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

April 2024

Dear friends, this bumper edition brings all the important dates of historic events together. The month of April witnessed the Carnation Revolution in Portugal 50 years ago, which helped the process of decolonisation in Mozambique and the other African colonies. It also reminds us of the Rwandan Genocide in April 1994, and our own democratic breakthrough 30 years ago, on April 27. We explore a few issues around pan africanism and also the theme of the meaning of Freedom as seen by some of the movements and political parties, reflections of the struggle for May Day (1st of May) as well as how the Foundation and its allies are organising around crucial raw materials, and the waste of mining (tailings). The bulletin also includes an article that supports the legalisation of artisanal miners. As usual, our resources remain useful and touch on seeds and on the basic income grant.

Read and enjoy May Day.
And do not forget to cast your vote on 29 May 2024.

· COMMENT ·

What freedom means has been the hot topic as the country turned 30 years old. Or 30 years young, in terms of the ANC’s membership to the ANCYL. Whilst the president of the country Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation on Freedom Day (27 April) acknowledged that “despite our achievements, South Africa remains a highly unequal society,” some say that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. The president continued by stating that our people “confront every day the apartheid legacy of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.” The other challenges he lists are crime, no access to water and far too many families that go hungry. In addition, he talks of the divide between the rich and the poor in all aspects of life, access to health care, transport, services, work and so on. The president ended his speech like this: “We believe in a better tomorrow and it is within our hands to shape our collective destiny.”

I share this because many groups, from unions to NGOs, movements and political parties have levelled these or similar criticisms. Probably more eloquently. 

The debate about where we stand in the freedom road ahead can be delineated by those who see that all this was a sham and there is not much worth for discussion. A variant of their criticisms is contained in those who see the rupture of 1994 or the democratic breakthrough as significant. I believe the headlines of the statements make for interesting insights and I will reference them for your pleasure.  

The SACP’s statement of 25 April 2024 is entitled Statement on the 30th anniversary of our April 1994 democratic breakthrough. In it, SACP is in praise of what it regarded as a break with not only apartheid but colonialism and imperialism. Yet despite these “commendable progress benefiting millions of our people, not all the goals of the Freedom Charter have been fully realised”. Like with Giwusa’s statement, it argues that this victory was due to the working class. Where they disagree with the other left detractors is that they see that the life of South Africans in the rural areas, townships, has improved. Without using the word criticism, they call for more investment in large-scale social and economic infrastructure, support for the African Continental Free Trade Area, and the BRICS. Land reform must be accelerated and a sovereign wealth fund to support broader social transformation and development must be introduced. To support the fight against poverty and inequality, they call for the implementation of a universal basic income grant.

A year ago, COSATU asked the workers to vote for the ANC in the upcoming elections and obviously praised the historic gains. In their statement COSATU celebrates 30 years of democracy, freedom and workers’ rights, they praise those who struggled and were maimed and killed in the liberation struggle.

A gain for the democratic transformation is the principle of “all are equal before the law, where our progressive Constitution compels the state to address the legacies of the past and the inequalities of today, to our free and fair elections where all views and voices are heard and respected.”

In addition, workers are no longer treated “little better than slaves to our raft of progressive labour laws that guarantee workers the right to unionise, to collective bargaining and when aggrieved to strike”. Unlike the ANC detractors, they believe life for workers has improved.

In their statement Not Yet Uhuru: 30 years into democracy the working class remains in shackles, the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) acknowledges that the 1994 rupture was significant for the masses. They write further that: “GIWUSA specifically and unapologetically chooses to celebrate the historic role played by the labour movement in hammering the ultimate nail onto the coffin of Apartheid. It is therefore only befitting on this occasion to appraise the heritage of the working class movement in South Africa. The revolutionary black working class bore the ultimate burden of liberating this country from the yoke of settler colonialism and apartheid. GIWUSA will not waste any chances in reminding the working class of this historic victory and how it must be a source not only of vindication but also of emulation in the present day struggles.”

Their statement however continues to blame the ANC government. Typical are statements such as these: “Since then, the ANC government has only accelerated its attacks on the working class. Its leaders – especially in the Finance Ministry – have meted out a brutal austerity regime onto the working class through wage cuts and wage freezes, unmitigated cuts to much needed social services in working class through wage cuts and wage freezes, unmitigated cuts to much needed social services in working class communities. Housing and other rights that the dignity of shelter enables – such as water,sanitation and electricity – remain a distant and unattainable dream for far too many people.”

