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22nd April 2024

May 2022

Dear Friends, welcome to our May edition of the Bulletin, featuring the regular sections as we reflect on our work, and burning issues of the weeks since our last bulletin. Our campaigning, as it is revealed throughout this BULLETIN, is to organise and ensure that the communities and others we work with see justice at the end of the day. We organise and advocate for radical change, like in this interview the Bench Marks Foundation head of Media did alongside the representative of Macua/Wamua. We were critical of the Mining Indaba and the marginalisation of mining communities. 

If one takes our work in the Tailings Working Group, who will be convening a seminar and online workshop as well as launch a new report on 31 May 2022. This new international civil society tailings report campaigns for transparency, civil society participation and accountability about how and where they are constructed, managed and monitored.

Tailings dams are failing with increasing frequency and severity. Recent tailings dam failures across the world have led to over 300 deaths, hundreds of kilometres of contaminated rivers and ecosystems, and have resulted in billions in lost profits and remediation costs for mining companies. As climate change brings increasingly severe and extreme weather conditions, tailings dams are becoming more and more of a risk as we discussed in the last Bulletin.

All are invited to participate. Those coming to the face to face event at the University of Johannesburg, Doornfontein campus, will have to show a valid Covid Vaccination Certificate. Those seeking to join online must register here.

· BREAKING NEWS · BREAKING NEWS · BREAKING NEWS ·

The breaking news about the charging of former Mineral Resources Deputy Director General (DDG) Joel Raphela, and former Gupta associates Ronica Ragavan, former trustee of Optimum Coal Mine, and Pushpaveni Govender must count as good news. They appeared in court on 25 May and are facing various charges including fraud, forgery, uttering, perjury and money laundering related to R107.5 million rehabilitation funds meant for the Optimum Coal Mine and Koornfontein Mine trust accounts in 2016. The National Prosecuting Authority Investigating Directorate (NPA ID) accuses them of using funds meant for the rehabilitation of the mine, which were allegedly illegally transferred to other companies. A spokesperson for the NPA says that “R7.5 million was transferred from the Optimum Mine Rehabilitation Trust account… to Optimum Coal Mine, and the amount was used as part of the payment of R26.4 million to Klipbank Mining, which is not in accordance with the requirements of the trust, regardless of what the funds were used for.”

The charges also state that Ragavan and Govender obtained R100 million from the Koorfontein Trust Account in June 2016, to act as surety for a loan in favour of Tegeta for the purchase of Optimum Coal Mine. 

Raphela authorised the funds to be released from the Koornfontein Mine Rehabilitation Trust in contradiction of the rules of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The Act stipulates that the Minister of that department keeps rehabilitation funds to deal with the environmental impacts that mining leaves behind when the mine is sold or closed. 

Transferring monies from the two rehabilitation funds into other private current accounts is fraudulent and a violation of the rules. The former DDG, failed by authorising the funds to be released from the Koornfontein Mine Rehabilitation Trust. “These funds were for communities. Little wonder the over 6000 abandoned mines stand unrehabilitated,” a Bench Marks Community Monitor said on hearing the news. “We need more like this,” she added

ARTICLES

Credit Matt Wuerker

INEQUALITY KILLS

The trend throughout this BULLETIN is about power and disempowerment. For us, after Covid and the floods and unrest – provoked or not -, it underwrites the recent World Bank report findings that South Africa is the world’s most unequal country with “race” playing a key role in a society. It found that 10% of the population owns more than 80% of the wealth.

These findings were not surprisingly because of the post apartheid policies of the government, now almost three decades into the New South Africa.

Neoliberal economics and politics has resulted in “race” remaining a key factor in South Africa’s high levels of inequality, “due to its impact on education and the labour market.”  The World Bank also found that ethnicity contributes 41% to income inequality and 30% in education. These factors (not excluding missteps and lack of policial will), the World Bank found, could be traced back to the existing legacy of colonialism and apartheid, which set in place racial and spatial segregation that “continues to reinforce inequality”.

