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15th June 2024

May 2024

Dear comrade, this edition comes out early to remind you of the elections and the importance to vote wisely. We cannot tell you who to vote for but we can tell you that it is part of your civic duty to exercise your power to influence democracy.
 
This bulletin is also filled with information about tailings, and the important workshop that we are convening. Tailings are very important as you will read here; as an old mining country, South Africa probably has the most tailings disasters on the continent. In January 2023, Tanzanians learnt that  British based conglomerate Petra Diamonds experienced a tailings dam burst which underwrites the importance and necessity of building a movement for justice around tailings and mine waste that will link experts with grassroots activists from communities and workplaces. Their report in part informs us that, as detailed in the 17 January 2023 announcement under environment, “Williamson Diamonds Limited (WDL) has conducted planting trials from which it aims to establish the best use of land post remediation of affected areas. To date, these trials indicate that the areas lying within the Mining Lease Area (MLA) are best suited to be returned to wilderness, either as forest or wetlands, through amelioration of the soil and revegetation.”

From their report on the local community, we read that: 145 individuals from 23 houses remain accommodated in houses rented by WDL. Humanitarian relief remains in place for all those affected by the breach. The evaluation of impacted livelihoods, undertaken by WDL and independent experts, to ensure that affected individuals are appropriately compensated is complete and the report has been submitted to government authorities for approval.

We are not casting aspersions about whether this was done or not, but in the absence of direct, independent reported community voices, we have to doubt its veracity. With this in mind, read the concept note of the two day workshop planned for the end of June. Those interested, please contact the organisation via its platforms.

Following from this, we also open up a conscious debate which has been ongoing about the costs and benefits of mining on the poor and working people.

Finally, we ask you to desist from engaging in the blame game by attacking foreigners for the ills in our society. This is wrong and in the midst of deaths of poor and working people who have been exploited and their families needing counselling, parties like the PA have condemned the victims for their deaths and not the bosses. Kopanang Africa are widely supported in their understanding that this “contempt shown for our fellow human beings by some political parties hoping to win votes using xenophobia is located in the dehumanisation of black bodies going back to slavery.”

Like national quality public health, we believe communications rights are a fundamental human right and we touch on both these stories. Our resources are fabulous as usual and you must delve in.

Read, enjoy and pass on

· DEBATE ·

Is this the Cost and benefits of mining?

A call from Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane for post-election dialogue on a common platform with all stakeholders to collectively grow the mining industry. During April 2024 they went on a charm offensive praising mining. 

You will read a rosy picture and we ask: Is this the real cost of mining? The communities we work with believe not but it is important to understand what the industry says and to engage in informed debate to counter these arguments. This was a good sell but it importantly ignores the externalisation of costs that results in the mines profiting. Of externalisation, I particularly love the quote accredited to a potential republican senate candidate Robert Monks in the book and the movie The Corporation. He said that: “the corporation is an externalising machine (moving its operating costs and risks to external organisations and people), in the same way that a shark is a killing machine.” This could be said about the mining corporations which have been the dominant economic and political actor in South Africa for centuries. But let us go back to hear the Minerals Council’s arguments.

In a highly publicised intervention #MININGMATTERS TO ALL SOUTH AFRICANS, the Minerals Council, the 130 year-old Council told the world that it still has much to offer as a good corporate citizen and in playing its part in the just and green transition to a low-carbon future.

In addition, they argued that it benefits families through taxes and royalties, including the social impact through the provision of jobs, wages and benefits. They invest in education, etc. “and training to employees and communities, and developing social projects and infrastructure, as well as providing the critical minerals to supplement our health and wellbeing, the mining industry consistently upholds its side of the social bargain and plays a meaningful, and at times an unappreciated role in our economy,” says Mzila Mthenjane, Minerals Council CEO.

They further argued that Members of the Minerals Council, and the wider mining industry, are actively involved “in their host communities to improve lives and livelihoods primarily through their Social and Labour Plans (SLPs), which include investment and developments in schools, healthcare facilities and infrastructure projects, bursaries, and directing procurement spending to new entrants and suppliers to establish start-up businesses and to spread the economic benefits from mining.”

Really?  

For years communities have campaigned that SLPs were beauty parades for the best bidder but that, after the marriage, there was no delivery. Related to this it is wise to revisit the open letter, SCMAC, CALS and AISA called on the minister Mantashe – a call made before – to develop and implement an action plan outlining the steps that will be taken to ensure that the DMRE increases its capacity to monitor SLP compliance, with clear timelines for the implementation, and to take any necessary action to ensure a more effective enforcement of the provisions of the SLPs.

Furthermore, they argued that:

  • The mining sector actually grew its employment in 2023, adding more than 7,500 jobs, while wages increased by R12 billion to R186.5 billion, lives and livelihoods of employees and their families in a difficult economic climate.
  • Their members across five commodities (gold, PGMs, coal, diamonds and iron ore), representing about 60% of formal employment in the mining industry, spent  R2.3 billion on socio-economic development, focusing largely on education and health.
  • These companies surveyed above, spent R5.1 billion on training and development in a single financial year with an estimated value of between R13,500 and R21,700 per full-time employee across the various sectors.
  • According to the survey, women accounted for 25% of management in the companies.
  • The sector increased total taxes (company tax paid, royalties and PAYE by mining employees) by R9 billion or 7% to R135 billion for the intended benefit of all South Africans.

This is all up for debate. Our consistent response has been that this is not the true cost of mining as the COSTS have been externalised onto poor people and communities.