The federation that Giwusa are members of, SAFTU, notes that eradication of racial discrimination without capitalism was futile. Their statement (26 April) headlined Freedom in a liberal Democracy does not guarantee socio-economic well-being aptly explains their position. Further, it elaborates thus: “Liberal democracy has since abolished those discriminatory laws and outlawed institutionalised separate development. However, outlawing discrimination based on race and ethnicity has not fundamentally changed the structural makeup of society, especially the class relations as shaped by colonialism and apartheid.” What was needed, they conclude, is an economic system, a “different mode of production based on planning.”

In their statement, SAFTU highlights Section 22 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa: “every citizen has the right to choose their trade, occupation, or profession freely.” This right was a gain for the working class.

The Azanian Peoples Organisation (Azapo) chose to protest rather than celebrate because they believe we “were hoodwinked into believing that we have finally overcome our greatest challenges – as a Black nation. The people of AZANIA were short-changed and led to believe that 1994 represented true freedom for them. 30 years later, our people have come to realise that what they were sold was a mere pipedream and smokescreen, hiding the disaster awaiting us. There has never been and still there is no true freedom, if it is without land ownership and being in charge of the commanding heights of the economy.”

In addition, they argue that people have been rendered beggars in the land of their birth and origin and dependent on social grants instead of seeking an honest living… but they note critically that a few millionaires have been created.

Whilst this is food for thought, what is missing in most of the social movements above is a profound reflection of their lack of power and organisation to ensure that a better reality prevails. Whilst many will not deny that they have the freedom of speech and expression and the right to organise and bargain collectively, this power has not been used effectively in the recent decades. By stating or believing that the ANC has demobilised us or organisations, these very groups do not sufficiently reflect on the strength and weaknesses of their own movements. That there are no clear left wing or socialist parties on offer in this election season speaks volumes. Is it a sign of the weakness of or the lack of confidence of the working class and the poor to lead the struggle for their own liberation?

Most of the groups quoted above, including the ruling party, speak of our failure to realise the socio economic rights we sorely need. There seems to be a consensus around the need for a Universal Income Grant or quality public services where the NHI will hold a place of pride. These cannot be mere electioneering slogans;  if fought for and achieved, they will meaningfully change the lives of the poor and working people. Mass unemployment, austerity policies, the gnawing poverty and inequality gaps… all these challenges need real energy from below is needed to overcome them. At the social, cultural level more must be done to tackle patriarchy and the rampant violence against women. For that to happen, the unions, community movements and organisations – South African, those in the continent and internationally – must unite around a few common demands. This is a prerequisite for victory in this fractious climate. We have too many battles still to fight and,  as the founding president Nelson Mandela famously wrote, “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  

By Hassen Lorgat

ARTICLES

MAY DAY is Ours

A working class hero is something to be, are the words of a John Lennon song. He may have been speaking of the workers in the UK or here in South Africa, who have done immense work to make the lives of people better. During May Day, workers remember their comrades and rededicate themselves to do more for the liberation of all people. 

Mayday has been celebrated unofficially for decades on and off, but most prominently in the 1980s coinciding with the power of the organised workers movement. The struggle for recognition of this day was to remind and rededicate themselves for the struggles for decent work, rest, and recreation. The day was inaugurated in the 1800s where workers (men and women – including child – labour, was not regulated, the radical demand was for “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest”. With new technologies these demands may differ here and there, but fundamentally the essential demands for just livelihoods, decent jobs, rest, and recreation remain.

Mayday became an officially recognised public holiday after the democratic elections of 1994.   

I recall fondly when worker poet Alfred Qabulamade made contact with a need for health care. At that time, the early 1990s, we were busy hosting debates and programmes at the Workers Library and Museum. Qabula was a migrant worker, as well as a subsistence farmer, – later unemployed -, and accordingly was connected to groups and movements which were intersected and shaped by race, class, religion, and location – in particular the urban-rurality dimension migrants had to mediate regularly. He was, like Modikwe Dikobe, a true intellectual. Modikwe Dikobe (1913 – July 2005) was well known for his 1940s activism, but straddled the years afterwards. He is known as a novelist, poet, trade unionist, and squatter leader in Johannesburg, and is the author of two books The Marabi Dance [novel] (1973) and The Dispossessed [poetry] (1983).