Stats SA found similarly: about 13.8 million people live below the food poverty line, which is R561 (in April 2019 prices) per person per month. South Africa also faces a 29% unemployment rate and a 55% poverty rate (Stats SA, 2020). Vulnerability to poverty and hunger has now been exacerbated by Covid-19 pandemic. (Quoted by the ANC discussion documents 2022 Umrabulo)

In line with this, the government has pointed out that the country’s official unemployment rate at the beginning of this year stood at 35.5% as a consequence of the shrinkage of the economy. They point out that even the investment rate has declined and as a result: “Overall, poverty and inequality have worsened.” 

It is a pity that the ANC and government has not commented sufficiently on the increased power of CEOs and the elites. This has not stopped Sibanye Stillwater’s Ceo Neal Froneman from justifying his R300 million payout.

Whilst this is happening close to 30 000 gold mining workers have been on strike since March9 at Sibanye Stillwater have been demanding about a R100 rands monthly increase (about US 63 dollars). 

At the bottom end of the rung, civil society groups like Black Sash have been campaigning just to hold onto the modest  R 350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant introduced at the height of Covid. Other campaigners demand a Universal Basic Income Grant. 


At a global level, the situation is no different to that experienced in our country. Recently at Davos, Oxfam International took the campaign against poverty and inequality to the bosses. 

They have argued that the world post Covid has become more unjust. The horrendous facts speak out for action:

  • The wealth of the 10 richest men has doubled, while the incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off, because of COVID-19.35; 
  • The 10 richest men in the world own more than the bottom 3.1 billion people;
  • If the 10 richest men spent a million dollars each a day, it would take them 414 years to spend their combined wealth;
  • If the richest 10 billionaires sat on top of their combined wealth piled up in US dollar bills, they would reach almost halfway to the moon.

At DAVOS, they argued that 260 million people could be plunged into extreme poverty due to various factors, the skyrocketing inflation, whilst hundreds have become billionaires whose cumulative wealth rose 30 percent. The Covid19 pandemic and the rises in food prices linked to Russia’s war on Ukraine have exacerbated matters.

They contrast poverty and misery with the growth in billionaires which has risen by  573 to just less than 2,700 since 2020. Al Jazeera reported that the billionaires “cumulative wealth rose nearly $3.8 trillion to $12.7 trillion, the group [Oxfam International] said after analysing data from Forbes.”

“Millions of people around the world are facing a cost-of-living crisis due to the continuing effects of the pandemic and the rapidly rising costs of essentials, including food and energy,” the Oxfam report said. “Inequality, already extreme before COVID-19, has reached new levels,” it added, demanding taxes on the rich.”


All the articles and resources provided here present not only a call for an equitable sharing of basic resources but also a picture of how power is used in society.

Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media

SCMAC RALLIES THE COMMUNITIES TO HOLD ANGLO PLATINUM AND DMRE ACCOUNTABLE

On the 13th of May 2022, Sekhukhuni Combined Mining Affected Communities (SCMAC) and its partners marched and handed over a memorandum of demands to the Anglo Platinum mine. SCMAC represents mining-affected communities in the Sekhukhune region.

The organisation has been challenging injustices of environment, land inaccessibility, and power imbalances exuded by Anglo platinum. Anglo platinum’s arrival in the Sekhukhune region has generated many grievances, which to date have been unresolved. This is despite Anglo America earlier this year reporting a positive financial performance of $20.6 billion for the 2021 year. Their curated messages to the world, suggesting that they are a responsible company geared to improve people’s lives, contradict the realities in mine host communities.

The communities who joined in the march include the relocated communities, who are still not happy with their relocations. Magobading community, one of the relocated communities tells a story of unfulfilled promises. Anglo agreed with this community in 2018 and has since reneged on these agreements. They are clearly taking advantage of the vulnerability within the community.

