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15th June 2024

March 2023

Dear comrade, this edition attempts to cover our usual features and kicks off with the commemoration of the centenary of the historic investigation written by Sol Plaatje, and contained his celebrated Native Life in South Africa about the dispossession of African land. The reporting from the field touches on the developments in Riverlea (Gauteng) to Rustenburg (Northwest and Guinea) and Nyakallong (Free State), whilst our “meet up” features a friend of the Bench Marks Foundation, John Clarke, and his work around whistleblowers.

Our long read attempts to explore how we may want to engage the thorny issue of fossil fuels in the context of extreme levels of poverty and inequality in South Africa. The image from Mining Weekly captures some of the concerns around water, especially when they wrote already in 2022 that the: “The recent disruptions in Gauteng (South Africa) also brought to the fore the role that neglect, as well as corruption, is having, with leaks rather than bulk water supply leading to mini Day Zeros in several areas.” This article seeks to explore whether the new “law” to obtain water use licences without ensuring compliance within 90 days to the right to water is a public and national good. Thus, it explores the importance of water, not for mining, but for life. 

The resources section as always includes thinking and challenging resources. We revive our book sharing of free, critical resources and this month we share bell hooks’ Feminist Theory from the Margin to the Centre. The Sigidi declaration reminds us that the killers of Bazooka Radebe are still at large as it makes a pitch for a life and livelihoods beyond extractivism and corporate mining. Other resources focus on visions and strategies of civil society organisations for a just transition, equality, solidarity and social justice. 


Land reform – Sol Plaatje calling

The opening words of the first chapter of this book have become immortalised the man and his work, Sol Plaatje: “Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.” This he wrote in his Native Life in South Africa Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion (1916).

This land act became law on 19 June 1913 limiting African land ownership to 7 percent and later 13 percent through the 1936 Native Trust and Land Act of South Africa. The Act restricted black people from buying or occupying land except as employees of a white master. Later he wrote: “… to crown all our calamities, South Africa has by law ceased to be the home of any of her native children whose skins are dyed with a hue that does not conform to the regulation hue.”

Plaatje’s pen raised his national profile. He became the first Secretary-General and founding member of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912.

Fast forward to now and we can say without fear of contradiction that it has been a disaster. It seems that land reform is the emotional slogan that represents our freedom but we do not know how to bring it about.

When the government – non racial – was elected in 1994, the newly elected African National Congress (ANC) set a target of redistributing 30% of the country’s white-owned agricultural land to black people within their first term of office (5 years). For years they failed in meeting those modest goals, but the government now says it hopes that it will reach this target by 2030.

It is not easy, but it is made more difficult when the trust gap between leaders and their publics is so wide. Government must listen to all those who are aggrieved: those who are land hungry, the women who should have the right to own and cultivate land if that is their choice and the scholars who have studied this crisis of landlessness to turn the situation around. It has to be workable because without it, real transformation of power relations and tackling rampant poverty, inequality and marginalisation is almost an impossible task. 

Sol Plaaje laid out the path for thinking leaders. He read widely and was a journalist and author of many books. In addition, he was proficient in at least eight languages, including German and Dutch, as well as English and all the major African vernaculars. 

He walked the talk (or should I say rode the talk?). He lived leadership and current leaders must learn from him… they must get on their bikes and research the real impacts of land reform on the people. The government is not an NGO and it has more power than it thinks. The time has come to listen and act for the common good. Paulo Freire put it simply like this: “… one does not liberate people by alienating them. Authentic liberation – the process of humanisation – is not another deposit to be made in men. Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.” Now is the time.


WATER WATER Everywhere but what has mining done to it?

The recent bout of water shedding at a wider scale following on the ongoing struggle around the supply of electricity known as load shedding has put water into focus again. In addition, the protests of some groups around coal and other fossil fuels has resulted in many circular arguments about the good and bad of these to advance national development. What is proposed here is a more lateral intervention that asks what extractivism / mining does to our water supplies? Does the decision of the government to cut the waiting period for corporations to obtain a water use licence (WUL) not favour the wealthy and powerful as the interests at the expense of mining communities and their right to participate in democratic decision making on this important life sustaining resource: water? The article argues that the concerns of mining communities as raised by them and through other institutions, in particular parliament and the South African Human Rights Commission, remain unaddressed.

Water or the shortage of water-shedding taking its name from another disaster load shedding which referred to the regular electricity cuts has been in all the news media (including social media). These generalised shortages have spawned anger and widespread  protests and anger. Part of the anger comes from the people’s knowledge that the right to water is guaranteed in chapter 2 of the constitution thus: “Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water.” To give effect to this right, our national parliament passed the Water Services Act 108 of 1997.

All of us are only getting “used” to, or rather surviving, load shedding when we are hit with a new and more devastating crisis: water shedding. The thirst, anger and re-emergence of water borne diseases like cholera results in water becoming a struggle of life and death. Writing for our readers, we want to focus on the politics and practice of extractivism, and in particular mining and its relation to water.

Take your mind back to the beginning of the month where five protesters from Greenpeace Africa staged a dramatic protest. Their message was directed to the “coal fundamentalist” whom they say was blocking the transition for  renewables. With load shedding as a focus, they said, that “fast-tracking a shift to renewable energy is clearly the solution… but Minister Mantashe is too biassed to see the real solutions, and his fossil fuel obsession is literally bringing South Africa to its knees and cannot remain unchallenged. Enough is enough.” In reply, the Minister replied that “many of the people who are demonstrating think we must not mine because we are tampering with the environment. But those minerals are important to move from high carbon emissions to low carbon emissions.” 

