that is also struggling with poverty, debt, crumbling health systems, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a myriad of other problems.
The country’s economic recovery depends on the transition to cleaner energy, but only if its development model effectively reduces environmental, climate and disaster risks, and provides social and economic benefits to the vulnerable groups that constitute 80 percent of the population.
The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2040, renewable energies such as wind and solar power will account for 82 percent of total metal and mineral demand. Another significant portion of metals will be devoted to the replacement of gasoline-powered cars with electric cars (which require six times more metals and minerals) and to the overall decarbonization of the transportation sector. According to the World Bank, more than three billion tons of metals and ores—including rare earths, cobalt, graphite, nickel, copper, and lithium—will be needed over the next 30 years to power technologies related to the energy transition.
Madagascar’s wealth in minerals and metals critical to the energy transition places the Big Island in a particularly delicate position. In the face of increasing global demand, companies from rich countries have rushed to secure these metals, particularly the rare earths with which Madagascar has been richly endowed by nature. The country sorely lacks the capacity to value these critical minerals and negotiate profitable contracts with the multinational companies that dominate the extractive industries.
Madagascar has become a “sacrifice zone” where the lives of the local inhabitants risk being “sacrificed” so that richer countries can successfully make their own energy transition. What geographer Julie Klinger calls “rare earth frontiers” are located in places where local lives and landscapes are seen as expendable in the name of the common good:
These places where toxic companies and their harmful effects eventually land are known as ‘sacrifice zones,’ because their destruction is seen as indispensable for achieving the common good. It is in the areas of sacrifice that the so-called negative externalities are located. They are not ephemeral or intangible: they have a specific geography that can be mapped. The destruction of landscapes and lives in rare earth mining has generally been seen as a fair price to pay, usually by those who do not live in the sacrifice zone.
By Zo Randriamaro | April 19, 2023
Image Source: EyeWitness News
GOLD MAFIA: the South African government responds
In a question posed to him in parliament, President Ramaphosa replied as follows:
The Government takes the allegations made in the Al Jazeera documentary titled ‘Gold Mafia’ very seriously. We are committed to the preservation of the integrity of the financial system in the interest of the broader economy and ordinary citizens.
Investigative and regulatory authorities will act in accordance with their mandate, including in coordination with other jurisdictions where necessary to take action against those found guilty of wrongdoing.
With respect to actions currently being taken to investigate individuals who are alleged in the documentary to be criminally implicated, an enquiry has been registered by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation to investigate these syndicates and individuals.
This investigation is at an enquiry stage and no arrests have been made as yet. Details of the steps that are being taken cannot be divulged at this stage without compromising the investigation. At the same time, the Government is working with the Financial Action Task Force to implement an action plan to strengthen the country’s efforts to counter money laundering and financing of terrorism.
The SAPS Detective Service is currently investigating several serious criminal cases that include money laundering as an offence. The investigation of proceeds generated by serious crimes like fraud, corruption, tax-evasion, customs and excise and narcotics-related offices are also investigated across the South African Police Service.
Government will continue to combat corruption and money laundering in South Africa. It will do so both through strengthening its capability to investigate, prosecute and prevent illicit financial activities and thoroughly investigating specific allegations, such as those contained in the Al Jazeera documentary.”
FROM THE GROUND
Bringing back our good soil via “agriculture mining”
Jimmy Luhende, Actions for Denocracy and Local Governance
When Norwegian Church Aid and the Bench Marks Foundation invited me to join the phytoremediation project, little did I expect that I would be spending time with one highly motivated community who have a fulfilling experience of seeking change in a very complex mining situation. It was a total learning about how they started and what they intend to achieve.
This well-conducted exchange visit provided a valuable learning experience. I was travelling with Catherine Kalinga who is one of the devoted community animators in Kahama district in Shinyanga region in our country, Wetravelled to Soweto, South Africa, for experience sharing.