At the centre of this communities’ struggles is the issue of inaccessibility to land. The community believes that Anglo platinum has occupied a substantial amount of the ploughing and grazing field. This has, by and large, contributed to low levels of employment and acute poverty. The placing into care and maintenance of the Twickenham shaft longer than expected has raised concerns from the community. It has added to the swelling unemployment in the area. The community is worried that leaving this shaft idle defeats the objective of why Anglo in the first place displaced the people. They demand that the Twickenham shaft be open and that locals are given opportunities for employment and procurement.

The communities are confident that they will continue with their campaign to hold Anglo accountable by forcing them to address the impacts. They will also challenge the Department of mineral resources and energy to play their role and act on this mine’s poor performance.

Eric Mokoua

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD: 
Traditional Healers Struggle With Mining by Jan Skosana

“Waste and pollution that results from an increase in population due to mining has a bad effect on plants because some of the plants are no longer growing. Plants absorb water from the soil and, if contaminated, medication might be dangerous or have bad side effects.

The traditional healers travel 3-4 weeks (to Mozambique and other nearby countries) because they have to look for the herbs and dig and pack. This travelling costs money and this is not good as their people have to pay more to traditional healers so that they can cover costs. Traditional healing is not the same as western style of healing where you buy medication over the counter. One has to prepare the medication (collect, grind, dry and mix with other herbs or animal products), yet sometimes there is no profit as customers cannot afford the prices. Another point is humanity. A traditional healer will never let their patient die because s/he does not have money. This means that traditional healers suffer a loss. This is the reason why most traditional healers businesses are not growing.“

This is the First Edition in 2022 of the Newsletter of the Community Monitors School. This is a selection from 84 monitor reports posted in the Month of April. The Community Monitors School is a training programme and a network created by the Bench Marks Foundation to support communities living near mines to speak in their own voice. You can see more Community Monitors Reports and follow their work here

Two related resources:

  • Activists Resource Book by the Bench Marks Community Monitors School
  • Food for thought from The Ecologist: We must be able to imagine a world free from mining destruction before we can make this a reality. Can you imagine a world without mining? The US Geological Survey Bulletin bluntly claimed in a 1983 issue that “without mining, there is nothing”. Even those who are now striving to get us out of the hole we have dug ourselves into by burning massive amounts of fossil fuels and destroying whole ecosystems in the past century, often find it hard to break out from ‘solutions’ based on more and more extraction. It is now argued that we need to mine far more metals for the energy transition and digitalisation.

Dear Mr President

You have had a tough time recently, with the floods, continuing lawlessness and killing of activists and women in particular. These issues will not be step-aside by simple resolutions. Having said this, we must commend you and your movement for at least trying to engage in the battle of ideas. Some of your members believe you engage and win these debates.

The historic and current challenges of racism, poverty and inequality are well articulated in the documents prepared for the Policy Conference 2022. We hope delegates can add depth. 

We are concerned in society and perhaps also in the documents how to tackle from the top down the epidemic of violence by men against women.

The ANC Policy Conference papers (In Umrabulo 2022, special edition) correctly identifies the violence against women requires a wide and deep response.  “2.5 At the centre of building a new society is the need to address socio-economic inequalities, which breeds social ills such as high levels of violence, gender based violence and femicide including misuse of alcohol and drugs…..”

Under the section Social Transformation, it is written thus:

“32. The Victim Empowerment Centres, Victim Support Units, and Thuthuzela care centres should be upscaled and fully resourced, including up-scaling the availability of social workers, including in schools. 

The integration of services and the utilisation of the Gender Based Violence Command Centre must be taken forward. SAPS officials must be trained in gender sensitivity and appropriate practice in dealing with victims of sexual offences and domestic violence. 

  1. Public education and awareness on criminal evidence required for successful prosecution of cases of violence against women and children is required. 
  2. The full might of the criminal justice system, including the denial of bail and the sentence regime, should be utilised in the combatting of violence against women and children, particular in relation to domestic violence and sexual offences.”