Furthermore, the Minister pointed out that “the mining of minerals like vanadium and lithium, useful for battery storage, and platinum, useful for the production of green hydrogen, should be allowed.” He ended with this assertion that “what we cannot afford to lose sight of in this just energy transition discourse is the fact that Africa is the least polluter compared to the developed continents…” 

The minister went on to extol the virtues of gas, which will not be addressed here. We will leave this discussion here, to add that, even in Green Europe, coal is again in vogue, especially now with the war in Ukraine. The energy crisis imposed by the US and Russia surrounding the war requires further discussion elsewhere. 

All those engaging in the debate to mine or not to mine purport some sort of commitment to national development, reconstruction, democracy and whatever else. At one level, these debates must and will continue as is but, on another level, I fear we can get into an endless vicious cycle and recycling of assertions. With that on the go, no one wins. It is undeniable that South Africa today is the most unequal country and we must increasingly try to ensure reconstruction from apartheid capitalism where wasted opportunities of post 1994 are addressed. People are feeling hopeless and disconnected from their leaders and complain about poor services, corruption and mismanagement.

An alternative approach I want to adopt here is to consider whatever path we seek to be aligned to, must answer this question: WHAT DOES IT DO TO WATER, WHAT DOES IT DO TO LIFE? IS THE DECISION TO ISSUE WATER USE LICENCES (WUL) IN THE PUBLIC AND NATIONAL INTEREST?

To explore these issues, I have asked a number of activists whom we work with. I did not waste their time by asking them hypothetical questions about what renewals will do for them, although this will not be excluded for future discussions. What this article took for granted is this, that all our readers know that mining is highly water intensive but we wanted to explore what it does to the wider community surrounding it.

North West Province
In the North West Province, we spoke to a few activists. Eric Mokuoa, from Luka, told us that the water supply is irregular, red in colour and damages the geysers and some infrastructure most of the time. “We get our supply from the Royal Bafokeng… we do not know what the health impacts are. All I can say is that the quality is not the best.”

Olebogeng Motene shared her experiences, thus: “I have worked with mining communities around Rustenburg and access to water is a challenge to most, communities face irregular water supply, dirty undrinkable water which means they have to buy bottled water for consumption. In areas like Motlhabe in the Moses Kotane region, they use communal boreholes which aren’t able to cater for the whole community and local mines donated jojo tanks which are not properly maintained and refilled leaving the community with dry spells. Areas such as Marikana with several mining operations also experience water challenges. When I went for a training workshop, I saw a group of young girls carrying a bucket in the shopping complex. I later learned that the community didn’t have water for four days to a point that they accessed water from the local schools and shopping centre.”

Phindile Ngobeni writes from her experiences in Rustenburg as follows: “Marikana has a serious water problem. We didn’t have water for 5 days. Because the Sibanye Stillwater mine cuts the pipe that comes from their mine and passes through Marikana West to Marikana RDP township and Group Five.

Terrence Ngobeni wrote that: “In Ikemeleng, Kroondal, a community 10 km outside Rustenburg CBD with about five mining companies operating in close proximity, we experience an injustice as they release their tailing water and it floods the community as it passes through the stream and kids normally go swim down the stream with no knowledge of how toxic the water is. This is worse during rainy days.” 

Limpopo Province
Mathapelo Thobejane lamented that information and education from the water and sanitation department has been poor. “As a community, we don’t get the results of water quality. In our home, our kettles and irons we use to iron get damaged very quickly because the water has too much salt, as the rivers are very bad due to the polluted water that the mines discharge that goes directly into our rivers. As a result, most of it specifically affects people and livestock downstream.”

“This situation is bad because we live in the Fetakgomo-Tubatse municipality and particularly the area of Burgersfort, which has about  32  mines operating from there, affecting the wider communities as mines are upstream. These impacts are severe on humans, animal and plant life. Livestock has no place for grazing, people don’t farm anymore because some have lost their farms as the mines sewage dam (tailings facilities??) and water pollution from the dam affects their products.”

Free state province
In the Free State, Bench Marks Foundation community monitor and activist Makhotla Sifuli writing from a post mining context – where mining was no longer a big employer or player in the economy. “After the en masse exodus of mining companies, many shafts were left derelict and ownerless. Drinking water from our streams and rivers is no longer suitable for consumption by livestock and sprinkler irrigation. Most of the streams are overgrown with tall reeds and alien plants and that has had a negative impact on the lives of ordinary citizens and farming industry.” In addition, he points out that those using boreholes may suffer contamination as “heavy metals are found in the water from the underground and that has a negative bearing on the community and the agricultural industry.” 

For him, the low economic output in the farming sector is “clear evidence of the acid mine drainage from the mine shafts that are derelict. Nyakallong in Allanridge is a classical example of the water from the mine killing the community. People were forced to vacate their homes and others are living with respiratory diseases as a result.”

Gauteng province
Mark Kayter from Riverlea Mining Forum (Gauteng) informs us that they wrote a letter to a DRDErgo, company they were in a long battle with in february 2023. This was after we learnt that the company had “applied and received approval for a water use licence. This was given despite RMF writing to the Appeal Board objecting to the request for a water use licence. In addition, we wrote to the Minister of water and sanitation Mr. Senzu Mchunu and requested his intervention to have the water use licence suspended until DRDergo complies with our requests. These include full democratic participation in the process, clarity on the area to be covered by the water use licence as well as the duration of it. Finally we also demanded a disaster management plan be shared with us given the tailings disasters and the most recent in Jagerfontien. The Minister has still not responded.”

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment’s (FSE) Mariette Lieferrink, an activist with a strong record against acid mine drainage, reminded the BULLETIN that “Platinum Group Metal mines are Category B mines in terms of the Department of Water and Sanitations’ Draft Mine Water Management Policy and is not as acid producing as gold mines, which is categorised as Category A mines, which are acid producing. “Chronic exposure to Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) in drinking water may result in impairment of cognitive functions, impacts on the skin, and cancer. It may also affect the neural development of the foetus, which may result in mental retardation. AMD is high in acidity and salinity and contains a wide spectrum of metals, often in toxic concentrations. AMD impacts ecosystems and water quality and allows for metals to seep into the soil. The high salinity can also affect infrastructure.”

