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15th June 2024

January 2024

Dear comrade, much has happened to us as an organisation and the world we inhabit. Whilst we witness on our screens the wanton killings of Palestinians, done with impunity, we witness a re-galvanised courage that seeks to put a stop to abuses of power wherever they emerge. At home we lost our beloved comrade Constance Mogale and continue our tribute to her contribution towards our democracy.

Our Bulletin continues to cover the regular issues and concerns, our work on critical raw materials, concerns about how we preserve our scarce water resources and why we must work with the Water Caucus. Our work on Zama Zamas will be contained in part in our new study on Zama Zamas, referred as Survival Mining. We also report back historic participation last year on the Thematic Social Forum on Mining and Extractivism and report back on the plight of the indigenous community led by the Goringhaicona Council who have accused (and taken it up in court) the private ‘Amazon’, who has tried to SLAPP (strategic litigation for public participation) those opposing its R5 billion development project.

The resources are always a treat, one of the touches on the world’s richest self-people and what Oxfam believes can be done about this. You will also find there the link to register to a a vital webinar later today which we strongly recommend you try to attend, organised by the EU Raw Materials Coalition (EURMC), representing more than 50 OSCs from across and beyond Europe. It is about Europe and Critical Raw Materials (see resources below). It asks: What should civil society in resource-rich countries know about EU raw material diplomacy and its impacts?

Read, Enjoy and Pass it Along


There is no denying that the biggest news story of the year that has only just begun is the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Palestine. The ICJ ruled on Friday 26 January that South Africa has standing to continue its role in the case against Israel whom it accused of numerous crimes and violations of human rights. To be precise, South Africa’s case argued that Israel is breaching the UN convention on genocide by “killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction.”

It asked the Court for a ceasefire, as well as argued that a significant risk of genocide against the Palestinian population required the Court to issue a preliminary order barring Israel from further such acts, namely: 
(a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group. You can find the ruling here

Whilst the spin from the West and Israeli apologists has been to argue that South Africa’s one demand, for an immediate ceasefire, has not been met, the subsequent sections of the ruling – on the current Israeli track record – are impossible without a ceasefire, as I have argued on 702 and SAfm. 

We have to watch this space to read the report that Israel must present to South Africa in one month’s time. The ICJ was right not to rule not to order a ceasefire; they could not do it as it could be seen as being prejudiced since the case is still to be adjudicated upon. 

Whilst the majority of the people are elated, the rightwing in the country are alleging that the government remains aloof to the problems the masses face daily in the country.

No, we are not giving the government a blank cheque, but know that some of the solutions proposed by opposition parties appear to support faster and deeper cuts to social spending: thus rapid privatisation and deregulation of the economy, and an end to the any effort to institute quality public health (NHI), for instance.  

These issues will undoubtedly come up front and centre in the national and provincial elections due this year, 2024. In the ANC January 8 statement, the president of the ANC and the government laid out their strategy and agenda for change. The statement opened with these acknowledgements: that we are at a moment of fundamental consequence in the life of our nation. Across the country, the people are going through tough times:

They are increasingly losing hope of ever finding employment or setting up viable business and those trying to eke out a living in the informal sector facing harassment and red tape.

It continued to raise the issues of poverty and inequality, the failure of the municipalities to deliver quality water supplies and other basic functions. Climate change was an interrelated issue and impact on the poor, thus weather conditions such as floods, drought, and fire, leading to social displacement and food insecurity.

Green economy is proposed as the new saviour without problems, but this is an area where we cannot be absent. The Hydrogen Roadmap, the ANC recommends, will “enable South Africa to become a green hydrogen centre.” This will be analysed in the next few editions, as we get ready for national elections. 

Voter apathy or protest votes were acknowledged as there was a “discernible discernible decline in voter participation over the course of several elections. Of special concern is the decline in young people between 18-19 who are registered to vote from 41 percent in 1999 to 9 percent in 2021.” We know that it is our collective organised power that brings about real and lasting change, but we would be foolish to hand over the hard won right to vote to those who want to use state resources against the poor and working people. Governmental power  gives those elected power to fight for changes in our communities, workplaces, schools, universities, and so on. We cannot give up.