Catherine and I visited the Riverlea and Snake Park communities in Johannesburg, to learn about proud community actions on an interesting phytoremediation project. We spent three days (7th – 9th June, 2023) visiting sites of the phytoremediation project, which was started to deal with the interwoven threats of mining, agriculture and the environment.
These three sectors are a threat to the health and well-being of the inhabitants of the adjacent locations mentioned above. These community members we met are indeed devoted and actively engaging into the project by planting sunflowers close to tailing, mine waste dams.
The phytoremediation project is a community initiative for re-vegetation of heavy metal polluted land. The project is supported by BenchMarks Foundation. The Norwegian Church Aid in Tanzania consulted Actions for Democracy and Local Governance (ADLG), to assist us in organising an exchange visit to South Africa. This was a step in our learnings as we intend to start a similar project in Tanzania. Everyone is excited to see this happening in Tanzania. The community in Riverlea and Snake Park are also expected to visit Tanzania as part of this project.
The community at Snakepark established an active group now as “Bambanani”, which means “togetherness’. It was interesting to see how the community organised themselves. They also engaged farmers who supported them by giving them manure. Furthermore, we discussed how they can engage them strategically so that they can plant more sunflowers: after harvesting, the farmers can get animal feed from the project, and sunflowers can give them cooking oil and animal feed.
Bambanani has few of its members who have been directly affected by mine waste. Ms Nabulewu Sisheluza lost her baby who had cerebral palsy (CP). She later established a forum of mothers who have similar experiences.
She is seeking to help more mothers by working with the project. She informed us that heavy metals are in their soil. These metals have entered their food and have also entered and accumulated in their bodies, so she said she has to join efforts that seek to do remediation of soil contamination. We also discussed with members of Bambanani the possibilities of planting medicinal trees to add value in the food and nutritional value chain. We thought the families will also get honey from these various trees and increasingly improve their immunity.
I thank Eric and the entire team from the Bench Marks Foundation, Mr Charles at Riverlea, Thoko and Phumi, the chairperson, for their time and indeed for their dedication to save the community. They told me that the Snakepark has a very huge population and this is very serious looking at the health risk next to their hearts. It is very heartening to hear that last December the tailings washed and splashed nearby houses. We all know that the waters are contaminated already by sulphur, leaving alone the air.
Wiki definition: Phytoremediation technologies use living plants to clean up soil, air and water contaminated with hazardous contaminants. It is defined as “the use of green plants and the associated microorganisms, along with proper soil amendments and agronomic techniques to either contain, remove or render toxic environmental contaminants harmless”.
Image courtesy of Zapiro, Mail and Guardian 2022
What became of the town and the people of Jagersfontein post-tailings dam disaster? An outsider’s perspective
I had never been to Jagersfontein before June 2023. In fact, what I knew about the sleepy little town was pretty limited – only that it was a mining town in the southwestern Free State. However, in the second half of 2022 all of a sudden, the sleepy town was in the limelight. On September 11, the tailings dam, on the edge of the town, collapsed due to structural failure. In no time the greyish sludge covered the town’s landscape, destroying homes and killing three people in the process, and inundated agricultural fields and rivers. “It started with a thundering sound then screams of people trying to get away followed,” a resident explained. The disaster received a fair share of coverage – local and international news outlets, NASA, American Geophysical Union etc. Even the New York Times ran a story titled: The World Got Diamonds. A Mining Town Got Buried in Sludge. After all this coverage one would have assumed that the victims would get as much attention as the disaster itself. What has become of Jagersfontein and its people?
On the 10th of June 2023, I accompanied my colleague David van Wyk to the town and got an update from people on the ground (this was part of Bench Marks Foundation’s commitment to assist communities affected by mining waste). Almost a year later, some parts of the town are still capped with greyish muddy debris. Upon entering the town, there is an incredible silence – only a few cars passing by and few people roaming about. The colossal tailings dam is still there and showing cracks. I wonder what seeing the dam everyday does to the psyche of the victims. There is a fence and a signpost which warn people not to go closer to the tailings (a resident tells us all the fences and signposts are new). There is another fence right in the middle of the township, a warning to people not to go closer to the stream where the greyish sludge is still visible. Was there ever a clean-up of some sort? I wonder.