What is to be done?
Firstly, this is a call for self-education and organisation. We must re-educate ourselves about the importance of water to us and all the people and animal life on this only planet we have. Twenty years ago, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 1.1 billion people did not have access to a quality water supply that could ensure that they have safe drinking water every day. The WHO and all of us agree that safe drinking water is essential for a life with dignity. They pointed out that the failure to access water resulted in various diarrhoeal diseases, which kill two million per year – mostly children.

Fast forward to 2020, as we recall how we battled to sanitise without water. It was the time when the world was gripped with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the WHO paints the following picture: “Billions of people around the world are continuing to suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene, according to a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed* drinking water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic hand washing facilities.”

On the continent, one recalls that over two years ago, human rights NGOs and communities complained against the mining and commodities giant Glencore regarding a toxic wastewater spill in Chad. Here dozens of villagers – among them children – told investigators that they suffered severe burns, skin lesions and sickness after contact with contaminated water. In this relation we will have to further educate about the importance of managing in a transparent manner waste from corporations, especially the mining sector and the tailings facilities. The management of tailings facilities at present have little community participation and the lack of public awareness of its impacts on our precarious water supplies is something we will consistently come back to. Often justice to those marginalised is slow if it comes at all, as we have seen this Glencore case. But fight we must for justice and equality to prevail.

Concerns about South African mining communities as raised by them too have largely remained unaddressed. Their concerns were aired and dutifully considered and ruled upon after national hearings convened by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in 2018 and published in a report, National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining Affected Communities in South Africa 13-14 SEPTEMBER; 26 AND 28 SEPTEMBER; 3 NOVEMBER 2016. [See attached  snippet / insert below]

Shortening application time for WULs – further weakening regulation?
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared in his State of the Nation Address (fFebruary 2020) that water-use licences should have a turnaround time of 90 days, effective April 1. It is said that generally the period to obtain a licence could take up to 300 days. Needless to say, the cutting of “red-tape” was welcomed by corporations who demanded the faster adjudications of water licences as they blamed the Department of Water and Sanitation and / or the law of keeping business growth and investment away. At the time, the implementing department (DWS) stated that it had consulted many stakeholders, meaning the big players like Forestry South Africa, Minerals Council, Pulp and Paper South Africa but communities were not consulted. Nor, as I will show, were their concerns as raised by the SAHRC taken into consideration. 

The haste to get the licence waiting period reduced, many of us in the social justice movement believe that it would result in weakening regulation. In addition, the rush to issue licences with short and under qualified staff would make an abuse of the system inevitable.

We must recall that the powers to issue water use licences are derived from the South African National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) (NWA) and aim to ensure that our water resources – scarce as they are – are managed effectively as well as sustainably. The Bench Marks Foundation believes that the aims of the act are noble and reaffirm constitutional values. The Water Act seeks to protect, use, develop, conserve, manage and control water resources through balancing social benefit, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. We continue to lament that affected mining communities are not present in these processes as activists and citizens who suffer at the hands of the corporate abuse of water. 

If mining communities organisations and activists are given a real voice to “speak out” on the poor quality water they endure, water safety and regulation will be improved. For this to become a reality, fewer – not more – WULs must be issued, and not in such haste.

The administration and governance of water use licence (WUL) lay with the DWS, whose mandate is wider than the rush to issue WULs as the impacts on the poor have been devastating. And costly. Their mandate is to ensure the equitable allocation and beneficial use of water in the public interest and it is for this reason that a Water Use Licence (WUL) may be issued. 
Indeed President Ramaphosa, the government I believe did not have to reduce the application time to obtain a WUL to 90 days, especially when they have failed to heed the concerns of “other humans”, animal and plant life.  Let me elaborate further by making two points.

Firstly, in 2011, in answer to a parliamentary question, it was reported that 69 mines were operating without water licences. What did parliament and wider society do? It seems very little as some ten years later the situation became worse, or was reportedly worse, as about a third of the 476 mines audited by the department of water and sanitation failed to comply with the conditions of their water use licences. 

At the beginning of January 2021, the Mail and Guardian reported the department had issued 226 administrative actions against mines that contravened the National Water Act and nine criminal cases had been opened against noncompliant mines. The Minister at that time (Sisulu) said: “Only 52 of the 226 mines issued with administrative actions have water use authorisations. Subsequent to the enforcement actions by the [department of water and sanitation], 45 mines comply with the requirements of the administrative actions. To date, no water use entitlements have been suspended or revoked due to noncompliance. However, this remains an option in case the administrative, civil and criminal processes do not achieve desired compliance.”

Secondly, we must increasingly make visible the connections between and amongst nations on our continent around water as water could become a basis for rebuilding a culture of sharing and solidarity. Practically, water streams are commons that have no borders and any attempts to stop or divert them, as we have seen, result in talk of war. In addition, international human rights law demands that states work towards achieving universal access to water and sanitation for all. These guidelines are contained or correspond with the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in its comment number 15, which reads thus:

15. With respect to the right to water, States parties have a special obligation to provide those who do not have sufficient means with the necessary water and water facilities and to prevent any discrimination on internationally prohibited grounds in the provision of water and water services.

Thirdly, we must always remember that water is a critical resource that the United Nations General Assembly found fit to adopt on 28 July 2010, to be a human right in a resolution thus: “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” (A/RES/64/292). This mandate resides with the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation, whose work is important to us to engage with. However, I would hasten to add that our own SAHRC issued damning reports regarding the subject. The SAHRC is a creature of both our constitution and our parliament and a “lower” structure of democracy and governance power chain. However, in reality their directives as contained in the national hearings report quoted above appear stronger than those of parliament. In addition, they resonate with the continuing concerns of activists interviewed above.