The January 8 statement did not talk of the repression that lies, contradictorily, alongside the government’s protections for the poor and marginalised at home and internationally. Thapelo Mohapi Mohapi, general secretary of the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo,  made public the increased repression of the movement. This has resulted in its leaders S’bu Zikode and deputy president Mqapheli Bonono going into hiding after they received death threats.

The road to democracy, equality and justice is uneven, and this is equally evident at the international level as the recent report of Oxfam released at Davos (Switzerland, Jan 2024) reveals. Aptly named, Inequality INC, it argues that “the richest five men in the world have doubled their fortunes” (since 2020) and that, during the same period, “almost five billion people globally have become poorer. Hardship and hunger are a daily reality for many people worldwide. At current rates, it will take 230 years to end poverty, but we could have our first trillionaire in a decade.” They put the blame on the concentration of power in the transnational corporations (TNCs) and “and monopoly power is exacerbating inequality economy-wide.”

Interesting but deadly facts

Oxfam points out that despite the EU representing less than 6 percent of the global population, it “hosts 15 percent of the world’s billionaires and 16 percent of global billionaire wealth. Since 2020, billionaires in the EU have increased their accumulated wealth by one-third, reaching 1.9 trillion euros last year.”

Amongst the measures for justice, they recommend a progressive wealth tax on EU multi-millionaires and billionaires between 2 and 5 percent which could raise 286.5 billion euros each year. This could pay 40 percent of the EU’s recovery fund. 

Whilst the billionaires evade paying taxes, workers are squeezed to comply amidst increasing privatisation of public resources. Ending extreme poverty and inequality cannot be done without restricting the power of the super rich. Oxfam calls on governments to “radically redistribute the power of billionaires and corporations back to ordinary people. A more equal world is possible if governments effectively regulate…”

I end by saying that more power must be taken by those below and governments must create the enabling environment so that justice and freedom can flourish here at home and everywhere.

By Hassen Lorgat


SACC for Palestine: South Africans step up for others

This article was written before the ICJ ruling came out

Some two months ago, a handful of South African journalists for various reasons raised the question whether we, the SA Public, were not talking too much about Gaza and Palestine. Whilst disagreeing with them about whether this was indeed the case, as there are so many aspects of Israeli occupation with complicity with the world’s most powerful leaders that are not being discussed, this question came definitely before the South Africa’s Court case at the Hague. The case was brought before the International Court of Justice in January and it aims to put a stop to the war on the Gaza Strip, which amounts to the crimes against humanity and crime of genocide. South Africa has asked for an interim order, including requiring Israel to immediately suspend its military operation. This is urgent and, in current practice, the ICJ should not take too long to rule.

The arguments are contained in an 84-page document submitted to the court in terms of the 1948 Genocide Convention of which both Israel and South Africa are signatories. Whether or not Israel, backed by the USA and a few other notables such as the UK and Germany, would obey is another matter.

What has really turned the tide against the apartheid crimes is the activism that has erupted in most countries of the world. The South African Council of Churches (SACC) delegation of religious leaders returned to South Africa during December after spending 8 days with Palestinians. This trip was preceded by one in 2022, whose primary objectives remain consistently the same:

– To be in solidarity with and pay pastoral visits to the victims of the 55 years of occupation by Israel and the gross violation of their human rights, including those of Arab Israelis within Israel; – To interact with the leaders of Churches, community leaders and the leadership of the Palestinian and Israeli government; and – To bear direct witness to the suffering.  

Reverend Frank Chikane led the delegation. He went in his capacity as the Moderator of the Churches Commission on International Affairs (CCIA) of the WCC and Emeritus Pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM). Rev Chikane was accompanied by Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana who is the Secretary of the SACC. Some others in the delegation included Rev. Moss Ntlha, the General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA) and a pastor of the Ebenezer Evangelical Church, and Reverend Solomon Maans Minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev Maans is also a member of the Bench Marks Foundation Board.