I recall how many of our sisters, mothers, partners went to Beijing and it appeared that we were beginning to turn the tide against the war on women. There was real energy there from the women who demanded that women’s rights become human rights.The Beijing Platform for Action defines violence against women as

“any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical,sexual or psychological harm, or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”

(United Nations 1995, 73, 112)

You, Mr President, have repeatedly spoken about the government programmes, structures and other initiatives underway to stem the tide of violence against women. Patriarchy is a tough beast to tame and we are not sure we are making a dent.I want to quote from the documents again and humbly suggest, despite the good intentions mentioned above, it may be where things are wrong:

“6.4 Gender-based violence and femicide has been declared as a pandemic in our country. Various response measures have been initiated including government programmes and civil society engagements. What measures can be strengthened or put in place to combat gender-based violence and femicide? What else is there that can be explored to ensure our women and children are and feel safe in our country?” (p107)

I may be missing something here but I believe the language “our women and our children” may be part of the problem. It too strongly represents patriarchal tendencies in a discussion that wanted to tackle it (the document raises the concept (or word?) patriarchy at least a dozen times).

I wonder if this question to the violence against women and black lesbian women and femicide is properly placed before the delegates. We may want to start here but not end there as we must all do much more to eradicate the physical, systemic and structural violence in our society and the violence against women in particular.

The language of OUR, begs the question: does it include those who are considered to be anti-systemic like Nokuthula Mabaso, a powerful leader in the eKhenana Commune and the Women’s League Abahlali baseMjondolo who was assassinated 4 days after MayDay?

Mr President tells us clearly that it is not only workshops, better policing and so on that is needed. We must say it out loud that this violence on women is perpetrated overwhelmingly by MEN. It is a war zone out there. If there is a need for ownership, it is this. OUR MEN are abusing and killing women. If and when they do eventually appear in court, we hear how good human beings they are and so on. Something is broken and has been broken for a long time. Patriarchy is in the dock, and we must do everything in our power to end it.

I end with a non original thought: the best people are not all in our party, and I know you believe this. So, let local authorities and others having public spaces provide rent-free offices for workshops and self-organisation amongst women and let the women define the problems and solutions themselves. 

The women are in and outside these structures and are trying to make programmes including adopting the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide (GBVF)…

It is time for OUR men to be more modest… and let WOMEN LEAD from the bottom to the top.

THE MEET - UP

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

ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND EX-OFFICIO BOARD MEMBER MOSES CLOETE

[Moses Cloete has been formally appointed as head of the staff and work of the organisation. The mandate is for two years, but little is known of Moses. Who is he, what are his ideas and where does he come from? We asked him to write to us:]

We are almost into a fifth wave of Covid 19 that has now claimed many lives – the number by all credible accounts are underestimated. Many comrades have fallen. And the rather “normal” deaths could be forgotten. I and some of the Bench Marks Foundation staff have lost people close to us which emphasises the fragility of the human condition. 

I grew up in a township that has not changed much over the last quarter of a century and is ravaged by drugs and gang fare. A township where the people per square kilometre grows, with the attendant poverty and distance from those few who are endowed in a perpetual way.

I’ve worked with comrades in AIDC and ILRIG but my life in struggle really began in the Young Christian Workers where I was privileged to be the General Secretary and later International President. 

According to many commentators, the YCW had good organisers and were instrumental in the building of a strong and vibrant trade union movement, civics and student movement.  For this role as well as the role in community organisations, many believed that the YCW was proudly South African. In reality, it was an international movement and was established in many countries before it arrived here. 

S Bate writes that the YCWs organisational methodology and structures were “a cell-based group system of young people who examine their social conditions and reflect on them in terms of the teaching of the Gospel. These reflections led to action in society by individual members of the group who were called leaders or activists or by the action of the group as a whole. This is the established missionary method of “See, Judge, Act” carried out by groups of Christians and well known now for many years in South Africa.”