Let me explain: getting workers, management, building the plant and equipment and such are the internal costs. Often these mining deals are for 20 or 30 years and these are made on good terms. Also the pay, historically of workers, has not been very high or rather was kept low for close to 70 years with no union rights. All this is a fertile ground for profits. This is also an externalisation.

Externalisation are those costs not included in the business plans.Externalisation are those excluded from the plans as they may be the way that profits are made. If mines historically had included the full costs of mining , we would not be sitting with over 6000 ownerless and derelict mines. Mine dumps near communities and so on. Other factors may include:

  • The systematic denial of effective rights of mining affected communities, rooted in apartheid and colonialism.
  • Chronic unemployment is a dire issue for both mining corporations and governments. It is dire because it invariably has a social fallout on communities.
  • It follows how waste was managed as a cost imposed on the environment, the poor and working people and society at large. We may also ask, if it is not environmental racism, why are old mine tailings dams and mine dumps near poor and black communities?
  • Public Hospitals have to pay for the health impacts of mining, the asthmas and the cancers, and other diseases that emanate from factories and the mines.Not only the institutions but families mostly women in communities who have been tasked as caregivers are stuck with this burden of care. As indicated above, the mine corporations used to have their own mine and clinics insourced for workers. It seems that these do not exist for workers and they have always excluded mining affected communities
  • Our water: generally speaking is polluted by effluents and waste pollutants.
  • There are other costs, but that is why we invite you to engage in this debate. Some CSO groups have been doing this effectively using various media platforms for interrogating whether mining or the rush for critical raw materials is a benefit or a cost to society.

Finally, it is our objective as activists to ensure that corporations do not push their costs onto society. In addition, the government and regulatory bodies have a legal mandate to see that corporations are good citizens who pay their taxes, do not harm our environment, people, and animal life. In addition, political leaders too must be accountable so that they maintain the credibility to keep all other spheres of society accountable.

ARTICLES

Photo courtesy Alistair Russel. Minister Pandor and Mustapha Barghouthi, Palestinian civil society leader

Johannesburg Declaration on Israel’s Settler-Colonialism, Apartheid and Genocide: Towards a Global Anti-Apartheid Movement for Palestine (12 May 2024)

We, delegates from more than two dozen countries around the world, expressing the views of millions of people from all walks of life, of all faith and non-faith persuasions, of diverse political and ideological views, meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 10 to 12 May 2024, are outraged by a century of colonialism; 75 years of ongoing Nakba; 75 years of Israeli genocide, colonialism, and apartheid; more than 75 years of land theft; 75 years of repression and denial of basic rights and freedoms. 

This is an extract:¨We, inspired by, and many of us having been part of, the global Anti-Apartheid Movement that helped end apartheid in South Africa and Namibia, now rise, as the continuation of that movement, to confront the settler-colonialism and apartheid of Israel and its backers, to ensure Israel and those complicit in its genocide are held accountable, to support the struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people, for the restoration of their rights to freedom, dignity, self determination, return, resistance, as guaranteed by international law. 

We rise now as part of a Global Anti-Apartheid Movement for Palestine, in solidarity with the Palestinians of all faiths, backgrounds and ideologies, who struggle against occupation, colonialism, apartheid and genocide in Palestine and globally. Their heroism, strength and sumud (steadfastness) inspires us to greater heights and to urgent action. We rise with a determination for an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire to end Israel’s genocide, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, ending settler and military terrorism in the West Bank and lifting the siege on Gaza. Palestinians are entitled to reconstruction of all that Israel has destroyed, compensation and reparations. We will not rest until the end of the ongoing Nakba and until Palestine is liberated. We will use all strategies and tactics to work towards our goal, including working for the total isolation of the Israeli apartheid state – as was done by the Anti-Apartheid Movement against the South African apartheid state – using boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns, and other strategies in our Plan of Action. 

We call for the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners, detainees and hostages, and demand an end to arbitrary arrest, administrative detention, abductions, and torture of prisoners. We salute governments that have shown their commitment to confront Israeli injustices and oppose colonialism and apartheid and act in line with their moral and legal obligations as members of the international community. We condemn governments that have enabled or been complicit with the Zionist project, which – from Balfour to Biden – remain complicit even as Israel perpetrates a genocide, and violates international law with impunity. Israel’s assault is on human values of truth, rights, justice, equality, and fairness; it entrenches racism and violent repression, and threatens humanity with nuclear devastation.¨

Read the full text here.

South Africa before the ICJ

South Africa for the third time this year approached the ICJ for an urgent intervention on behalf of Palestinians generally and those particularly in Rafa, Gaza strip. In the main, these are some key points:

  • South Africa is asking the UN’s top court to order an immediate halt to Israel’s incursion in the Rafah area of Gaza
  • South Africa says Israel’s military actions in Rafah are a “genocidal” operation and threaten the “very survival of Palestinians”
  • Israel has previously highlighted its “unwavering” commitment to upholding international law and called South Africa’s case “wholly unfounded”
  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel cannot defeat Hamas without sending ground troops into Rafah
  • The ICJ can make legally binding rulings in disputes between countries, but has little way of enforcing its orders

Here is a full recording of the presentations of our legal team. SA needs respect.

How cartooning tells a story

Cartooning or political cartooning seems to have arisen side by side with the growth and dominance of print media. However, the decline of print media has not brought about a decline in cartooning. It appears that social media has used them extensively. I wonder if they are appreciated enough if not on a printed page, but that is a discussion for another day.

When they are done well, political cartoons can supplement or help to fulfil the understanding of people as to how society or the democracy has functioned or not. In addition, cartoons may help people see issues in a clearer or a more complex light whilst some serve to educate as well as entertain readers.