In their report back after their 2023 visit, which was aired live on various platforms including Facebook, they highlighted the plights of humans after meeting with Christian leaders in that region as well as citizens of other faiths and affiliations.

In the press conference, the Rev Chikane shared with South Africans his witnessing of an apartheid in action. Take the case of travel restrictions and regulations that are in place: “Even when you get a taxi to go to the airport, the number plates [which are valid] end here beyond a certain gate. You then need another car with a different number plate and colour code to be able to drive through Jerusalem.”

In addition, the group witnessed a damning human rights violation when the members of the Christian delegation were stripped almost naked by Israeli authorities during a search. The powers of the Palestinian Authority were limited: “Palestinian authorities cannot arrest an Israeli, but they can arrest Palestinians. They can arrest the Palestinians and take them to Israel and that was the experience.”

Finally, the delegation felt that the US support for Israel is not a remedy for change and was a strategic mistake. Chikane has urged world leaders to work towards resolving the crisis in Gaza. He said the world would pay a huge price for the genocide taking place in the region. In Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians cancelled festivities and public Christmas celebrations due to the ongoing conflict. Speaking of the deaths of the people in Gaza, Bishop Mpulwana stated: “[The] Israeli army has dropped more than 25 thousand tons of explosives on Gaza,” said Mpumlwana. “It has systematically targeted schools, hospitals, mosques. This is to make the point for what seems to be ethnic cleansing.”

A full report of their journey of solidarity will be released soon. Meanwhile the faith leaders and the SACC in particular are the leading voice and force behind a global anti apartheid conference that will be convened during this year. Citizens power globally has emboldened people who demand a ceasefire and justice for the Palestinians.  Global citizenry are demanding and end to the ongoing nakba, They are demanding an end to the ongoing genocide.The institute that bears the name of the person who coined the term genocide, Raphael Lemkin, has spoken truth to power which the world welcomes. The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention reported that they are “absolutely disgusted by the response of Western nations to the crisis in Israel/Palestine. Western nations have given Israel a greenlight to commit genocide, have offered direct military support to Israel in its war on Gaza, and have clamped down on freedom of expression in their own countries. That greenlight has led to the horrific scenes of genocide in Gaza since the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by Hamas. Just today Israel struck the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City as well as a UN school.”

They further ended by highlighting the “negative effects of blind Western support for Israel” is being felt in what they call “Western democratic institutions.” The Lemkin Institute accused these groups of “embracing illiberalism,” where they do not tolerate dissenting voices that are critical of Israel. The people, they pointed out, who are “concerned about Israel’s genocidal structures, policies, and language, are now facing a host of infringements on their free speech, making genocide prevention work dangerous, costly and illegal.”

The Bench Marks Foundation is gearing up for the 2024 Alternative Mining Indaba

The AMI is a space curated for nothing else, but the communities affected by mining. From its inception in 2010, the AMI questioned the narrative of the mining industry. The forum’s founding objective was to provide a space, a platform to explore and coordinate alternative perspectives rooted in the mining communities, people of faith and those who work with communities. The fundamental question facing the AMI since its formation was poverty amidst plenty and the 2010 conference appropriately was organised under the theme: “Poverty and Extractive Industries Why are we in poverty, when we own mineral resources?” 

This is still a relevant question to this day. 15 years later and the AMI is a reminder that fundamentally questions the authenticity of the official narratives peddled by the mining corporations at their indaba. This year’s AMI will meet on 05-08 February, in Cape Town, under the theme: “Energy Transition Minerals: Putting Communities First for an Inclusive Feminist Future”. Thus as you can see the need for radical transformation in the mining industry is far from over.  With these challenges in mind, this AMI must not tread softly, but consolidate the forum’s convening power to expose the industry’s failure to transform. The AMI expects activist mine-affected communities, academics, workers, and many other delegates from across the African continent and beyond to come to Cape Town to contribute in crafting the alternative narrative on mining and its impacts on communities and the environment. Our forum has experienced exponential growth, which we believe emboldens us to fight for our demands. 