In Itumeleng Township, which is closer to the tailings dam, we encounter empty houses and deafening silence. “What happened to the people, where did they go to?” I ask David, but he is as perplexed as I am. We stop by and take a few pictures of the empty houses. Shoes, a metal base of a bed, irons, tables, torn curtains, all left behind, tell a heart wrenching story of what happened on that fateful morning, September 1.
The Youth Need Guidance and Jobs
Tebogo Dikale, Province District, Bojanala Rustenburg
June is youth month and it has its own rich storytelling. It is a time when we think of apartheid, when young people took to the street to fight the then apartheid regime of the day imposed Afrikaans as a language of instruction in African schools and the struggle for better education.
Today, with many years gone by after those days in 1976, South Africa is a different place. The fruits of liberation are evident as one can use whatever language one wants to use to learn in. We must give thanks to those young people who were fighting for a just cause.
Many decades later, South Africa is a different country and the youth has the right to raise their voices on the things that concern them. I asked a few young men about how they see life today? This is what they told me:
They raised quite a number of issues relating to the current administration of government which I will not go into here fully. The main complaint is simple: there are no jobs for the youth. Furthermore, they believe many youth are addicted to alcohol and, as a result, suffer drinking problems. They do things they do not want to do because of peer pressure. Absenteeism in schools is widespread because of the absence of a father or father figure.
I took out three things out of our discussion: absenteeism of father, unemployment, and politics. When I heard one of them raise peer pressure in our discussion, I took a swipe and asked the speaker a couple of questions which they dwelled on.
Absenteeism of his father was to loss of life due to cancer while his father was working from the mine. The absence of the fatherly guide is sorely missed. The mines did not take responsibility for the illness while his father was still working there. I learnt that the unions are also failing its workers.
They also raised a problem of drinking alcohol. I then asked how we solve this problem of drinking as young people. One of them mentioned sports, saying it can take away young people from the streets and contribute positively to good health. This gives rise to other problems. We do not have quality sporting facilities. Our area is lacking sports facilities such as netball, swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball. That’s what they said.
On the issue of unemployment affecting the youth population between the ages of 18 to 35, they can’t access work as the government is not creating job opportunities for them. Job creation is needed so the youth can contribute to the economy and society. Trying to create jobs is difficult because of red tape. When you go to banks trying to access funding, this is almost impossible.
I know that job creation is not only done by the government but also the companies. This must be done as a matter of urgency. The young people I had a conversation with finished basic education in 2021 and now they can’t access job opportunities and contribute to the economy. Some are relying solely on grandparents for support from government grants.
Finally, I asked them how they feel about the current political situation. They do not see the necessity of political parties as they struggle with a lot of things i.e right to water, the current load-shedding. They also ask themselves what’s the use of going to vote when politicians forget them as soon as they get into power.
Date 19 June 23
We are not in a tailspin – we are turning a corner
The struggles around tailings facilities to be managed in a transparent and accountable manner took a boost this last month.
It began with the community of Wonderkop (North West Province) approaching the Bench Marks Foundation for assistance around the construction of a tailings dam near their homes without their free, prior and informed consent. They called on us and our international allies Earthworks and Mining Watch Canada, whom we work with in the international tailings movement. Our partners are the leaders in the process that culminated in the principles we signed on called Safety First.
The community asked the Bench Marks Foundation to write to the company seeking representation in what they believe is an imposed tailings facility. The company has agreed to meet us.
Secondly, we met Adam Matthews and his team over a working dinner. Adam is the Chief Responsible Investment Officer (CRIO) of the Church of England Pensions Board & Chair of the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI).