Let us take a look at how the government’s case before the International Court of Justice was handled by cartoonists. We have a number of brilliant cartoonists in South Africa and the most famous is ZAPIRO (aka Jonathan Shapiro), who is a progressive South African coming from the Jewish community. His views on Israel’s oppression of Palestinians have got him in a lot of hot water, which is a badge of honour of his commitment to justice.

Published in 2018, courtesy Zapiro

We share a cartoon of his as well as go behind the scenes trying to understand his role as a cartoonist. In this interview on Hardtalk, he speaks of the role of cartooning and political commentary.

What is the ICC waiting for? (by Latuff)

By Morad Kolkot

Your vote is your secret, so use it in the best possible way

On 29th May 2024 the nation votes. The list of parties to choose from that are explicitly pro-working class in form and structure is short but there are multiclass parties that have been supported by workers and the poor over the years. In a recent programme, Al Jazeera asked whether the government’s stance on Gaza would influence people to vote for the ruling party? What will the new parties do? What about parties on the right that have used immigrants and foreign nationals as enemies? Will they be successful?

The full list of what we have on offer can be found on various platforms, including parliament.

It is better to exercise your choice, but remember that a spoilt  refers to a ballot that has been declared invalid and will not be counted in the election results. Sometimes people make mistakes and sometimes they vote intentionally to spoil the ballot. But the process is not easy.

It is for this reason we have gone to the IEC to explain the process.
How it works:

  • On election day, go to the voting station at which you’re registered (check your voter registration status to find out where you’re registered). During national and provincial elections, you can vote at any station countrywide but, if you vote at a station outside the province in which you’re registered, you can only vote in the national election.
  • Show your green, bar-coded, South African ID book or a temporary identification certificate to the voting officer.
  • The voting officer checks that your name appears on the voters’ roll. If you are not on the voters’ roll, but have proof that you have registered (e.g. registration sticker), the Presiding Officer must validate your proof of registration. If he/she is satisfied with the proof, you must complete a VEC4 form (national elections) or MEC7 form (municipal elections) and will then be allowed to continue as an ordinary voter.
  • Once the voting officer is satisfied that you have the correct ID, are a registered voter and have not already voted, your name is marked off the roll, your ID is stamped on the second page and your thumbnail is inked.
  • The voting officer stamps the back of the correct number of official ballot papers (one per election) and gives them to you.
  • Take your ballot paper/s to an empty ballot booth, mark the ballot paper, fold it so that your choice isn’t visible and place the ballot paper in the ballot box.

Note: You can only vote once in each election.

Why is May 25 referred to as Africa Day?

To adopt a pan-African perspective, Africa must look at itself, democratic, assertive and answerable to its people. This is the sentiment of many who demand a new Africa. The African Union has at last a statue of one of Africa’s most honest and simplest of leaders, Julius Nyerere. Paying her tribute to Nyerere at the launch of the statue, Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan said: “To him, Africa’s wellbeing came first, before popular approval, personal fortune or country wellbeing.”

Here we present an extract of Nyerere’s talk about the need for a United Africa You can read more of the speech here.

Confession and plea
So my remaining remarks have a confession and a plea. The confession is that we of the first generation leaders of independent Africa have not pursued the objective of African unity with the vigour, commitment and sincerity that it deserved. Yet that does not mean that unity is now irrelevant. Does the experience of the last three or four decades of Africa’s independence dispel the need for African unity?

With our success in the liberation struggle, Africa today has 53 independent states, 21 more than those which met in Addis Ababa in May 1963. [Editor: With South Sudan’s independence in 2011, Africa now has 54 independent states]. If numbers were horses, Africa today would be riding high! Africa would be the strongest continent in the world, for it occupies more seats in the UN General Assembly than any other continent. Yet the reality is that ours is the poorest and weakest continent in the world. And our weakness is pathetic. Unity will not end our weakness, but until we unite, we cannot even begin to end that weakness.  So this is my plea to the new generation of African leaders and African peoples: work for unity with the firm conviction that without unity, there is no future for Africa. That is, of course, assuming that we still want to have a place under the sun.

I reject the glorification of the nation-state [that] we inherited from colonialism, and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance. We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa, we have not been completely successful. The outside world hardly recognises our Ghanaian-ness or Tanzanian-ness. What the outside world recognises about us is our African-ness.  

Hitler was a German, Mussolini was an Italian, Franco was a Spaniard, Salazar was Portuguese, Stalin was a Russian or a Georgian. Nobody expected Churchill to be ashamed of Hitler. He was probably ashamed of Chamberlain. Nobody expected Charles de Gaulle to be ashamed of Hitler, he was probably ashamed of the complicity of Vichy. It is the Germans and Italians and Spaniards and Portuguese who feel uneasy about those dictators in their respective countries.

Not so in Africa. Idi Amin was in Uganda but of Africa. Jean Bokassa was in Central Africa but of Africa. Some of the dictators are still alive in their respective countries, but they are all of Africa. They are all Africans, and all perceived by the outside world as Africans.  When I travel outside Africa, the description of me as a former president of Tanzania is a fleeting affair. It does not stick. Apart from the ignorant who sometimes asked me whether Tanzania was in Johannesburg, even to those who knew better, what stuck in the minds of my hosts was the fact of my African-ness.

So I had to answer questions about the atrocities of the Amins and Bokassas of Africa. Mrs [Indira] Gandhi [the former Indian prime minister] did not have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Marcoses of Asia. Nor does Fidel Castro have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Somozas of Latin America. But when I travel or meet foreigners, I have to answer questions about Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, as in the past I used to answer questions about Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia or South Africa.