We remain committed to provide a platform from those marginalised so that those in power must hear these voices. These alternative voices seek to dismantle the untruths and the half-truths of the mining sector and the corporations.  

The integral part of this gathering to achieve this aim is the mine host communities, the mining affected communities, workers, movements and activists. Whilst International NGOs, local NGOs, academics and media have a critical role to play, this should be limited to providing support – both technical, and other material resources to communities. These groups should not confuse the privileged relationship they enjoy with leaders of these communities and later substitute them and parade as the leaders of these communities. Simply put, they should avoid becoming the star performers in the arena meant for communities.

Some of these organisations who seek to project in this assembly claim to have a sway over the industry, using a set of policies and standards. Standards or not, corporate strategies are made with lofty aims of profit; it is always a moot point to suggest fundamental influence on corporations brings desire change on the ground. These standards are logically designed to support corporate mining and extractivism that does not take care of the environment nor the communities. “Corporations govern society more than governments do”, as Bakan puts it, and thus we must not only fight governments to do the right thing for the poor and marginalised but corporations too!

It is because of this immense power of corporations in society, their influence over the economy and the politics including the media, that we dare not allow them our space to become another space for their public relations exercises and propaganda.

Let me explain their power by way of an example. If we look at the conditions faced by the Sikimming / Lerule community in Limpopo province, where Anglo Platinum seeks to expand the Mogalakwe mine. For this to happen, they have stated that they will be moving or, to use their words, relocating 1 000 households. The community’s efforts to get full information of the process have been difficult and marked by a lack of full transparency and thus accountability.

There are many examples where this is the case, such as the efforts of the Wonderkop Community who have struggled to make Sibanye Stillwater take responsibility for their tailings facilities, and ensure that it does not further harm the environment and the community. Kalgold, a shaft of Harmony Gold in the Northwest province, also needs to improve its operations and conduct particularly on how it relates to the Kraaipan community. 

Actions which lead to the arrests of community leaders and thereby charge them criminally when there are issues with mines sends a message of intimidation to the communities. Impala Platinum Mine keeps making promises to the Luka community, but delivering is minimal. This only shows that the companies’ community engagement policies and practices are in shambles because they prioritise profits above people. 

The AMI cannot provide a space for public relations exercises of these companies. What these companies must do is to listen and reply to the concerns of the communities that they impact upon.

The commitment to have 100 percent community content in this space is still a struggle. For this to materialise, all NGOs – particularly the well resourced INGOs -, academics, and media need to check their privilege and begin to play a supportive role to the communities they work with. We would prefer that they support these groups to be present so that they may participate in their own right so that the vision we hold can become firmly entrenched as we go forward.

By  Eric Mokuoa

Photo Courtesy of the Mail and Guardian

SURVIVAL MINING IN SOUTH AFRICA: behind the dominant narrative – new report to be launched

In 2023, ‘zama zamas’ (survival miners) were frequently in the news. They were seen as threats to communities and attacked by vigilante groups. Political leaders joined the xenophobic outcry. In this immediate context, 31 survival miners died in an explosion in an abandoned gold mine in Virginia, in the Free State province. These are just the latest in a long history of deaths of black workers in the now dying South Africa mining industry.

The Bench Marks Foundation decided to visit the home areas of those who perished in order to appreciate them as people and to understand how they came to be working as survival miners in South Africa. The result is the Bench Marks Foundation report Survival Mining in South Africa: behind the dominant narrative. It listens to the voices of the communities where they came from and then places the phenomenon of survival mining within its historical and economic context.   

The voices
The area that the Bench Marks Foundation research team visited in the villages of Lesotho is an area with a rich culture of poetry and music. We met with the families of some of the victims as well as a local councillor and one survivor. They explained how the young men of the villages are lured to work as survival miners through an organised recruitment process. They don’t share this with their families, who were shocked when they heard where they were working. They were also very distressed that so few bodies have been retrieved.