Why has parliament, the commission and wider civil society been so lethargic on acting on these concerns and rulings? If water is life and a strategic resource, we need to be much more angrier and vigilant. Time is not on our side but I do believe we must start where we are. Mining affected communities and the NGOs that support them, including experts, must strengthen their organising for water justice. This means that we must continue to demand of those in power, be more transparent and accountable to communities when deciding on the governance of water use licences. At the same time, we must strengthen our own value systems and solidarities as we explore more empowering and sustainable alternatives at local, national, continental and international levels.

Rush to cut red-tape
Rushing to issue licences by cutting red tape, we reiterate, without beefing up regulatory staff with skilled experts, is tantamount to deregulation which we believe will further reduce water quality, transparency and consistency of water supplies and thereby further undermine the thirst for clean water.
Rush but not for communities
Rushing to issue licences undercuts the rights of communities to say NO to Mining, if they so desire, It also undermines the struggles against other harmful development initiatives parachuted from above. Rushing without empowering the downtrodden and the regulatory bodies as well as the department is a boost for the powerful – not the poor!

Rush without capacities to regulate
Rushing to cut red tape without boosting the capacity of the implementing department is a serious problem. The failure to employ more and more competent staff, including qualified and fearless inspectors, will result in lower standards and availability of drinking water. We need inspectors to ensure compliance on even the reduced period of a licence. Holders of such a water use licence carry obligations, which include importantly thinking of their neighbours and the just and fair use of a scarce resource. 

Defend the commons
In the event of an abuse of such rights, there must be redress measures which includes cleaning up and paying for the mess they have caused. The right to water is not the responsibility of one department but of all of us. Water is a commons and we, the citizens and affected communities and peoples, must protect it. But we know we need more than words to protect people and territories and to ensure that there are spaces where no mining can or must take place. In its place, there must flourish alternatives that will address the real needs of the peoples of the country and the region. 

These alternatives must challenge fundamentally the growth-greed model of production and consumption and defend our human diversity, as well as that of ecosystems and biodiversity. For the sake of this generation, thinking of “me, myself and I” is not an option. We are obliged to demand that we safeguard the purity and quantity of our water for all life, against the irresponsible rush of mining and mineral exploration development – even if it is “good for the economy.” What good is it for the economy when the people and animal life die of thirst?

Our sincere thanks to all those who shared their experiences on the water situation in mining communities.

By Hassen Lorgat

The dramatic protests by Greenpeace Africa protesters early in the month of March warranted some media attention. Image: Salaamedia

EXTRACT from National Hearing on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-affected Communities in South Africa 13-14 SEPTEMBER; 26 AND 28 SEPTEMBER; 3 NOVEMBER 2016

The DWS and the DEA are directed to take definitive steps to ensure legal protection of our water source areas through, inter alia, the use of section 24(2A) of NEMA, the inclusion of a specific provision that provides that the Minister of Water and Sanitation has the powers to restrict or prohibit the grant of water use licences in water source areas alongside the use of a host of legal tools, including section 26(g) of the Regulations of the National Water Act, section 49 of the MPRDA, management tools in terms of Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 43 of 1983 (CARA), and SPLUMA, Environmental Management Frameworks, and any further tools available. A further provision that should be applicable, includes declarations in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 10 of 2004, of water source areas as threatened ecosystems.

When processing a water use licence (WUL) applications, section 18 of National Water Act, of 1998 makes it compulsory to provide for a Reserve, which is divided between basic human needs and ecological requirements. This provision aims to ensure that the fundamental human right to water is provided for prior to any other water usage. In implementing this prior right to water, the DWS conducts hydro-census studies to determine the exact population that is reliant on water resources and makes provision for their basic human needs as part of the water services requirements. Despite this, it is not uncommon to find that local communities do not have access to sufficient water to provide for their communities’ most basic needs within the context of continuing mining operations. Even where water shortages have been exacerbated by droughts or an influx of people, mining operations directly contribute to this situation and cannot continue to operate without regard to the difficulties experienced by mining-affected communities.

A Draft National Mine Water Management policy has been released for public comment. The draft policy includes a prohibition of mining in water sensitive areas, a recommendation for the development of a mining regional master plan, and further provides that mines should be compelled to do an impact prediction to improve environmental preparedness.

In some cases, mining companies provide water to communities. Tendele Coal in Somkhele is one such example. Its WUL allows it to draw water from the Mfolozi River. As a result of reduced rainfall, the river is not flowing at full strength, thus the Mine “relies on strategies to pump at maximum rates from the Mfolozi River when it does run”.51 As a result of the drought and inadequate infrastructure, the Mpukunyoni Community does not have access to municipal water and the Mine has therefore installed several hand pumps to access water from boreholes. In addition to this, the Mine was providing 12 trucks, each carrying 16,000 litres of potable water, to the community per week, which was later reduced to 5 or 6 trucks. This water is obtained through a private entity at significant cost. The Mine, however, submitted that notwithstanding the fact that it is drawing water from natural sources within the community, it is “in no way obligated to provide this water to the community but does so out of goodwill”. The characterisation of the provision of water as an act of goodwill is incongruent with the legal requirement in terms of the NWA to provide for a Reserve when applying for a WUL.

Civil society formations which often interface directly with affected communities expressed concerns in their submissions about the lack of information around the WUL application process, information about the quality of water, its availability, the monitoring of compliance with the WUL, and the impact of mining on the water reserve.