Qabula emerged from the grassroots of his rural Pondoland to the shop-floor in a Durban factory, to contest the imposed worldview. He collaborated with fellow workers Mi Hlatswayo, Nise Malange, and the progressive activist academic Ari Sitas. The workers produced books and plays – most notably the book Black Mamba Rising (1986).


In his poem, It has been such a long road, one can hear the pain of Alfred Temba Qabula, out of work, and with no organisational power behind him, but his pen and the courage to write and speak truth to power. The poem reveals the power of poetry to speak to all – the pauper and the powerful – especially his former comrades and those who have some influence or were the “winners” in the post 1994 political dispensation. His pain was worsened when those he built the organisation with seemingly turned their back on former comrades. The poet’s pen spoke to his former comrades who have forgotten that they have risen on the shoulders of others. 


It has been such a long road

It has been a long road here
with me, marking the same rhythms
everyday.
Gentlemen, pass me by
Ladies, pass me by
Each one greets me, “eita!”
and adds:
“comrade, I will see you on my return
as you see I am in a hurry
but do not fear, I am with you and
understand your plight.”

“Do not worry
no harm will greet you
as long as I am alive.
We shall make plans with the guys
and we for sure will solve your problems.
You trust me don’t you?
I remember how hard you struggled
and your contribution is prized.
In fact everyone knows how hard it all had turned
when you were fighting for workers and for the community’s emancipation.”

Nothing lasts forever
and our friends now show us their backs
and they avoid eye-contact
pretending they never saw us.
Even those whom by chance our eyes did meet
would rush and promise and leave behind
a “see you later.”

“What is your phone number comrade?
I will call you after I finish with the planning
committee on this or that of the legislature
and then we shall work something out for you, be calm.”
Days have passed, weeks have passed
years have also passed
with us waiting like the ten virgins in the bible.

I remember the old days
when we had become used to calling them
from the other side of the river.
Some of them were in the caves and crevices
hiding when we called
but we hollered loud
until they heard and they responded to our voices.
As they came to us dust sprang up
and spiralled high all the way up to the sky.
When the dust of our struggle settled, there was no one there.
The dust covered my body
it cursed me into a pathetic fate
disguising me, making me unrecognisable
and whoever recognises me
is judged to be deluded, deceived
because the dust of their feet still covers my body.

And now we, the abominations, spook them
as the dust of their feet covers our bodies.
And they run away
each one of them saying: “hold up the sun
dear friend, doesn’t the fog cover each and every mountain?”

Although you don’t know us, we know ourselves:
we are the movable ladders
that take people up towards the skies,
left out in the open for the rain
left with the memories of teargas, panting for breath.

Winter and summer come and go and leave us the same.
The wind or the breeze has not changed us. Here is a summary of our praises –
the iron that doesn’t bend, even
Geneva has failed to bend it,
the small piece of bath-soap about which
meetings and conspiracies were hatched
to catch and destroy it.
It still continues to clean men and women
who desire to be cleaned.

It has been a long road here
see you again my friends
when you really need us
when the sun clears the fog from your eyes. 

By Hassen Lorgat

Photo: Courtesy of IOL

President Cyril Ramaphosa: Freedom Day 2024
27 Apr 2024
[extract]

The 27th of April 1994 was a victory for non-racialism, for non-sexism, for human dignity and progress. Not just in South Africa, but everywhere.

Women in South Africa today enjoy full equality before the law. As a society, we have made significant advances in giving effect to the rights of women. We have worked together to ensure that women are empowered in the home, in communities, in society and in the economy.

The women of South Africa have stood up for themselves. They have fought for equal representation in positions of responsibility in the state, in academia, in business, in sport, in culture. Close to half of the Members of Parliament, judges and magistrates are women. More than 60 per cent of public servants are women.

In South Africa today, girls learn alongside boys in our primary and secondary schools and receive equal education. Last year, more females passed the matric exams and got more distinctions than their male counterparts. There are currently more female students enrolled at institutions of higher learning than males.  

In working to affirm the dignity of all South Africans, we have recognised the different ways in which people are discriminated against and oppressed. South Africa is a beacon of hope for the protections it affords to the LGBTQI+ community. Although we have much further to go, we have worked to overcome prejudice throughout society. We have sought to affirm the rights and improve the circumstances of persons with disabilities. We are still working to remove the barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from realising their full potential and living lives of comfort, security and material well-being.