The councillor spoke of the recruitment process as human trafficking and described attempts by the Lesotho government to protect the young men.

We heard from a survivor what happened on the fateful day. He describes how white men came and threw a grenade down the shaft. That was what caused the explosion. He had no idea why this happened.

And finally we heard from a survival miner who was not involved in the incident, who described the work of the mine and how the gold is sold, sometimes to the mine owners themselves. He described how survival miners can prosper, as witnessed by his large brick house.

Throughout the process we heard the cries of the widows who wanted the bodies of their husbands so that they could bury them according to custom.

Bench Marks Analysis
The South African mining industry has been one of the most productive on the continent. It is now in its death throes, leaving behind 6,000 abandoned mines, mine workers without work and labour-sending areas without income. In this context the work of survival miners could be valuable for the South African economy.

Although about 70% of arrested survival miners were undocumented migrants, South Africans are deeply involved, often in processing and selling. The mining process is largely manual – the gold is washed over mercury before being separated from the mercury, using blow torches.

Survival mining is driven by economic exclusion and neglect of former mine workers and of the former labour-sending areas. The economy of Lesotho, for example, changed from grain production to supply of workers for the mines, driven partly by its exclusion from the lucrative grain market of the Free State. Underlying the problem lies a failure of the government to plan for a transition to small- and medium- scale mining, or to meet its constitutional obligations towards historically disadvantaged people in the mining industry.

Belatedly, in 2022, the DMRE published a policy for the creation of a sustainable artisanal and small-scale mining industry in South Africa. But this policy has a number of shortcomings. In particular, it ignores the former miners from outside South Africa and fails to provide for a centralised buying agency, allowing criminal syndicates to continue.

Questions and Recommendations
A number of questions remain about where survival miners get supplies for the materials they use as well as the armaments they possess.

We made 10 recommendations. These include that DMRE require the proper closing of exhausted mines and conduct an audit of abandoned mines and of survival mining operations. DMRE should also encourage survival miners to form viable business units and create a central buying agency. Local municipalities need to set up supply chains for the miners. DMRE must ensure that retrenched and retired mine workers receive all the benefits due to them. The mining industry, together with the government, must put resources into the development of labour-sending areas. And dangerous mining practices must be criminalised in both formal and informal sectors.


Goringhaicona Council submits charges against the private ‘Amazon’ developer for conspiring to remove opposition to its R5 billion development

Lawyers acting for High Commissioner Tauriq Jenkins, on behalf of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council (GKKITC), have filed an application for rescission of the full bench judgement of 08 November 2022, following the revelation of evidence of fraud committed by developer Jody Aufrichtig from Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT), his associate, Mark Fyfe, and attorney Tim Dunn who are central to the deception. These individuals conspired to neutralise opposition to the multi-billion rand development for Amazon.

The affidavits detail meetings in which Aufrichtig, Fyfe and Dunn planned to destroy the reputation of Tauriq Jenkins and then oust him as the GKKITC spokesperson and High Commissioner, allowing a group of outsiders to then hijack the organisation. Jenkins has been among the most prominent indigenous voices objecting to the Amazon development, which is being built on land with unique historical and spiritual significance.  

The whistleblowers also provide clear evidence of falsified meeting registers and resolutions. With these fake documents, the developer – with the support of an attorney named Tim Dunn – was able to convince the courts that Tauriq Jenkins was not the legitimate leader of the GKKITC, thereby eliminating opposition to the Amazon development.

The application of rescission entered into the courts today should reverse that outcome in due course, absolving Tauriq Jenkins of any wrongdoing.