The Church of England Pensions Board, other investors, the United Nations and the ICMM have driven the creation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management and an independent body to assess conformity with that standard, the Global Tailings Management Institute.
As civil society organisations, our task was to warn them that they must look beyond corporate spin on tailings. We pointed out that in his speech to the mining indaba, he reported the urgency and willingness of the Minerals Council to map tailings. In fact, one news agency reported it thus:
“Matthews said the Minerals Council SA’s initiative to start mapping at-risk tailings facilities in South Africa, as a prelude to finding ways to address these risks, was to be welcomed. Hopefully it will encourage other countries to do the same.”
We have been searching for allies in this endeavour, and the Minerals Council have not raised their hand. We continue to insist that there can be no solution in tailings without the mining affected communities.
Finally, we pointed out that we have engaged the CSIR (unsuccessfully) and are currently seeking a meeting with the Department of Water and Sanitation. Our express intention is to map the tailings facilities in South Africa, starting with those potentially most hazardous to mining communities.
During the close of the evening amidst dessert, they asked us what mining will look like in 2030. The same, we said, as there seems to be no appetite to share the wealth and remove the oppressive conditions, including the lack of real voice that would be listened to for and from the poor and marginalised in the mining sector: the mining communities. Show us one mining community that has made way for mining that is better off? There was no reply. That is how the meeting ended.
One of Africa’s greatest: Chinua Achebe
We celebrate this great writer by inviting you to watch two videos. When Achebe was very young, he had already written two novels Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease.
The Novel takes Africa as its starting point but, ironically, the title – and I guess the theme – was taken from Irish writer and poet W.B Yeats who in his poem “The Second Coming” wrote:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
In this broadcast by Nigerian TV, Chinua Achebe is interviewed by Lewis Nkosi and Wole Soyinka. They speak about the book and its origins. Astonishingly at least for me, I recall Achebe saying that Things Fall Apart was written straight. No draft. There it was done and dusted. Come to think of it, he was only 28 when he wrote the book in 1958.
And when he was in his twilight years celebrating 50 years of the publication, Achebe reflected on how Africans had to tell their own stories. In this interview with Jeffrey Brown (PBS) originally aired May 27, 2008, Achebe discusses Africa’s ongoing story. He discusses the religion of the foreigners and the power of fiction to tell the truth of our situation. Things Fall Apart is a part of the human story and that is why we are attracted to it.
Today, he boasts of other great writings such as Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, Ant Hills of the Savannah, There Was A Country; and a handful of children’s writings.When Achebe died on 21 March 2013 our founding president Nelson Mandela’s foundation quoted him thus: “There was a writer named Chinua Achebe, who in the company of his books, I felt the prison walls at Robben Island fell down.” He ended with these words, which no one can argue against: Chinua Achebe was “the author who “brought Africa to the rest of the world”.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has received a report that at least 31 suspected illegal miners who are believed to be Basotho nationals, have lost their lives in a ventilation Shaft 5 Virginia mine, in Welkom, Free State province.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho relayed this message to the High Commission of South Africa that, on 18 May 2023, a group of suspected illegal miners died in a mine ventilation shaft which was last operational in the 1990s.
Although information on this tragic situation comes sporadically, we are doing our utmost best to act on the information, including information regarding three (3) bodies which have been reported to be retrieved and brought to the surface by other illegal miners.
Working in collaboration with the previous owners of the mine, Harmony, the DMRE inspectors have assessed the situation and determined that methane levels at the mine ventilation shaft 5 are very high. As such, it is currently too risky to dispatch a search team to the shaft. However, we are considering various options to speedily deal with the situation.
Although this is a unique and strange situation, all relevant stakeholders will endeavour to ensure that the suspected deceased illegal miners are brought to the surface.
A climate whistleblower is a person who discloses information about abuses that exacerbate the climate crisis in order to protect the environment and public health. CW protects individuals who expose wrongdoings that worsen the climate crisis and helps them have a greater impact.
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. Photo credit in the header: Atlanta Black Star.