Centuries of colonialism and apartheid dispossessed black people of their most basic possession: the land. Since the advent of democracy, we have pursued land reform, distributing millions of hectares of land to those who had been forcibly dispossessed and providing security of tenure to many others who had lived on the land for generations. We have built houses, clinics, hospitals, roads and bridges. We have brought electricity, water and sanitation into millions of homes.

All those who cast their vote for a better South Africa in 1994 laid the foundation for a democracy that enhanced South Africa’s standing in the international community and opened up opportunities for engagement and cooperation. As a democratic country, the new South Africa was able to build alliances, negotiate trade agreements and participate in international organisations to advance the interests of its people.

South Africa is an important voice on the world stage and an active member of the African Union. We continue to pursue a foreign policy that is premised on social justice, in pursuit of peace and a just world order, and that advances the African Agenda.

Fellow South Africans,
To those born after 1994, the impact and meaning of our democracy is very different to those who lived during apartheid. And yet, apartheid’s legacy continues to define the choices and opportunities of so many South Africans. We know that despite our achievements, South Africa remains a highly unequal society. Our people confront every day the apartheid legacy of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. Crime, especially crimes of violence against women and children, are a scourge in our communities. Despite great progress, many households do not have electricity or clean water. There are still many families that go hungry. There is a huge divide between the rich and the poor. We see this divide in access to health care, in access to safe transport and proximity to services and work opportunities.

At times, it seems that these challenges threaten to undermine the achievements we have made over the past thirty years. And yet we know that if we work together, if we harness the same spirit of unity that we did in 1994, we will surely overcome them. History shows us that by working together in pursuit of a common goal, we will succeed. Our journey since 1994 has proved that we are a nation of optimism, resilience and hope.

We believe in a better tomorrow and it is within our hands to shape our collective destiny. It is within our hands to rebuild South Africa and make it a place of equal opportunity and shared prosperity where no-one is left behind.

At his inauguration here at the Union Buildings on the 10th of May 1994, President Nelson Mandela spoke of the realisation of our democratic breakthrough. He said that: “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!” Let us stand together, united in purpose, to build a future where the promise of freedom rings true for every single South African. Let freedom reign. May God bless South Africa and protect her people. I thank you.

Image Courtesy of: Gaza Projections

We must not forget: the genocide continues in Gaza
CEASEFIRE NOW


This visual is based on statistical projections by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health. Their projections powerfully illustrate how many Palestinian lives are at stake in the next six months. They looked at four areas: traumatic injuries, non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases (including pandemics), and maternal and neonatal health.

Explore their projections and methodology here.

Pan Africanism: Why Africa Must Matter, More

Pan Africanism: Why Africa Must Matter, More

The continent is the hotbed of competition for its raw materials as usual. It was this that drove slavery and colonialism and even now the new thrust of globalised capitalism. A sleepy continent will not be able to stop the new scramble for Africa’s resources, one rebranded as critical raw materials. Africa is not only a source of minerals but it is rich in culture, and history as it is in biodiversity which must all be preserved and nurtured for the continent’s inhabitants.

Just 20 days before South Africans went to the polls in 1994, a genocide was in process in Rwanda. After a 100-day killing spree, between 800 000 to a million people, mainly Tutsi, were killed in this African genocide. This SABC report covered the story in real time, but it missed me totally. I am particularly embarrassed how this was not on our minds, but it reflects the many sides of Africa where hunger, poverty, resilience, and hope reside side by side.

For whatever the reasons, it must be admitted we were very narrowly focused at home. The international community then, as they are now in Gaza – Palestine, is in the dock for their slow responses to the massacres. The media was then used as tool of oppression, hate, and genocide.

To avoid this callousness, we must connect with our mother continent. We can start by adopting a Pan-African perspective. Julius Nyerere was clear that it meant ideas and sharing structures that will empower Africa. The late president of Tanzania said that:

“I believe that a real dilemma faces the Pan-Africanist. On the one hand is the fact that Pan-Africanism demands an African consciousness and an African loyalty; on the other hand is the fact that each PanAfriCanist must also concern himself with the freedom and development of one of the nations of Africa. These things can conflict. Let us be honest and admit that they have already conflicted.