Should the courts find that High Commissioner Jenkins was wrongly removed from his position, there may be other legal consequences for the seven people named by the whistleblowers. To remedy the situation, the application asks for the following order:
1. The rescission of the High Court judgement by Baartman, Slingers and Lekhuleni under case numbers 12339/2022 and 12993/2021, which will also reinstitute the Goliath interdict against the development.
2. A criminal investigation into the conduct of Aufrichtig, Fyfe, Dunn and four other respondents.
3. An investigation by the Legal Practice Council into the conduct of attorney Tim Dunn.
4. Costs of the application

Throughout the high-profile battle between indigenous groups and the developer, which has played out in public demonstrations, in the courts and in the press, Amazon – the main tenant of the development – has remained silent. It remains to be seen whether Amazon will comment on their association with a property development linked to fraud. It should be noted that they have not responded thus far on the charge that the construction of their headquarters is destroying sacred African heritage. Likewise, Amazon seems to have no qualms about its multi-billion dollar deal with the Israeli army, helping it oppress and kill the Palestinians.

The GKKITC has always objected to the development on the grounds of the heritage, environmental and spiritual significance of the land. Once the organisation’s legitimate leadership is reinstated, it promises to take up the fight once more.

The GKKITC also wants a judicial review to examine the City of Cape Town’s approval of the development, since the Province’s heritage body and the City’s own environmental authority both objected to the development, but were ignored.

The GKKITC and Save our Sacred Lands would like to thank our esteemed legal team for their exceptional work over many months to put together the 600+ page application. We are represented by attorney Jonathan Raphunga as well as Advocates Ben Winks, Tongayi Masvikwa and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC. Our heartfelt praise goes out to Advocate Ngcukaitobi SC who recently made our nation proud at the International Court of Justice where he presented a groundbreaking application aiming to put a stop to Israel’s genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine.

It should be noted that just before this press release was finalised, two clear incidents of intimidation have been confirmed targeting Commissioner Jenkins and our key whistleblower Ebrahim Abrahams. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of
our activists. Should anything happen to our brethren, we will hold the respondents responsible.

These forms of intimidation, threats and smears will not be tolerated. No one is above the law. We seek justice and we remain resolute that justice will be attained.

Final Declaration of the Thematic Social Forum

An extract of the full declaration:

The planetary emergency rising from centuries of capitalist extractivism requires a deep transformation not only of our energy systems but also of how we relate to energy, how we relate with nature, and how we produce, consume, and organise our lives. The ‘just transition’ as proposed from a corporate perspective deepens the existing fossil fuel and extractive development model, which doesn’t offer an alternative to the prevailing climate crisis.

Without the self-determination of peoples and public participation in decision-making, without gender justice, economic justice, racial justice, and climate justice, there can be no just transition. We recognize the place of the commons, their struggles, and their rights, thus the Just transition should prioritise moving away from the existing destructive extractive model. 

We propose the reskilling of workers, and the transference of knowledge and technology in a just, equal, and fair collaboration. Decent livelihoods and work can flourish in building the socially owned and democratically managed renewable energy systems; agro-ecological food systems; small scale fisheries; land, ocean, and ecosystem restoration; community health and social housing that underpin a real just socio-ecological transition.

A real socio-ecological transition should centre the needs and aspirations of communities alongside workers, and ensure decent and dignified livelihoods, and public services for all.  

Central to the struggles for alternatives is the Right To Say NO. We say NO to this model of extractivism and converge on the position that all remaining coal, gas, oil, and mineral reserves must remain underground, for a future safe for nature, peoples, and Mother Earth.

Excessive consumption must be curbed, based on the principles of sufficiency and decent livelihoods. Productivism, endless growth, and accumulation for accumulation’s sake must be reversed. As it was said during the Forum: ‘We do not live to produce but we produce to live’. 

Contesting the narratives of capitalist “progress” and “modernization”; defending and strengthening our own knowledge, cultural practices, and cosmovisions; and sharing stories, experiences, and testimonials are important strategies for building wide and coherent networks of resistance to extractivism in all its forms and expressions. Local initiatives and the reconstruction of social issues are the foundation for building the counterpower needed to challenge and change the system. 