And the way I was perceived is the way most of my fellow heads of state were perceived. And that is the way you [the people of Africa] are all being perceived. So accepting the fact that we are Africans, gives you a much more worthwhile challenge than the current desperate attempts to fossilise Africa into the wounds inflicted upon it by the vultures of imperialism. Do not be proud of your shame. Reject the return to the tribe, there is richness of culture out there which we must do everything we can to preserve and share.

But it is utter madness to think that if these artificial, unviable states which we are trying to create are broken up into tribal components and we turn those into nation-states, we might save ourselves. That kind of political and social atavism spells catastrophe for Africa. It would be the end of any kind of genuine development for Africa. It would fossilise Africa into a worse state than the one in which we are.

The future of Africa, the modernisation of Africa that has a place in the 21st century is linked with its decolonisation and detribalisation. Tribal atavism would be giving up any hope for Africa. And of all the sins that Africa can commit, the sin of despair would be the most unforgivable. Reject the nonsense of dividing the African peoples into Anglophones, Francophones, and Lusophones. This attempt to divide our peoples according to the language of their former colonial masters must be rejected with the firmness and utter contempt that it richly deserves.

The natural owners of those wonderful languages are busy building a united Europe. But Europe is strong even without unity. Europe has less need of unity and the strength that comes from unity in Africa. A new generation of self-respecting Africans should spit in the face of anybody who suggests that our continent should remain divided and fossilised in the shame of colonialism, in order to satisfy the national pride of our former colonial masters.

Africa must unite! That was the title of one of Kwame Nkrumah’s books. That call is more urgent today than ever before. Together, we, the peoples of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states. The needs of our separate countries can be, and are being, ignored by the rich and powerful. The result is that Africa is marginalised when international decisions affecting our vital interests are made.

Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated. And it will, therefore, increase the effectiveness of the decisions we make and try to implement for our development. My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward.

ENTER THE NHI: Quality Public Services Now!

On the day the president was going to sign the NHS into law, I called a few radio stations who were engaged in hot debates about National Health Insurance. As could be expected, the cacophony of voices was all over with a sizable number of them organised against the right to public health of good quality for all. I called in defending the idea and necessity  of and for quality public health. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI) into law on Wednesday, 15 May 2024. In a statement, the presidency said that this was necessary to “transform South Africa’s healthcare system and ensure universal coverage for health services. Through this, the country will overcome critical socio-economic imbalances and inequities of the past.” The NHI Bill, passed by the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) last year, will provide free healthcare at the point of care for all South Africans, whether in public or private health facilities, they added.

In his official ceremony where he signed the bill, the president said: 
“In signing this Bill, we are signalling our determination to advance the constitutional right to access health care as articulated in Section 27 of the Constitution. The passage of the NHI Bill sets the foundation for ending a parallel inequitable health system where those without means are relegated to poor health care. Under the NHI, access to quality care will be determined by need, not by ability to pay. This will produce better health outcomes and prevent avoidable deaths.”  

There are many concerns about the practical difficulties as well as interests in getting this fundamental human right realised but that is not my main complaint. Mine is that the ruling party and the alliance partners, in particular the unions and the civic movement, were largely responsible for the drafting of the 1994 ANC electoral platform. The manifesto essentially was around the RDP, the Reconstruction and Development Programme which promised to democratise and reconstruct society whilst meeting basic needs.

On 27 April 1994 over 20 million people voted and the ANC – and its alliance partners trade union confederation COSATU and the South African Communist Party – won a significant victory: close to two thirds majority with a whopping 62 percent of the vote.

The enthusiasm of the citizens made a formal and radical shift from our racist past. We won football and rugby cups and were happy inside our rainbow… but seemed to move slowly on some of the issues like the National Health System or, as it is now called, insurance.

The RDP promised health care that would overcome the mental, physical and social health of South Africans which “has been severely damaged by apartheid policies and their consequences. The health care and social services that have developed are grossly inefficient and inadequate.”

In addition, they promised that “one of the first priorities is to draw all the different role players and services into the NHS. This must include both public and private providers of goods and services and must be organised at national, provincial, district and community levels.” The RDP noted that the health sector would be reconstructed and the entire delivery system would be affected. 

Now 30 years later, universal health of high quality for all is needed and we wasted the goodwill and the time. But it is never too late to do the right thing. I end by quoting Stuart Hall, a leading intellectual of the Left in the United Kingdom who in one of his last interviews praised public health in the UK thus: “The NHS is one of the most humanitarian acts that has ever been undertaken in peace time. The principle that someone shouldn’t profit from someone else’s ill health has been lost. If someone says an American health company will run the NHS efficiently, nobody can think of the principle to refute that. The guiding principles have been lost.”

He said this lamenting the failure of the left to defend public services and think and organise for liberation: “The left is in trouble. It’s not got any ideas, it’s not got any independent analysis of its own, and therefore it’s got no vision. It just takes the temperature: ‘Whoa, that’s no good, let’s move to the right.’ It has no sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things.”

Activists in South Africa have also been battered but it is time to revitalise our efforts to get radical voices into our democratic system. We cannot just go with the wind.

By Hassen Lorgat

FROM THE GROUND

Heads they win, tailings we lose?
Extract of the concept note for our 26 / 27 JUNE workshop 2024

[Full concept note can be found here]
 
Participants to the workshop must bear in mind that tailings and mine waste are a wider problem and are present in many countries on our continent and the wider world. The recent mine tailings disaster at the British mining company Petra Diamonds’ Williamson mine in Tanzania stems from a tailings dam breach, causing mining waste and water to spill into the surrounding areas. Thus it is critical that we see the problem as global and that our local organising connects with other groups in other countries.