In one sense, of course, the development of part of Africa can only help Africa as a whole. The establishment of a University College in Dar es Salaam, and of a University in Lusaka, means that Africa has two extra centres of higher education for its 250 million people. Every extra hospital means more health facilities for Africa; every extra road, railway or telephone line means that Africa is pulled closer together. And who can doubt but that the railway from Zambia to Tanzania, which we are determined to build, will serve African unity, as well as being to the direct interest of our two countries?”

In this bulletin, there is a discussion about the DRC – Zambia MOU. In the centre of it lies the USA. Will this advance or retard the struggle for pan-africanism?

Talking about South Africa is equally problematic. Historically, the country has been embroiled in wars and funding of wars on the continent before. What about today? In whose interest is the SANDF serving in the DRC? That must be for another story. What is relevant here is to try to understand how our continent is changing.

It would appear that French speaking Africa is only going through their decolonisation now after the coups in the Sahel. I exclude the soft coup in Gabon, which many believe was a coup in favour of France. Here we talk of Mali (2021), Guinea (September 2021) and Burkina Faso (2022). On July 26, 2023, it was reported that the presidential guard in uranium-rich Niger overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The forces underlying these new regimes are complex to understand but allegations of Russia supporting these is clear. The most powerful expression, however, of a rebuff of the French came via the ballot where the youngest president in Africa was elected. He is President Bassirou Diomaye Faye (44 years old) and he comes from the party, which in French is called PASTEF, African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity. They were formed in 2014 and have been banned and harassed and they are known as Pan-Africanist and left wing populist.

The African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity was banned by the Ministry of Interior and Public Security in 2023 after being accused of “frequently calling on its supporters to insurrectional movements, which has led to serious consequences, including loss of life, many wounded, as well as acts of looting of public and private property.” But in the 2024 Senegalese presidential elections, the general secretary of PASTEF Bassirou Diomaye Faye was elected President of Senegal.

The political crisis in Senegal was reaching boiling point and, within two weeks, the leader emerged from prison to become president. Faye defeated the ruling coalition’s candidate in a March election by a landslide, which confirmed him as a leader of hope for the 18 million people.

Very recently, we learnt that Senegal’s newly elected President Bassirou Diomaye Faye wanted to audit oil, gas, and mining sector agreements. The president said that “the exploitation of our natural resources, which according to the constitution belong to the people, will receive particular attention from my government. I will proceed with the disclosure of the effective ownership of extractive companies (and) with an audit of the mining, oil, and gas sector.” All investors are welcome in Senegal if they respect these values. According to reports, Senegal’s first offshore oil development will commence production later this year. It is believed that the Sangomar oil and gas project operated by Woodside Energy WDS.AX is expected to produce about 100,000 barrels per day. One can only hope that for all the harm, the country and its people will benefit more than the corporations. Reviewing all these contracts is but a start for the leader from the party that wants to bring work, ethics, and solidarity for its own people.

By Hassen Lorgat

FROM THE GROUND

Critical Raw Materials in the subregion of Africa: DRC-ZAMBIA and not forgetting the USA

Our interest was aroused because we were aware that in December 2022, at the US-Africa Leadership Summit in Washington, the US joined the two countries by signing a trilateral MoU concerning support for the Development of a Value Chain in the Electric Vehicle Battery Sector and aims “to facilitate the development of an integrated value chain for the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries in the DRC and Zambia.” According to APRI (Africa Policy Research Institute is an independent and nonpartisan African think tank), the DRC-Zambia side signed an agreement in March 2023 with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to produce Battery Electric Vehicles. A pre-feasibility study was commissioned to be carried out by ARISE Integrate Industrial Platform (ARISE IIP).

Photo: 2013 – the school has grown

We approached a representative of Zambian Civil society to speak to us in the Meet-UP. We wanted to talk to a civil society coalition in the subregion to organise around critical raw materials. Here Hassen Lorgat is in conversation with Edward Lange.

  • Tell us about the Pamoja Critical Minerals Alliance

The Pamoja Critical Minerals Alliance (PCMA) is a growing membership driven movement for mining communities, activists, academia, media, labour movements, faith based, Civil Society Organisations and International charity organisations with interest in the monitoring of the increased and emerging demand for critical minerals in the Southern African region. Pamoja stands for togetherness, it is motivated by the need for indigenous communities to protect their rights to resources. It is driven by the inspiration of unity and Pan-Africanism. The initiative is aimed at developing a regional movement to monitor the extraction of resources and any other activities related to the energy transition, critical minerals, and strategic minerals. This is done through the implementation of innovative activities that unites communities, countries, organisations, and other like mind groups such as: solidarity building, membership recruitment, public awareness, policy dialogue, and regional advocacy initiatives.  