Being at the helm of the organisation means hard work. It is about me as a person but how the organisation works as a collective, a whole.

We must pick up the pieces after two years of isolation imposed upon us by the COVID pandemic, which overlay the existing climate crisis. More recently for us in South Africa we have had the massive floods that resulted in deaths of loved ones, destruction to property and livelihoods.

We have to pick up the pieces. We have to reconnect with our core constituencies: the church and faith communities in general, as meeting the demands of the Option of the Poor cannot be done without the religious fraternity. 

We also have to reconnect with all our donors and partners as we are cognisant that many organisations have closed down due to the socio-economic crisis worsened by the post Covid reality. Thus, the wise management of resources working to our strategic plan is essential.

All this is achievable if we are to remake ourselves and our world. (rephrase) We will have to rediscover the values of community, solidarity, as well as common human decency of honesty and straight talking. As we do this, we will continue to speak truth to power and, to do that effectively, we have to renew our organisation and our movements. The simple reason for this is that solidarity, like charity, starts at home.

JOZI GOLD
Release year: 2019
Length: 74 min

The mines of Johannesburg, or Jozi, have produced a third of all the gold mined in human history. Now the mines are falling apart and the city confronts an environmental nightmare: Tons of radioactive waste polluting the air and turning water into poisonous Acid Mine Drainage. Former Jehovah’s Witness Mariette is on a mission to uncover the truth about Jozi’s mine waste and force the gold industry to take responsibility.

BACKGROUND

In 1886 the world’s largest gold deposits were discovered in a rural part of South Africa. A boomtown was born: Johannesburg, Africa’s richest city.

Gold production peaked in 1970 and declined rapidly in the late 1980s when the best ore was mined out. The Apartheid regime collapsed in the early 1990s along with gold output. The mines have left six billion tons of solid waste in surface dumps… 600,000 tons are radioactive. Uranium is naturally found in the same rock as gold. Tens of millions of litres of Acid Mine Drainage, a toxic soup that forms when water comes into contact with mined rock, flow out of disused mine tunnels every day.

Almost no research has been done and for decades anyone who dared to look into it was defunded or intimidated. A recent study estimated that up to 1,6-million people may be living dangerously close to mine waste dumps. Mines and the government fear that clean-up and healthcare costs of mine pollution might equal 60 years’ of gold industry profits. Because there is a great and general reluctance to address the problem, the work of Mariette Liefferink has taken centre stage.

FEDERATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

After introducing you to Jozi Gold, which offers an insight into the life and work of Mariette Liefferink, in this edition we meet the Federation for Sustainable Development (FSE). 

FSE is today widely recognised as the most prominent of the environmental activist stakeholders in the mining industry and was a finalist in the 2019/2020 NSTF-South 32 Awards “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to science, engineering, technology and innovation.” Its CEO is Mariette Liefferink, who has worked very hard, making the organisation a force for community good. In addition, she has won international fame for her role in a movie about mining and its impacts, called Jozi Gold.

Over the years FSE developed good, solidarity relations with many organisations including the Bench Marks Foundation. Its founding objectives include the following: 

  • Protecting and promoting environmental health and functional ecosystems for future generations;
  • Ensuring that developments involving the consumptive or destructive use of natural resources specifically benefit local residents and parties directly affected by the development;
  • Informing all decision making in development, including in planning and monitoring activities that affect local people and natural and environmental resources;
  • Promoting sustainable and just social development as an inseparable consequence of natural resource use development projects;
  • Taking action, including legal action, to hold decision makers accountable in situations where development may have negative social, economic or environmental impacts that affect people and the environment;
  • Ensuring that the total cost of the use of natural resources including all externalised and long-term costs of maintaining ecosystem services to local people, are provided for and borne by the project;
  • Facilitating the remedying of existing environmental degradation;
  • Mobilising collaborative national and local action among like minded entities and raising and providing funds and legal and technical expertise to support such actions.