In light of the evidence before it, the Commission makes several observations:
• Notwithstanding water shortages and the prior right to water outlined in section 18 of the NWA and section 27 of the Constitution, communities are continually deprived of access to water necessary to cater for basic needs. Under these circumstances, mining companies continue to conduct operations that frequently draw water directly from natural sources meant to simultaneously provide for communities and ecological infrastructure.
• While population growth places a significant burden on existing infrastructure and the availability of resources, population growth in mining-affected communities is largely attributable to the commencement of mining operations.
• Mining companies directly contribute to the depreciation and pollution of water resources and bear responsibility for mitigating the negative impacts of mining even where population influx and droughts contribute to water scarcity.
• Municipalities struggle to provide water to mining-affected communities where infrastructure is ageing and deteriorated, and is further dependent on the DWS and the DRDLR (write in full) to translate guidelines regarding the provision of water on privately-owned land (including land owned by mines and communal land) into policy.
• Local government IDPs are not adequately informed by WUL’s impacting their areas of delivery.

The Commission finds that the current census for determining water reserves does not include measures to account for anticipated migration and population growth and other potential impacts on the availability of water resources, such as drought. Therefore, there is an immediate need for WULs to incorporate more stringent measures to better protect communities’ water rights and the environment. In this respect, internal (self-regulating) and external auditing (by the DWS) in consultation with communities, civil society, mining companies and other stakeholders is required to create effective regulatory tools such as licences. The benefits of such an approach are directed at local government groups which typically face barriers in rights assertion and for sustainability. The audited information referred to must be made publically accessible and be provided to affected local government authorities.

The Commission further finds that the DWS with local government should address the problem of ageing water infrastructure in mining-affected municipalities and collaborate with the DRDLR to translate guidelines regarding the provision of water on privately-owned land into policy.

Noting the fundamental right to access adequate water (and sanitation) of a quality fit for human consumption and use, the Commission finds that the WUL must be reviewed to allow for rights assertion where terms and conditions of such WUL can reasonably be anticipated to adversely impact the rights of affected communities to access water.

The Commission further finds that there is a compelling need for meaningful consultation and information sharing in respect of applications for WUL’s, and audit and impact reports relating to WUL’s to increase transparency, and accountability in respect of the use of this scarce resource.

• The DWS is directed to provide a report on the current state of water use monitoring. The report should include:
a. Mechanisms in place to conduct regular determination of the water reserve, including how the DWS accounts for anticipated migration and population growth, limitations or inadequacies in municipal-infrastructure as well as other potential impacts on the availability of water resources, such as drought;
b. An audit of all existing WULs to ensure they adequately protect the water reserve, including basic needs and ecological requirements;
c. Steps taken to monitor compliance with WULs and its impacts, particularly in mining areas; and
d. The impact mining has, and will have, on the water reserve and how this aligns with the National Strategic Plan for Water.

• The DWS must report on the steps it has taken to guarantee security of water provision in the Mpukunyoni Community and provide evidence of the agreements in place between Tendele Coal Mine and national and local governments in this regard.
• A clear plan of action is to be provided in respect of all communities who are impacted by the WULs arising from the audit referred to above.
• The DWS is directed to take steps to ensure that formal legal protection is afforded to SWSAs.
• The DWS, together with the DRDLR, are directed to take steps to translate existing guidelines regarding the provision of water on privately-owned land into policy to ensure that basic protections in law regarding access to water are capable of being evaluated and enforced.


Mark Kayler

A group of residents decided that the effects of mining and its associated illness had to be acted upon. These include the “illegal mining” undertaken by former miners known as Zama Zama who were retrenched by companies like CRG -, as well as crime and violence amongst these Zama Zamas themselves.

The result was the formation of a Non Profit Organisation (NPO) in 2014: Riverlea Mining Forum (RMF). Our purpose, aims and objective is to look after the health, safety and security of the residents of ward 68. The organisation is open to all like-minded residents irrespective of race, creed, political association or religion. RMF approached the residents of Riverlea for a mandate to negotiate with the mining companies on their behalf. RMF has not diverted from the objectives and have advocated for these since our formation. (See photo of our activism, courtesy of Soweto Urban)

In January 2020, Mrs. Carol Kara the deputy chairperson of the RMF and I met with Mr. Sunday Mabaso who was then working at the office of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in Braamfontein. At the meeting, Mr. Mabaso gave us a guarantee that the rehabilitation of the failed mining operation of CRG would commence in April 2020. 

This news was too good to be true. We decided that we would wait for the contractor to make contact with us before we inform the community, but by the end of April 2020, RMF had not heard from the contractor. We then contacted Mr. Mabaso, who gave us the name of the contractor. It was left up to RMF to track down the contracting company. We were in luck and made contact with Mr. Eddie Miller. Through our partners the Bench Mark Foundation and Mrs. Mariette Van Liefferink (FSE), we learnt the bad news: Mr. Miller was the director of the liquidated company Mintalis. And there has not been any movement since.

In September 2021, RMF met a delegation from the provincial government who were on “a road show” visiting communities affected by mining. We made a presentation to the delegates, but sadly we have not heard from that governmental delegation since. We are not surprised.

In September 2021, RMF requested a meeting with DRDErgo for an update on mining operations at the sites 3A2 and 3L2 – meetings are always initiated by RMF. At this meeting, RMF made the following demands to the company:

  • That the site around the mining operation be fenced off, signposts be erected in terms of the requirements of The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
  • That DRDErgo ensures that all illegal mining activities be stopped with immediate effect and that company security be placed on the site.
  • That DRDErgo ensures that water leaks be repaired.     
  • That DRDErgo partner with RMF to have the site given to the residents of ward 68 to erect community projects on the site. 

In response, DRDErgo has agreed to repair a damaged wall on the site. In addition,  RMF was able to give the contract to a local business in the community. This project created temporary employment for at least 8 young men from our community.