I can conclude that the PCMA’s focus is on steering a regional opportunity pathway towards a more minerals-aligned and sustainable development anchored on meaningful participation of all the key players in the EV value chain including communities. Pamoja is an attempt for Southern African countries, to individually and collectively, fully allow the participation of host communities in the renewables supply chain by dismantling the elite and the corporate capture of the extractive sector. This will be done through offering oversight and promotion of a transparent and fair tax regime that increases revenues in the SADC region.

  • So, the Pamoja Initiative emerged after a regional meeting ?

YES. Pamoja was established in November 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia at a meeting organised by SARW for Civil Society based in DRC and Zambia to discuss the joint the participation of key stakeholders in the establishment of joint venture (JV) between the two countries on Electric Vehicle Battery (EVB) factory and at the end the meeting the participants established a platform called Pamoja Critical Minerals Alliance (PCMA). The formation of the platform was witnessed by 36 representatives from DRC and Zambia civil society, the labour movement, as well as the private Sector, and academia.

  • What are some of your long term objectives with us ?

The meeting resolved to mobilise for broader and meaningful civic participation to ensure governments and their international partners are held accountable for every aspect of the Battery Initiative and the extraction and beneficiation of critical minerals value chains. These must be done in a transparent and accountable manner. The meeting noted that Southern Africa has abundant critical mineral deposits. Therefore, the focus should be on steering a regional opportunity pathway towards a more minerals-aligned and sustainable development trajectory.

The following three broad objectives guide our work. We want to:

  • create a regional movement for civil society, experts, community activists and media to monitor critical minerals value addition projects in SADC.
  • create public awareness about critical minerals through mobilisation, capacity building and stakeholders engagement in the SADC region.
  • foster regional integration through networking and solidarity between stakeholders, countries, and communities for purposes of promoting sustainable management of critical minerals

 

  • What about climate change and critical minerals?

It was also agreed that the Forum’s work should be framed as part of climate change action and the global energy transition from fossil fuel to clean energy systems. Social and environmental justice must be informed by the needs of communities and aligned with both countries’ national laws and development priorities.

But we are also aware that the world is focused on ensuring an adequate quantity of strategic minerals can be sourced. Africa has abundance and that is why there is a Zambia – DRC agreement.

We believe that there is limited effort to ensure that a reasonable amount of the value added through processing can be retained within the producing African countries. A proper transition to clean energy allows batteries for EVs and other technologies for the energy transition to be manufactured in Africa, given the continent’s position as host to these critical minerals, especially Southern Africa. Most SADC countries have declared their intention to promote value addition to minerals before export. SADC countries should leverage their critical minerals while the window of the current high demand and price of their abundant critical minerals for the energy transition is still open.

  • How will you work?

We will seek to work in a participatory democratic and inclusive manner.

The initiative is hosted by Southern Africa Resource Watch as part of its Open Society Foundation supported imitative on Energy Transition, Critical Minerals and Accountability in Southern Africa. The Alliance has membership drawn from the following countries: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Each country has a national coordinator who seats in one of the partner institutions – the coordinator liaises with the general membership and SARW on matters related to Pamoja objectives.

  • Can you list some of your key activities briefly for us?

We will have to build our power on the ground and the knowledge of critical raw materials to challenge power and keep the government and corporations accountable. To achieve this, we will embark on the following programmes:

  • Membership Mobilisation, that is the registration of members in all the targeted countries, this includes the identification of national coordinators.
  • Public Awareness, including community level joint country activities such as – football tournaments, music/dance festivals, cultural exchange, and media engagements.
  • Regional Pamoja Alliance Convenings, undertaken to bring together all the countries that have established functional national coordination, through a regional conference.
  • Policy Dialogue, which we hope to do through periodic research and analysis of MOUs, Policies, legislations, and country strategies and holding of webinars on topical issues.
  1. Now for a thorny question about global political and economic interests. How do you mediate the various demands from powerful countries and trading blocs like the European Community and the USA who are already involved in this deal?