Returning to South Africa, it is also important to note that the public got to learn first hand whether tailings constitute a mine or not. The legal uncertainties governing tailings are a matter of concern and must be addressed soon, if all human and animal life can be fully protected.

Further observation of these three disasters (Merriespruit tailings dam,.Zululand Anthracite Colliery and Jagersfontein, discussed in the full document) can be picked up: humans and animals die when tailings are not constructed and managed properly and democratically. Water supplies are compromised. The laws managing tailings have to be simplified as they are unclear and too many which became evident when looking at the list below. A further observation is that there are far too many laws that are supposedly regulating tailings and tailings storage in the Republic of South Africa are as follows. Rationalising these must be done in a participatory democratic and inclusive manner –  which we believe is sorely lacking. Before naming these laws, it is important to point out that strife and disasters have often played a role when public outcries have been immense to bring about the necessary reforms. 

  • The Water Act 1998
  • The Minerals Act 1991
  • The Mine Health and Safety Act 1996
  • The Code of Practice for Mine Residue Deposits published by the South African Bureau of Standards in 1998
  • The Guideline for the Compilation of a Mandatory Code of Practice on Mine Residue Deposits issued by the DME in 2000
  • The Mining Residue Regulations (MRR) established by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in July 2015. It was established by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to control mine waste dumps, stockpiles and tailings storage.

These regulations and guidelines aim to ensure safe and responsible tailings management, covering various critical aspects that are aimed at protecting life and property. As we will show, these generally cover how these tailings are designed and built and how they are operated. In addition they touch on the environmental impact assessments and monitoring:

  • Closure and rehabilitation plans
  • Community engagement and risk management
  • Emergency preparedness and response

This is an important sedgeway to talk about the Global Standard and Safety First. As indicated above, the bosses have for years ignored the ever present danger that tailings posed. Until Brumadinho. In fact, there were two other disasters before Brumadinho…  

GLOBAL INDUSTRY STANDARDS ON TAILINGS MANAGEMENT
The workshop on 26 and 27 June will deal with two dominant standards. We will start with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (the Standard), spearheaded by the International Council on Mining and Metals – ICMM – which was founded in 2001, as a CEO-led leadership body with the objective of “improving sustainable development in the mining and metals industry.”

They assert that their ultimate goal is of zero harm to people and the environment. In addition, they promise that tailings must adhere to the principles of transparency, accountability and safeguarding the rights of project affected people.

Their Standard comprises six topic areas, 15 principles and 77 auditable requirements, and will ultimately be supported by implementation protocols that will provide detailed guidance for certification, or assurance as applicable, and for equivalence with other standards.

The second standard is the civil society response to the crisis of tailings management, called SAFETY FIRST: GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE MINE TAILINGS MANAGEMENT.

The groups spearheading this response – which the Bench Marks Foundation signed onto many years ago – include Earthworks, MiningWatch – Canada, and London Mining Network. They argued that the “current standards, the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management released in 2020, do not go far enough to adequately protect communities and ecosystems from failures. The design, construction, operation and closure of tailings facilities require significant changes to protect people and the environment. The safest tailings facility is the one that is not built.”

As a result, the Safety First guidelines are premised on empowerment of communities and experts for the collective good. Democratic participation and voice power features prominently in the standards. Some of these are highlighted as 17 key principles which will be engaged with at the workshop. Here are some of the headings:

  1. Make safety the guiding principle with zero tolerance for human fatalities in design, construction, operation, and closure.
  2. Ensure the consent of affected communities.
  3. Ban new tailings facilities where inhabited areas are in the path of a tailings dam failure.
  4. Ban upstream dams at new mines, and safely close existing upstream facilities.
  5. Any potential loss of life is an extreme event and design must respond accordingly.
  6. Mandate the use of Best Available Technologies, in particular for filtered tailings.
  7. Implement rigorous controls for safety.
  8. Ensure a detailed evaluation of the dam foundation and the tailings properties.
  9. Appropriate monitoring systems must be in place to identify, disclose, and mitigate risks.
  10. Ensure the independence of reviewers to promote safety.
  11. Towards safer closure with no credible failure modes.
  12. Address financial risks, including securities for site closure and proper insurances for accidental spills.
  13. Grievance procedures and whistleblower protection.
  14. Emergency preparedness and response.
  15. Information regarding mine safety must be made publicly available.
  16. Ensure access to independent technical assistance.
  17. Accountability for risk, minimising the consequences of failure, preventing failure, and the consequences of failure must primarily rest with the board of directors.

By Hassen Lorgat

PHOTO: Rio das Velhas and the Luzia dos Santos. Credit: EduMiTe collection

Civil society warns of colour change in Rio das Velhas and streams in Rio Acima

Residents of Rio Acima, Nova Lima, Raposos and environmentalists found on 29 April that the Rio das Velhas was “altered in colour, with a very intense orange and high turbidity”, with dense matter carried from the Luzia dos Santos Stream, a stream of the Itabirito River, and filed a complaint with the monitoring bodies and the Rio das Velhas Hydrographic Basin Committee (CBH Rio das Velhas). In the document, the civil society organisations raise the hypothesis that the incident could be “the result of a tailings transfer process linked to the eventual decommissioning or deactivation of dams” and ask for measures to be taken. Minas Gerais is going through a process of decommissioning numerous upstream dams, many of them located on the upper Rio das Velhas.