Furthermore, we invited the local ward councillor to the meeting with the company since they have never been in contact before and, we believe, ever since this meeting. The RMF believes that this was a good move on our side as proof that we are concerned for the well-being of the residents of ward 68. Ultimately, DRDErgo would not concede to our requests / demands. Instead, they sent us a letter through our attorneys contesting our legitimate concerns.

In February 2023, RMF received a letter from DRDErgo that their application for a water use licence had been approved, despite RMF writing to the Appeal Board objecting to this request. RMF has since sent a letter to the Minister of Water and Sanitation Mr. Senzu Mchunu requesting his intervention by suspending the request for a licence until our concerns are met. We demand proper democratic participation as well as clarity on the area to be covered by the water use licence and duration of the operation. We also demand that the operations at 2A3 and 3L2 be completed, as well as a disaster management plan, taking into account the disaster at Jagersfontein. 

We are still waiting for the minister to respond.

Whilst we believe that RMF is working for the betterment of the community, RMF seems to be a threat to some political parties who feel threatened by work, or want to use the situation in the community for their political mileage in the forthcoming elections. The mining company has started recruiting labourers from the community,  which RMF believes to be just one of the mining company’s dirty tricks of divide and rule over the community. We will not be divided!

Eric Mokoua

The Council for Geoscience CEO Mosa Mabuza said in an interview that “despite the 150 years of mining in South Africa, the mining industry has not begun.” This statement is made on the background that there are huge reserves of mineral deposits still unexplored and unexploited in South Africa. Coming from a mining community, where platinum has been mined for over 50 years, this is a scary thought.

Nevertheless, the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy (DMRE), on the other hand, celebrates the mining industry as the anchor to other sectors of the economy. Currently, mining contributes 8.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

However, it comes with a great cost to the environment, health and the livelihood of mine-host communities. Platinum mines operate mostly in remote regions, where largely traditional communities are dependent on land.

It is terrifying to recount mining’s unsavoury footprint, as evident in many localities in South Africa.

Recently after the Alternative Mining Indaba held in Cape Town, we hosted colleagues from Guinea-Conakry in West Africa for an educational exchange program. About 20 community members from across Rustenburg joined with 18 from Guinea Conakry and together engaged in a learning exchange of witnessing the disasters and including critical reflections on these.

We toured Rustenburg platinum mines, a section of the platinum belt and shared experiences. The tour generated curiosity, nostalgia and questions.

Maria Ma Barry from International Inclusive Development in Guinea Conakry works with a community impacted by Bauxite 300 km from Conakry. She observed that there were very few differences on how mining industries operate in South Africa and her home country.

She added that mining has an impact on people’s social and spiritual lives, huge agricultural land and water. She works with communities affected by Bauxite mining, where springs and crops have been destroyed. 

According to a Human Right Watch report (2018), the impact of Bauxite mining in Guinea extends to loss of land and livelihood. The report decries the declining quality of water and how mining prevents the community from accessing water. This preventing communities to provide basic needs for themselves  

A very toxic tour
It was evident to our guests as we moved from one village to the next, that what they witnessed in Rustenburg is not completely new to them. It was but a magnified picture of mining in Guinea. The platinum mines in Rustenburg have barely led to the development of mine host communities. Instead, mining has occupied huge tracts of land and caused a great decline of the environment and risked the health of the people. The Platinum rich corridor which stretches from Rustenburg to Waterberg, Limpopo, has produced precarious socio-economic conditions for mine host communities. 

The villages under the Royal Bafokeng communities, which include Chaneng and Luka, are submerged by mining activities, with high unemployment, crime and substance abuse.

Known for the massacre of mine workers by the police in August 2012, Marikana is a home to platinum mines like Sibanye Still Waters and Therisa Minerals. Whilst time has passed since the fateful event where over 40 people died – including 34 mine workers gunned down by the police -, the place is still characterised by squalor and fear.

The tour ended with communities engaging and drawing lessons from each other.  It was noted that, whereas the political environment and mine legislations are different, in both countries there are common practices by the multinational corporations.

There is disregard for the importance of biodiversity and sustainable future for mine host communities. There is also no real appreciation of the spiritual relationship between people, land, water and environment. Maria spoke passionately about the spiritual links the spring water has with the Sengaredi community. “The spring water is seen by the community as sacred, only spiritual healers can come closer to the gushing waters” said Maria. This is regarded as a source of healing and connection to the ancestors. When the spring water diminished, it put the whole belief system in question.”

All in all, it was a valuable exchange.

Nyakallong Community not living in HARMONY with the mine
Astone Chaole

Following difficulties imposed on the community by Harmony Gold Mine, a recent workshop concluded that the community must act if justice is to prevail. The mine writes about themselves thus: Environment – Contributing to a low-carbon future through ETHICAL MINING, preventing contamination of land, water and air while using resources responsibly. Astone Chaole writes about the workshop and its conclusions.

Through various engagements and interactions with the research team of Bench Marks Foundation, particularly on the issue of Voelpan, we came to the realisation that Nyakallong Allanridge is tormented and abused by the Harmony Gold Mine. This called for intervention from the Bench Marks Foundation to educate and provide the tools necessary to take on the mining companies.

The workshop was attended by different community-based stakeholders within the community. These include Moral Degeneration Movement, WAMUA Nyakallong, YAMUA Nyakallong, Environmental Protection And Food Sovereignty Organisation, Allanridge Business Forum, Climate Justice Team and Unemployment Team.

The workshop commenced with the background of Bench Marks, and what it stands for. It was made clear that the Bench Marks Foundation comes to assist communities to fight for their rights as the host communities in a mining area.