We have to mediate a difficult route but we must be guided by the interests of the continent and our own countries. This renewed interest in copper must have benefits for Zambia who for many years have lost out of the booms in copper commodity trading. No progress is evident where CSOs in both countries are marginalised.

So we are watching and working with communities as we demand the full and meaningful participation of host communities in the value chain of the identified critical minerals. It is quite worrying and scary that some African governments in the region have taken a step forward to enter into some agreements with the EU and USA.

  • Explain some more…

As indicated in your introduction, the governments of DRC and Zambia have signed separate MOUs with the EU. These MOUs express clear interest of the EU on the two countries’ minerals and not what the EU is bringing to the table. There are no specific projects or economic opportunities that are clearly cited apart from the battery plant and yet other potential areas exist.

But these MOUs do not explicitly spell out the implementation of the agreement and the ways of working. Thus we conclude that the MOU is not fully open and transparent.

The EU has dangled the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) revisions as a carrot for purposes of impressing and attracting attention and it is not substantive.

These processes in the two countries (Zambia and DRC)  have clearly shown that civil society and host communities have been marginalised. There is limited participation of local non-state actors and community groups. Because of the structure of critical minerals endowment in the southern African region, most countries are targeted for these agreements. The agreements put the other potential areas of collaboration at risk of being exploited quietly.

  • Any last words? How do people get hold of you?

I am the convenor and I can be reached at: edwardL@sarwatch.org

The Forum aims to foster networking and solidarity between stakeholders, enable collective monitoring of the critical minerals mining and value chain, promote transparent and responsible governance, advocate for access to information, and establish a regional approach towards sustainable management of critical minerals. Joining the Alliance presents an excellent opportunity for collaboration, accessing information, and contributing to the sustainable development of the region.

Photo: Courtesy website Pan African Resources

Tailings meeting has more questions than answers

I attended a meeting on 25 April 2025 with the Bench Marks Foundation and activists from Krugersdorp and Snake Park. It was supposed to be a report back session with mining affected communities but I am afraid I left with more questions than answers. The meeting was called by Pan African Minerals and their subsidiary MOGALE RETREATMENT pty LTD.

They took over Mintails operations and have now started a number of new projects. One such project Pan African Resources is working on is the gold tailings retreatment project in South Africa. And they tell us that they intend to retreat old tailings at a rate of one million tonnes per month and aim to recover about 688,000 ounces of gold from the combined tailings deposits over the life of the project. Furthermore, they say in their website that they have an “experienced management team, technical skills and mining infrastructure in place to drive success, plus an industry-leading safety record. Our mining tenure in South Africa is secure, with mining rights expiring in 2038 at Evander Mines and in 2051 at Barberton Mines. The Mintails acquisition was permitted within 2 years, including community consultations and environmental authorisations.” At the workshop, I was representing the South African Tailings Working Group – a joint project between Earthworks and the Bench Marks Foundation. At the get go, we rejected the notion only to be consulted at the end: when it comes to evacuations. In line with Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management, people must be involved throughout the process – long before a disaster. The report demands that safety must be the guiding principle for the entire lifecycle of the mine with zero tolerance for human fatalities.

The company also presented their draft Grievance Procedure. It was a mere cut and paste but my additional comments were:

Why does this Grievance Procedure take over a month and a half to resolve a grievance. This is way too long and will serve no one. In the case of tailings, this could be deadly. I reminded them that the Safety First standard – which is the civil society response to the Global Industry Standard on Tailings governed by the ICMM, International Council on Mining and Metals – must be listened to as it is the voices from below.

Safety First demands that under Corporate Accountability and I read out the three relevant clauses:

Companies must be able to pay for the safest technologies and practices, provide funding upfront for mine closure (as bonds), and have sufficient insurance to cover off-site damages in the event of a failure. (12)

Companies must protect whistleblowers and have independent grievance procedures with adequate, effective, and prompt solutions for anyone harmed by the mine including Indigenous Peoples and community members. (13)

The board of directors must be held accountable for the safety of tailings facilities (or lack thereof) and must make decisions that prioritise safety over cost. Together with Eric Mokoua from the Bench Marks Foundation we raised our concerns about Pan African Resources supposed adherence to the Global industry Standards on tailings management (GISTM) as they were not even members of the ICMM and thus even those minimal standards would not be abided to.