The document is signed by the Cordilheira Institute and the Education, Mining and Territory Research Group (EduMiTe), linked to the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). Daniela Campolina, Co-Coordinator of EduMiTe and Coordinator of the Observatory of Mining Dams, said that residents and members of the research group had already noticed the change in the river. “We were already discussing the fact that the river had a strange colour here, passing through the centre of Rio Acima. Going up the river, we realised that the material was coming from the Luzia dos Santos stream. There was no reason for it to be that colour because there is a lot of riparian forest in the upper part of the river, and the colour is very distinct: a very bright, dark matter. The stream is a small tributary of the Itabirito River, but it is making a big difference to the colour of the Rio das Velhas,” says Daniela. 

Also in the 14-page document, the organisations recall that last year there was a similar event linked to the National Steel Company (CSN) in the Fazenda Velha stream. However, they report that “in the present case, on the 29th [of April], environmentalists and residents and EduMiTe researcher Luciano Corrêa went to the place where the two rivers meet and found that the contamination was not coming from the same place as last year. The Fazenda Velha stream did not have the turbidity and colour that was present in the Rio das Velhas. They followed the MG-030 towards Itabirito, a few kilometres after the Fazenda Velha stream, when they saw a large amount of muddy material with the characteristics of the colouring seen in the Rio das Velhas in a stream under a small bridge on the MG-030 road”, which is the Luzia dos Santos Stream.

On a later visit, on 5 May, members of EduMiTe’s “What kind of mud is this?” project found that “the same stream was still contaminating the Itabirito and Velhas rivers, where the same intense and very turbid colouring was present. Next to the stream, named Luzia dos Santos or Moleque, there was not only muddy material but also a lot of dark grey, shiny residue on its banks. The stream has preserved and dense riparian forest, with no record of possible erosion in the surrounding area. Dense, dark, gelatinous material with a metallic sheen was found deposited on the banks.”

Further on, they point out that these “tailings dumped in the Luzia dos Santos Stream and from it into the Itabirito and Velhas rivers may be the result of a tailings transposition process linked to the eventual de-characterisation or deactivation of dams in the Vargem Grande complex [of Vale] or in the Minérios Nacional/CSN areas.” According to them, something similar happened after the tragedy of the collapse of Samarco’s Fundão dam in Mariana, when, according to the document, there was “transposition of the company’s tailings from the micrographic basin of tributaries of the Gualaxo do Norte River (in the Carmo River sub-basin) to the channel of the Piracicaba River.”

Paulo Rodrigues, a researcher who collaborates with EduMiTe, echoes Daniela’s observation. “I’ve never seen anything like this in loco. Nothing like it. And the tributary has a much smaller flow than the Itabirito. However, after the two converge, the Itabirito turns the same colour, which also happens with the Rio das Velhas when it meets the Itabirito. In other words, the concentration of matter there is enormous, just below the Vargem Grande Complex. It’s very serious, not insignificant. There’s no doubt that it’s ore. We just don’t know where it comes from,” he warns.

The researchers’ fears stem from the observation that there has been no recent rainfall in the region to justify the turbidity of the rivers, and that simple erosion of the banks of the watercourses would not justify the dense, dark material they found.

The document was sent to the Rio das Velhas CBH, the Minas Gerais Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPMG), the State Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainable Development (Semad), the State Environment Foundation (FEAM) and the Minas Gerais Institute for Water Management (IGAM), asking that “the case be investigated urgently” and that they “provide information on the real situation of the water quality of the Luzia dos Santos Stream, the Itabirito River and the Rio das Velhas, as well as the safety of the mining structures of the companies potentially involved”.
 

By Leonardo Ramos
CBH Rio das Velhas Communications Office:
TantoExpresso Comunicação e Mobilização Social

STOP THIEF: TELCO’s have to deliver for the people!

On World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 17 May 2024, I stood in for Mark Weinberg who was unwell and presented in front of protesting civil society coming from working class and poor community as well as CEO of ICASA, Tshiamo Maluleka-Disemelo and Dr Charly Lewis from ICASA. My comments reiterated the comments made by the campaign and the protesters from various sectors of the popular movements as I pointed out that the right to high quality, inexpensive data is now considered a fundamental human right as it is seen as a avenue for citizens to access other rights including information, and knowledge on a range of issues that inform our participation in a democracy. My opening words to the CEO and her team were as follows: “whenever we, the Bench Marks Foundation working with  mining impacted communities, seek any engagement with constituent communities, we pay for their transport accommodation and so on. When we meet online, we provide subsidies for their real and effective participation. We are here to ask you to enable the country to have this level of support for the poor. If we can do it, you can do it on a greater scale and hopefully better.” 

MOST UNEQUAL
South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. In a study, the World Bank noted that race and location were clearly a determinant of your quality of life, including life expectancy. If you are wealthy, you are likely to live longer and better with high quality 5g connectivity whilst the poor have to remain trapped in poverty, unemployment and marginalisation resorting to miss calls and please call me.

But this poverty and marginalisation is not an accident and has its roots in the historic poor wages and inequality rooted in the colonial and apartheid eras and the lack of aggressive leadership to demand redress and reconstruction. In the MINING SECTOR, we had the Maximum Wage Policy which for years laid the basis for racial hierarchies to profit at the expense of the fellow workers of a different pigmentation. In “1897, the mining houses agreed among themselves not to pay more than a “maximum average” wage – thus ensuring that any labour shortages would not result in higher wages. This agreement remained in force until the mid-1970s. Its net effect, in the context of the other measures described above, was that the average real wage paid to black workers in the mining industry remained lower in 1969 than it had been in 1889 (Wilson, 1972, p46).” [The ANC submission to the TRC]. 