The community members presented the problems they encountered with mining companies that operated within their area. They indicated that during the times of Lorraine Gold Mine, things were much better. When Target took over, things became very different, as Voelpan was no longer monitored and maintained. Even when the water level rose to unprecedented levels, nothing was done by Harmony to keep it in check. The facilities that Lorraine used to have were either demolished or not maintained. This is inclusive of the TB mine hospital that used to exist at times of Lorraine, and was recently demolished by Harmony. Harmony hasn’t shown its presence at all within the community.

The community further lamented about the mine dam within the township, whose water has entered peoples houses. There is an unbearable smell within the whole township, but the people who are heavily affected are those who live in proximity with the dam. Most of them suffered from respiratory illnesses and some passed away as the result of the dam.

Harmony is doing nothing for the community of Nyakallong, they do not follow through with their SLP projects, nor are they assisting the community through CSI. Ever since its arrival in Nyakallong, the only thing that the community can point to is a multipurpose court at Tshireletso Primary School. The subcontractors are not from the community, nor the vendor system is favourable to the mining communities. The employment criteria is also not understood by the community members. The Nyakallong community is not benefiting anything from Harmony even though they bear the effects of environmental degradation.

Other than that, there were members of the community who had their own personal problems as far as mining is concerned. Some had not benefited from the mine. Since their retrenchments, some suffered from silicosis and were not compensated. Most of these people came together and formed Nyakallong ex-miners. They all need assistance to get what is due to them.

The last part of the session was solution oriented and providing a way forward.

The mine must join hands with local clinics and contribute in taking care of the sick within the community, given their contribution through the environmental impacts and the former mine workers who have become the burden in local clinics.
We must write to the mine and require the vendor process for the local companies to benefit from the mine. Mostly the companies that benefit are the white companies from the outside.
We need to conduct a skills audit, hence that we know the kind of people we have within the community and their skills. This will lead to the formation of the cooperative to assist the community members to create employment and help themselves.

The workshop concluded with community members looking forward to the implementation of its resolutions.


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

Image source

Whistleblowers 4 + Change: the Public Service Commission must “Stop SLOW” tactics

When the BULLETIN asked John GI Clarke to write to us about their work, he replied: “We call ourselves Whistleblowers 4 + Change.  But we are a peer solidarity group rather than an organisation.  An ‘organism’, unfunded but engaged.” Now read what he wrote.

If we are going to have any hope of stopping corruption, the boards and DG’s of organs of state must stop persecuting whistleblowers by the weaponised use of disciplinary procedures after they expose wrongdoing.

At all times, I carry two items with me to remind me of my primary role as a social worker. The first is a booklet that spells out the ethical code of practice for social workers. It instructs me that my priority is to challenge social injustice in the interests of the vulnerable and disadvantaged. And to do so on the basis of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The second booklet is the constitution itself. Respect for human dignity is the keystone clause (clause 10), and obliges social workers to ensure people, especially those in adversity, are empowered to meaningfully participate in decisions and policies that affect them. It means that whenever Power is abused to exclude, marginalise and scapegoat, social workers simply have to speak out.

In working intensively with whistleblowers for the past three years, the serial injustice that I have found myself having to challenge has been the injustices perpetrated by directors of organs of state against whistleblowers who refuse to acquiesce to the endemic culture of corruption that prevails.

They retaliate against whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing by means of, what I term, SLOW tactics: Strategic Litigation On Whistleblowers. A variation of the SLAPP suit used against activists (usually spurious defamation claims) and SLAM suits against journalists (such as the case against Karyn Maughn by Jacob Zuma), SLOW suits aim to deter conscientious employees from speaking out against corruption, sexual harassment and abuses of power, by drawn out disciplinary procedures that can lead to their financial ruin. Usually corrupted power holders cannot outwit, or outplay, their employees on the merits, but instead use taxpayers money to outlast them through attrition. The only beneficiaries are the lawyers.

The clearest high-profile illustration of SLOW tactics has been the lawfare against Prasa whistleblowers Martha Ngoye and Tiro Holele.

But judging from the number of public servants who have come to me for counsel and support, that is not an exception. It has become a rule. I take them through the Bill of Rights (Chapter 2) to clarify exactly where the pressure points are, and then to Chapter 10, which marvellously details the values and principles of accountable governance.

However, it is really their leaders that need to be on the carpet to explain how this retaliation against whistleblowers squares with those principles. Professional ethics, accountability, transparency and good human resource management are all enshrined in clause 195. To ensure they are not forgotten, clause 196 spells out the responsibility of the Public Service Commission to normalise these values and principles throughout the Public Service.

It is obvious that if whistleblowing was encouraged and incentivised, this would clean out the rot of corruption.

Unfortunately, it is also obvious that the criminal networks that still profit from a corrupted State know this too, and want to see whistleblowers punished instead. They will try to thwart ethical leadership that tries to change that at every turn. So how will the culture change?

It is said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. That depends on what strategy is served. I am convinced that a strategy that emerges from four sections of the Constitution; the Preamble, Chapter 1 (The founding Provisions), Chapter 2 (the Bill of Rights) and Chapter 10 (Public Administration) will be indigestible to the corrupt culture.


☎️ The immigration detention hotline toll-free call number is 0800079614 or WhatsApp or message to +27817168791



📖 Reading Matter: We revive our book sharing section where free, critical resources are made available to our readers. This month we share ⬇️

bell hooks’ feminist theory from the margin to center

The formation of an oppositional world view is necessary for feminist struggle. This means that the world we have most intimately known, the world in which we feel “safe,” (even if such feelings are based on illusions) must be radically changed. Perhaps it is the knowledge that everyone must change, not just those we label enemies or oppressors, that has so far served to check our revolutionary impulses. Those revolutionary impulses must freely inform our theory and practice if feminist movement to end existing oppression is to progress, if we are to transform our present reality.

🖊️ The Sigidi declaration
The events leading up to the declaration saw the SABC report on the repression surrounding activists including those from the Amadiba Crisis Committee. In the debate, the interviewer asked about the death threats against Nonhle Mbuthuma.