Finally, the company CEO believes that there is wealth in tailings as they report on their website: Reprocessing the Mintails TSFs will enable Pan African to demonstrate its philosophy of “going beyond compliance”.

Pan African estimates there are about 120 million tons of re-mineable material in the TSFs it has bought from Mintails, with a head grade of about 0.3g/t, representing about 1.1 million ounces of gold. It will use hydro mining – blasting the material with high-pressure hoses and piping the slurry to a modern automated treatment plant – which is a proven low-cost, low-impact simple mining method.

“These tailings represent a massive unutilised asset for both Pan African and the local community,” CEO Cobus Loots says. “Re-mining them will add about 25%, or 50,000oz/year, to Pan African’s production over 13 years, while contributing to the environmental rehabilitation of the site. Our activities will also create socio-economic opportunities for local communities and suppliers, including job creation, skills and supplier development, to lift up the standard of living in Krugersdorp.”

On water use: Water is a scarce resource. This issue was not discussed but it is appropriate to point out that the company ignores the fact that the water – bore hole or otherwise – is the collective resource of all and must be used in accordance with those principles in mind.

But when we asked them, under which law or department re-mining of tailings was governed, we did not get an answer.

All in all, a good experience but we were left with the necessity that much has to be done to make these meetings work for the poor and working people. In addition, community groups must prepare beforehand and not go to these meetings to simply validate the claims of the bosses.

By Hassen Lorgat

Photo: Courtesy of Amandla

Hope on the horizon: DMRE announces new strategy to assist artisanal miners

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has announced plans to revamp its licensing mechanism in order to make it easier for artisanal miners to start operating legally. Speaking at the inaugural Artisanal, Small-Scale and Emerging Miners Symposium hosted by Mintek, the Department’s deputy minister, Nobuhle Nkabane, explained that they have shortlisted 21 projects for training and financial support of small scale mining.

“We must enhance capacity building by means of efficient accounting programmes, compliance with relevant legislation on governance and industrial relations, as well as a comprehensive marketing platform. Secondly, our training programme must also focus on market access by assisting them to access end-consumers through integrated sourcing, sales, distribution, and marketing services. Thirdly, we must further focus on information and knowledge sharing to enhance the quality, accessibility, and relevance of information or data to these miners.”

The symposium presented artisanal miners with the platform to share their grievances and daily struggles of operating without permits. In response, the National Association of Artisanal Miners, Zethu Hlatshwayo, lauded the move as a step in the right direction: “Artisanal mining and small-scale mining does not only benefit the man and women who is working there but the economy, the communities and the environment on its own. Because you would know and understand that some of these areas need to be rehabilitated because they are no longer safe. But there are those that are still safe so taking a step like this with the council for geoscience and Mintek means a lot to us in making sure that regulation, formalisation and legalisation of this sector is fast tracked.”

The government aims to roll out this formalisation strategy to different provinces and include the youth, women and people living with disabilities as beneficiaries of the projects. It is believed the intervention will discourage illegal mining which some analysts believe is costing the South African economy an estimate of R70 billion annually.

In an interview with Newsroom Afrika, Bench Marks Foundation lead researcher, David van Wyk, welcomed the news and mentioned that the Foundation will keep a critical eye to ensure that the project will unfold as promised. The contributions that the Foundation has made, in form of policy papers, is finally being formulated into action: “we are looking forward to this because the country is changing, the nature of mining is changing. The large scale industrial mining companies are busy leaving the country because it’s no longer profitable to mine mineral resources that remain in terms of gold, in terms of platinum; and some of the other minerals are no longer viable for large scale operations. So, Anglo Ashanti has left, BHB Bulletin has left – others will also leave, and unless we take this step to make an orderly transition into medium, small scale and artisanal mining, we are asking for a recipe for disaster. And I am very glad that the government is taking note of this fact now and giving life also to the Minerals Petroleum Resource Development Act where, if you read the introductory statement of that act, it says it wants to open up mining to all South Africans and not just large scale companies.”

By Dr Ntebo Phakisi

RESOURCES

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“It’s 2026 and life is getting better in South Africa. Meet Nosipho, Feziswa, and Thabo; neighbours who have seen their lives improve since the government introduced a basic income grant, or BIG, for everyone who needs it.”

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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. Header Photo: Courtesy of the Apartheid Museum.

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