When this is read with the denial of trade union rights, real and effective rights for black workers for about 70 years – as their white compatriots had these rights – we can understand the roots of poor wages and the inequality.

But we could have done more over the last 30 years. Firm and decisive leadership is required like the case before the ICJ and the introduction of the National Health Insurance shows. The NHI was there in the RDP document – the manifesto of the ANC in 1994 – but this was not rushed through the first few years when we had all the goodwill of a rainbow nation. What we need now is decisive leadership from the ICASA. 

As the Free Internet Campaign, we demand that the telephone network companies (telcos) stop the rip-off by cell-phone companies against thousands if not millions of consumers. 

These companies MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom and the internet service provider Rain, we say, must stop profiteering on the backs of the poor (non-contract mobile users) and those living in poor and working class neighbourhoods.

MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom are profiteering and not keeping their promise to expand affordable internet access to everyone in South Africa. I looked at the promise made when the spectrum was sold: that access for high quality 4 and 5G services would be provided for the poor. But to date nothing has been forthcoming. We do not agree that the regulatory body should only listen to the telcos as to why this has not been rolled out. It is not about the money, which they have in abundance. They do not have the commitment and political will to join in the national efforts to create jobs that connectivity will help to create.

But weak or feeble regulation is not the answer.

ICASA as a regulator has an independent mandate to ensure that there is quality, and redress and that there is universal coverage. This is derived from the constitutional imperatives which they are obliged to adhere to. ICASA’s mandate is set out in the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act, Act No 13 of 2000 (ICASA Act), and the Electronic Communications Act, Act No 35 of 2005, as amended (the EC Act for the regulation of electronic communications in the public interest). The law backs ICASA to grant licences, monitor licensee compliance with licence terms and conditions, develop regulations, plan and manage the radio frequency spectrum, and protect consumers. 

We are here because we do believe that we are being protected by ICASA when Telcos rip us off of our airtime. Also, it is easy to join or sign up for a contract but to resign seems almost impossible.

Our demands are for greater access to communities and workers to influence policy by:

  • Meeting regularly with the regulator ICASA (at least 3 times per annum)
  • The TELCOS must be investigated and taken to task for:
    • Keeping data prices high
    • Making the poor pay more
    • Stealing your ‘expired’ airtime
    • Networks that don’t reach everyone
    • Failing to make non-profit websites free
    • The costs of connectivity

To be connected is too costly for a rich country like ours with a history of gross inequality at many levels. The cost of connectivity  is amongst the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. Taken together with the wealth and exorbitant earnings of the CEOs and share-holders the roll-outs of high quality internet and lower data and calls charges  have been embarassingly  slow.

These telephone companies are amongst the richest companies in South Africa. Whilst Rain owner, mining corporate leader and owner of Sundowns FC is an extremely wealthy man, Vodacom and MTN take the cake. South Africa’s largest mobile network — Vodacom — listed on the JSE in May 2009, about six and a half years after MTN. 

According to reports Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO, made R 35.3 million in 2023 after tax and R37. 1 after tax in 2022. Joosub has been at Vodacom since 1994 and has been CEO since 2012. VODACOM has just reached a 200 million customer milestone, whilst in 2018 this was only 100 million customers. This marks a growth of 100 million customers in just six years. It follows that they grew their revenue:  Vodacom South Africa service revenue grew 4% to R30.7 billion, which the group noted was “credible” given the tough macroeconomic environment. (late 2023)

On the other hand,  Group CEO and president of MTN, the second-biggest mobile network in South Africa, Ralph Mupita was paid R70.6 million during the 2023 financial year. This emerged when MTN, Africa’s biggest mobile operator by subscriber count, today published its integrated report for the year ended 31 December 2023. These earnings – they tell us – are not only for South Africa as the company has over 270 million customers in Africa and the Middle East.

Understanding MTN
MTN  remains the largest operator on the continent.  During March 2024, figures show that in constant currency terms, MTN Group service revenue grew 13.5% to R210 billion. It is important for activists to understand how this profit – YES in BILLIONS – is made up or WHERE it comes from. Out of the 210 BILLION, we learn that 84 BILLION come from their SELLING OF DATA (which expires is stolen by the bosses). VOICE CALLS or revenue for calling each other or seeking work and so on was very close contributing R83 billion. Then there are the bucks they make from advertising and services through subscriptions, third parties and so on, called FINTECH: the revenue totalled R21 BILLION. This is a growing business and, according to the company, 75% of its customers are using a financial service.

To conclude

  1. We demand democratic and firm regulation in the public interest. As a result, we the Friends of the Free Internet and its members and allies demand to meet regularly with the ICASA to track progress on transformation.
  2. We will protest against the profiteering telcos to meet our demands outlined above. We demand communications rights for all above profits of CEOs and shareholders. 
  3. When corporations and regulators fail, Parliament must step in. But in the meantime they must be active participants in defence of the national and public interest. They can start by convening meetings with Google, Amazon and others who control the cloud to ensure that they meet with our national and public interest objectives. 
  4. As CSOs we must continue to campaign for Google, Facebook to pay their share to the public broadcaster the SABC for sharing news on their sites. IN addition, we will continue to support groups like No Tech For Apartheid Campaign who have been harassed by big tech, in particular Google when these workers demanded that they stop from enabling genocide in Palestine and in other repressive and occupied lands. We demand that over 2 dozen workers dismissed by Google be reinstated. Campaigners stated that workers were fired: this “flagrant act of retaliation is a clear indication that Google values its $1.2 billion contract with the genocidal Israeli government and military more than its own workers. In the three years that we have been organising against Project Nimbus, we have yet to hear from a single executive about our concerns. Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labour. These firings were clearly retaliatory.”