The Sunday Independent (September 9, 2007) reported on the formal founding of the FSE in October 2007 as follows: “The government and mining houses face a major challenge – and the strong likelihood of legal action – from a powerful new conservation alliance … formed by an array of environmental bodies that are concerned about the way precious parts of the natural environment are being destroyed. Renowned human rights lawyer George Bizos has pledged his support in his capacity as consultant to the Legal Resources Centre.”  “The FSE serves as an example of a protagonist’s progression towards environmental activism which eventually also included traces of proactive activism actions”. 

The FSE is a member of multiple governmental and academic (both national and international) task teams, steering and advisory committees, boards, forums and research projects, and has recently been appointed by the South African Human Rights Commission as a human rights monitor/champion. For a detailed description of its activities, please visit www.fse.org.za

FEDERATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
TEL. (+27) 11 465 6910 (+27) 73 231 4893
Postnet Suite #113, Private Bag X153, Bryanston, 2021
E-MAIL: mariette@pea.org.za

PODCASTS & TV INTERVIEWS

  1. Mining benefits to communities: Will it ever happen? – The Talking Point – Omny.fm
    On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the launch of the nuGen hydrogen powered truck is a remarkable milestone which will lead to the creation of new industries in South Africa and an economy that is more sustainable. He was speaking at the Mogalakwena PGM mine in Mokopane, Limpopo where the launch was happening and one of the things he said is that communities and mine employees won’t be left out in terms of benefitting. Well, over the years, we’ve seen how mining communities have been complaining that they benefit nothing from mines in their area. How should we interpret what the president is saying? If you are in a mining area, should you be happy at what the President is saying?

 

Guest: Raserola Mashamaite – Chair of the Marikana Youth Development Organisation
Guest: Mathapelo Thobejane – Longtime mining community activist in Limpopo and the Bench Mark’s Foundation’s monitor on the ground (She will be speaking from the Mining Indaba)
Guest: Margaret Molomo Community leader of the Mogalakwena Mining Community

  1. Guest in studio line: BenchMarks Foundation’s David van Wyk. ”Mining means turning living things into dead objects to sell for profit.” That’s one of the many lines you won’t be hearing at Mining Indaba this year. 
  2. Understanding inequality:Wits University has embarked on a multi-partner research and policy project focusing on understanding and addressing inequality and building a collaborative southern institution to strengthen and sustain this work. The objective of the Southern Centre of Inequality Studies (SCIS) is to develop a comprehensive and broadly shared understanding of how inequality is produced and reproduced in South Africa and in comparable countries in the global South, and the identification of the sources of power that can address and overcome this inequality. This video displays the various ways in which inequality manifests itself across the global South.
  3. Dick Forslund on Is South Africa still a favourite destination for investment?

    5. #SaveFreeTV campaign supports free-to-air broadcasters opposing the analogue TV switch-off: TV interview Hassen Lorgat

The campaign has continued to keep up the pressure for poor and working people who may see a TV Blackout if there is no intervention. Tthe Constitutional Court case hearing that was heard on 20 May 2022 where eTV, MMA and SOS – our CSO allies were friends of the court.

They are attempting to delay the switch-off of analogue TV broadcasting. The campaign fully supports the objectives of the litigants because if the switch-off happens on the designated date of 30 June 2022, millions of South Africans will be left without access to the information resource of public benefit broadcasting.

USEFUL RESOURCES

NEW and UPDATED REPORT!: The Tailings Working Group event coincides with the publication of Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailing Management (available at www.earthworks.org/safety-first starting May 31st), an updated set of guidelines for improving the management of mine waste disposal facilities endorsed by an international group of scientists, communities, Indigenous Peoples and civil society groups.

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.

Copyright © 2022 Bench Marks Foundation, All rights reserved.