Today on Human Rights Day, we communities of South Africa gather here in Sigidi village in Umgungundlovu to attend the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and Right to Say No rally, together with other mining affected communities, fishers, small-scale farmers and other rural and urban communities to celebrate and advance the Right to Say No.

The crisis we face
We meet at a time when our country is gripped by the deepest crisis since 1994. It is a social, economic and ecological crisis. The social fabric in our communities is being torn apart. The mass of people cannot provide for themselves and their children. The environment is polluted, critical infrastructure for water and sanitation is collapsing, and we now live in a climate crisis. All this is making our lives unbearable.

In this terrible situation, we have been abandoned by the government and almost all politicians. They are more interested in making money for themselves.

We have come to Sigidi in the knowledge that it is only by uniting our communities and the workers of this country in bonds of solidarity that we can start to pave our way out of this crisis.

On Human Rights Day, we are reminded by the words of Steve Biko and the actions of ACC’s late chairperson Bazooka Radebe that “we are our own liberators.”

Our rural communities bear the brunt of an economic system and ideology we have come to know as “Extractivism”. This system that is driven by both transnational corporations and the new black elite plunders our natural resources and dispossesses us, leaving waste and destruction in its wake. Their methods are more mining, more deforestation, more plundering of the oceans for fish, more industrial agriculture and mono-cropping, more drilling for oil and gas in the sea and on the land, more secret and corrupt business deals and more profits, sent off abroad after a part of it has filled the pockets of local “partners” no matter if they are black or white.

Accompanying this is more violence against women, assassination of activists and state repression of resisting communities.

Right to Say No
We, the rural communities at the front line of this assault have come together in this commemoration of fallen heroes in South Africa, Africa and in the whole world to assert our Right to Say No.

For us, the Right to Say No is more than a resistance strategy. It provides a vision of an alternative path. It is rooted in our everyday practice of producing food for need, not for profit, without destroying nature on which our lives and the future of our children depend.

In this way it gives expression to our desire for a Just Transition from Below, which to us is much more than a ‘energy transition’. For us it is a transition from unemployment, landlessness, violence, abject poverty in all corners of the society and the glaring inequality of lives lived in South Africa. It entails the creation of millions of decent jobs and livelihoods. For example, in rehabilitating the land damaged by mining and other forms of Extractivism, thousands of jobs can be found and lay the basis for food sovereignty. It entails the creation of sustainable livelihoods in meeting the needs of our people. It entails making all the care for children and elderly currently burdening women into a collective and community responsibility, in which all men have full role to play.

Such a program is possible if we gather our strength to reverse budget cuts and austerity, stand in solidarity with workers who want a living wages at the expense of profits and organise all communities affected by corporate grabbing of natural resources into a national force for economic and environmental security.

Our communities sent us here with the expectation that we will return with a program of action to give hope to our people. And we are proud to announce we are united in this program of action that includes the following:

  • Going to the people to bring information of the new extractivist threats that our people face such as “green hydrogen” and mining for so-called “green minerals”;
  • Campaigning for the Right to Say No to become law;
  • Campaigning for a massive public works program of land rehabilitation;
  • Stopping the frenzy of new coal and other mining application until the destruction created has been repaired and nature restored;
  • Mobilising our communities to establish Extractivist free zones;
  • Rallying in the defence of the Baleni Right to Say No Judgement and to have the Constitutional Court affirm it;
  • Demanding that the anti-democratic Traditional Khoisan and Leadership Act is withdrawn and the bribing of traditional leaders, as happened under apartheid is stopped;
  • Organising our communities against violence and criminality, stopping our communities from falling apart through self-help where the state is failing and forging bonds of solidarity;
  • Putting it to the political class and government officials that there is no development if it is not coming from the people who should have the final say over all projects.

This programme of action constitutes the first steps of a community and worker alliance for a Just Transition from Below. 

Social justice assembly
The Social Justice Assembly (SJA) is a group of activists from a range of popular and community organisations, social movements, NGOs and other parts of civil society. We came together at the inaugural Social Justice Assembly at the Future Africa Campus of the University of Pretoria on the 26-27 of January 2023, where it became clear that we urgently need a strategy to address the multitude of crises our country is facing.

We, as the SJA, call on all who live in South Africa to come together in unity and struggle behind the vision of a peaceful, just and fair society based on real democracy. We call on all our people to stand up, organise and take back our democracy, power and future.

No more shall the political and business elites hold power. Starting with the 2024 general elections, it will be the people themselves who set the agenda.

To join us in building power and demanding a better life for ourselves, follow the SJA on social media to keep up-to-date with how you can get involved

The declaration ends with this:

Our Actions
We commit to build a broad platform uniting all of us in a common vision, common demands and a programme for social justice based on solidarity and unity in action.

We leave the Assembly to report back and consult our communities, other networks and organisations on the outcomes of the Assembly. We will convene locally, regionally and in different sectors.We will then aim to reconvene by September 2023 to adopt this common vision, programme of action for the 2024 national elections and beyond, and to also adopt mechanisms for coordinating our actions going into the future.

In the lead-up to the September convening we will undertake public and activist education. 

We will strengthen our efforts to build solidarity and advance our current diverse struggles for social justice. We will sustain our ongoing work of collective community care, self-provisioning, and healing.

For more: https://www.socialjusticeassembly.org.za/calltoaction

Moses Cloete serves as the editor at large of this edition. Unless otherwise indicated the writing and presentation of the Bulletin is by Hassen Lorgat. Marta Garrich helped with additional editing and layout of the newsletter. Simo Gumede is responsible for the members and partners database management. Photo source in the header (Sol Plaatje on his bicycle and holding up his “pass”): The Heritage Portal.