REGULATE THE TELCOS MAFIA
We demand that Telcos be taken to task with the support of the national constitution and in particular the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008. 

Many mobile phone users have complained that whilst it is easy to sign on to short or long term mobile contracts, resigning or leaving the provider is difficult: “it is like joining the mafia, easy to join but near impossible to leave,” said Hassen Lorgat, an activist with the Free Internet Campaign. The Free Internet Campaign is part of the host of programmes of the Peoples Media Consortium. The Stop Thief Campaign demands that:
 

  • Cell companies place boldly / clearly visible in the same size and font as the advertising for subscribers on their websites and other platforms including pamphlets and other types of merchandising how users of the service can opt out.
  • That this information be done in plain English and the languages used in the marketing on the said platform or information material.
  • That they pay back the sums of funds unlawfully deducted from customers.
  • hat they pay an amount to be determined penalty for abusing market information to the National Credit Regulator to be used for consumer education around the telecoms and the need for free internet and wifi.

By Hassen Lorgat

No to Xenophobia: An injury to one is an injury to all

15 May 2024. KAAX wishes to express its sincerest condolences to those who lost loved ones in the tragic events that unfolded following the collapse of the building under construction in George. This incident has eerie similarities to the Usindiso fire, where initial blame was unjustly placed on foreigners, fueling xenophobic hatred. The subsequent commission of inquiry revealed that the city was at fault for failing to ensure fire safety in the building.

As our country is gripped by election fever, it is predictable yet deplorable that politicians would exploit this tragedy to further their narrow minded and divisive campaigns. We particularly denounce the outrageously xenophobic remarks by Gayton McKenzie of the Patriotic Front, who heartlessly suggested that families of the victims should seek counselling in their home countries. Such dehumanising behaviour is unacceptable and should be sanctioned. It also raises serious questions about the IEC’s enforcement of political codes of electoral conduct. Is this the example we want politicians to set for our society ?

The contempt shown for our fellow human beings by some political parties hoping to win votes using xenophobia is located in the dehumanisation of black bodies going back to slavery. The apartheid regime was the architect of the migrant labour system (black bodies were the private property of mining companies!) The divisions and hatred that is being spread by political parties like the Patriotic Front and Action SA, is part of the capitalist exploitative system which makes excessive profits through discrimination based on race, class, nationality and gender.

If the truth be told, the violence against migrants takes place as a direct consequence of an economic crisis. The most recent stats released by Stats SA show that unemployment rose by 0.8%, up from last year’s 32.1% and this disproportionately affected young people. We should be uniting to demand a wealth tax and a universal income grant as significant sections of our society are living in poverty with no means to put a plate of food on their table as a result of systemic unemployment, not blaming migrants.

Globally, scapegoating migrants is a common political tactic. This flies directly in the face of the fact that migrants everywhere – including in South Africa – make positive contributions, whether through taxes, job creation in the informal economy, or paying for services. We must rise above the rhetoric, recognize and embrace these contributions.

We call on all who live in South Africa to mobilise in support of the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy. We must ask why construction companies can get away with operating under conditions that endanger workers’ lives. Why was this company allowed to conduct business without proper oversight into the working conditions? The drive for excessive profits through cost-cutting measures leads to tragic losses of human life. This is not an accident but a result of neglect.

It is time to take responsibility, stop blaming others and show empathy and humanity to all who live in our beautiful but scarred country.

RESOURCES

                                                                                                      

📖 The Sands Worth Millions: How Mining Companies are Reshaping South Africa’s West Coast

Unveiling the intricate web of the South African mining industry, this report delves into the century-old economic powerhouse, exploring its multifaceted impact on communities and the environment. Focusing on mineral sands, it dissects corporate strategies and unravels the historical context that shapes contemporary mining dynamics. The report adopts an analytical lens, examining the three circuits of capital—productive, commodity, and money—revealing the industry’s intricate workings. From the burgeoning ‘gold fever’ to environmental repercussions and the symbiotic relationship between mining magnates and the state, each section sheds light on critical facets. Culminating in inspiring narratives of social movements, the report advocates for a deeper understanding of capitalism’s role, concluding with a thought-provoking query on the potential impact of a People’s Tribunal in the pursuit of justice.

📚 Since 1974 the Review of African Political Economy has provided radical analysis of trends, issues and social processes in Africa, adopting a broadly materialist interpretation of change. The Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE) is a socialist journal & website providing radical analysis of capitalist exploitation, oppression & resistance. Now freely available!

📖 In Residual Governance, Gabrielle Hecht dives into the wastes of gold and uranium mining in South Africa to explore how communities, experts, and artists fight for infrastructural and environmental justice. Hecht outlines how mining in South Africa is a prime example of what she theorises as residual governance—the governance of waste and discard, governance that is purposefully inefficient, and governance that treats people and places as waste and wastelands. She centres the voices of people who resist residual governance and the harms of toxic mining waste to highlight how mining’s centrality to South African history reveals the links between race, capitalism, the state, and the environment. In this way, Hecht shows how the history of mining in South Africa and the resistance to residual governance and environmental degradation is a planetary story: the underlying logic of residual governance lies at the heart of contemporary global racial capitalism and is a major accelerant of the Anthropocene.

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. 

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