Nature, air, water, oceans, minerals, and all forms of life are not for sale and are worth more than minerals. These are the commons that we must protect and share with all peoples and future generations. Respecting its preservation is an ethical imperative and a foundation for peace, and social justice.

With the ongoing war and genocide in Palestine by Israel as we write this declaration, we acknowledge that war strengthens extractivism and we call on Israel to immediately implement a ceasefire, as has been tabled by over 120 countries in the UN and allow for humanitarian aid and rebuilding in Gaza. 

We strongly condemn all indiscriminate killings and targeting of civilians. In this regard, we are inspired by the perspectives of many Indigenous Peoples and local communities who affirm nature’s rights and understand that nature is not a property. Every ecosystem has the right to live and flourish, ‘water has the right to flow and birds to drink and fly’. Oceans, rivers, and land are rights-bearing entities, and we need to recognize their sacredness. In many cultures, every being experiences a special connection to nature, and the destruction of ecosystems is related to the violence imposed on them. 

The convergences and solidarities forged in this Thematic Social Forum provide the inspiration for our collective campaigns, actions, new global alliances, and assemblies of the peoples which will guarantee our common future beyond extractivism. 

Semarang, Indonesia 19 October 2023

Elephants feed along the banks of the Crocodile River, close to where a new coal mine is planned – Image: Tingana Collection (Courtesy Daily Maverick)


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

SA Water Caucus 

SA WATER CAUCUS is an important structure and the Bench Marks Foundation has decided to redouble its efforts in strengthening their initiatives. Our work around water makes it imperative that we work against the polluters of water and tailing facilities /dams. In this MEET-UP, we speak to comrade Sandile.

My name is Sandile Nombeni; I was born and grew up in Kwa-Thema Springs in Gauteng South Africa, and I matriculated in Kenneth Masikela Secondary School.

SAWC is South Africa’s largest water and environmental justice movement, established at the  2002 Environmental Justice World Summit. I am the SAWC National Coordinator since November 2019 and my priorities are: 
1. Fighting for community inclusive and sustainable water and environmental governance,
2. Ensuring equal and sufficient water access for all, and
3. Building SAWC to be the largest water justice movement in the African Continent.

On our website, one can read:
“SAWC has been active since its formation and is recognised by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation as a critical voice of representation and engagement in policy and implementation processes. SAWC has worked on issues and processes including national water resource strategy, large dams, regulation measures, water quality, water pricing and tariffs, water and sanitation service delivery, water management devices and cut-offs, river and wetland pollution, NEPAD and The Water Dialogues.”

In terms of what you can contribute as BMF, I will have to consult with the SAWC Coordinating Committee, but in my personal opinion: 

SAWC is a citizens driven water movement that puts sustainable water quality issues for the present and future generations at the forefront to conserve and protect the natural water sources for survival of a balanced global ecosystem for all people, animals and plants. SAWC is currently in a partnership with Water Can on a water testing campaign running across all South African provinces.
As a water and environmental justice movement we do need all the support we can get as long as the support has no political influence over the movement.

My contact details are 065 293 8694

A valuable resource

Hamba Kahle Comrade Connie

Comrade Constance Galeo Mogale died on Saturday, 24 December 2023, while receiving treatment for a life-threatening illness. She was a leader for many and served many CSOs, in particular the Alliance for Rural Democracy. In this Bulletin, we share two tributes of our late sister, comrade, friend Constance Mogale. She was a Board Member, who served her family and our wider society well. Henk Smith and Wilmien Wicomb, lawyers and comrades who worked closely with Constance, have written these tributes.  

Constance Mogale was too young to die. Not one friend, family member, work colleague can take responsibility for not being there for her when a difference could have been made. Our country’s health system failed her. Our country’s land reform programme is still failing our communities. Constance made an enormous contribution to land reform as community leader, intellectual, first applicant in court cases and civil society champion.

As an exceptionally young student, Connie was chosen to be part of the first cohort of young South Africans to study medicine in Cuba. She did not go to Cuba because of personal circumstances and because she was already committed to grassroots activism in land reform. But if she had gone to Cuba, she would also have made a difference in the health reform sector, and maybe not have died young.

In the middle of 2023, already twelve months into her illness (wrongly diagnosed at the time), we travelled to Lesetlheng. We met with Rakgadi Grace Maledu and her committee, and visited the Wilgespruit farmers. They are again, despite their Constitutional Court victory, threatened with eviction. Connie was, as always, irrepressible.

Grace and Constance
Returning, we took a detour through the Pilanesberg Park. Timothy, Connie’s younger son, was driving and Connie was holding sway from the front passenger seat. First we had to stop to collect elephant dung in the road… a drier piece and a fresher damper piece. Now, with the windows wide open, Connie exhorted the Big Five to reveal themselves. None the wiser, a young but very large elephant cow paused her destruction of a tree right next to the road. We stopped and Connie entered into loud conversation. The debate ended when Tlou flapped her ears and stormed the big black Ford with Connie shouting Jo Jo Jo. Timothy raced off. When Connie got her breath back, she explained that she invited her sister to join the Bathlong clan, and not get into the car with us.

Unlike in Pilanesberg, Constance never saw her come-uppance in Parliament. It was a pleasure to appear, on a number of occasions, with such a committed and diligent comrade before parliamentary committees. 

With immense self assurance and confidence, Constance was a joy to watch in action as she fielded questions and allegations by parliamentarians who were clearly out of their depth. They were unfamiliar to being challenged by our most knowledgeable peoples’ professor and peoples’ minister of lands and rural democracy.

I am personally indebted to Constance and her family. In 2017, we were at a meeting in Sefikile in Northwest. I received a strange document that would eventually end my association of three decades with the LRC. I told Connie that I want to be with my family in Cape Town. She and her son packed up and took me to the airport. She read the document. She asked me three questions, said she was satisfied with my answers. She said she would support me. She did so for the rest of her life.

Re a leboga ba Mogale.
Robala a kagiso Tlou!

by Henk Smith

I started at the LRC in 2009 and encountered Connie Mogale for the first time fairly soon as rural community members gathered in Cape Town to prepare submissions to parliament on the occasion of the Bantu Administration Repeal Bill hearings. From that day on, much of my work and indeed the LRC’s land work relied on and was made possible by her work.

Her painful passing made me reflect upon that, upon how central she was in enabling the work of so many others, and I wondered whether I told her that often enough. I probably did not, and I wondered why Connie was often not celebrated the way others with her extraordinary achievements would be.

The human rights sector is founded on divides and struggles within itself: between the funder and the implementer (and then, often the Global North and the Global South), the NGO and ‘the community’, the academic and the practitioner, the lawyer and the litigant. And often, between the community member who becomes the face of the campaign, and the community members at home. And often the glory, the recognition, the credit would go to one side of the divide – the leader, the lawyer, the NGO – at the expense of the others.

Over the last weeks in the many incredible tributes that people have shared about Connie, we have heard that she was not just one of these things, but many: practitioner, academic, community leader, litigant. That is unusual. But even more extraordinary is that in every role she played, she would always forego the credit, the glory and the recognition. She was just about doing the job, whatever that was.

At times she had righteous anger about the fact that others in her position, communities and CBOs, were overlooked for support by funders seduced by the NGOs and the lawyers whose efforts might be more in the public eye. She spoke out about that bravely. But it was never about her. It was about the people she fought for.

I think she was able to play so many different roles in this struggle not only because she had the skills to do so, but because she was a leader who never stepped away from her followers, and remained one of them. She defied any divides between herself and the people she led.

I am in awe of that, but aware that it is part of why she couldn’t separate herself from the struggles around her and could not rest, even when her life depended on it. In honour of her, we can and will of course take the work forward. But maybe we should also reflect upon how we divide ourselves in the sector, isolate ourselves from each other, intentionally or unintentionally. Connie was able to defy that pattern. We can at least try.

by Wilmien Wicomb


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