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21st February 2024

April 2023

Dear comrade, this bulletin focusses on Anglo America Corporation because at the time of publishing it would have had their Annual General Meeting. We are not in the business of celebrating corporations and thus our take will be on how communities all over the world are organising around these corporations and their negative impacts on their lives and environment. In this regard, we learn from South Africa, and Chile.

Our feature from the ground turns to people in Snake park living with cerebral palsy. A large feature of this edition is around media and communications, we touch on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board, the photo essay on snake park, the visit by ElitshaNews Newspaper to Jagersfontein, as well as the sordid details contained in an exposé by Al Jazeera called Gold Mafia

The reporting of Elitsha and Workers World Media Production (members of Peoples Media Consortium) is critical as their work with the Bench Marks Foundation went to the area to keep those in power under strong public scrutiny. Inspired by this, community members have called for us to publicly relaunch an updated report on Jagersfontein. This will be out soon. Watch this space!

Finally, we continue to have the usual debates and resources around mine closure (new publication), the launch of the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA) and, in our debate section, we focus on the tiny country of Botswana, asking many questions about what the equitable relationship could be for governments dealing with corporations.

· OPINION ·

It seems a long time since that historic ballot in 1994. Thursday 27th of April 2023 marks the 29th anniversary of that momentous event. Millions stood for hours, some say decades and centuries to have the right to vote, which they shared in snaking queues. The time was pregnant with hope and possibilities. Armed with our RDP booklets, we were going to meet basic needs and democratise society and the state. We, the people, were the soul of the RDP as our government promised to include, consult and let the people participate in all aspects of our open government.

Today, almost 3 decades later, many people seemingly have mixed emotions. Many are sincere and have genuine grounds for complaint and anger. Some, on the other hand, go so far as to say that life was better under apartheid. A few politicians amongst them even saw under the jackboots of colonialism benefits such as building infrastructure, hospitals (did i hear them say?), education, technologies and so on. They do not stop to ask infrastructure for whom? Technologies of repression or liberation? For black women? Men? Education for what? Subjugation or liberation?

It is understandable for folk who talk in shebeens or at home or even those who call radio talks to share their disappointment in the face of rampant corruption, non accountability and failed promises and argue that living under apartheid was better. Many of those born after 1994 started with a clean slate, but it cannot be ahistorical. It is true that every generation must find their struggles, and issues – but the lessons of struggles must start with taking a long, short and intermediate route. If you ask many, like myself who lived and schooled during apartheid, we will say that there was “law and order”, but for a tiny minority. For the majority of us, apartheid was hell on earth. This minority did not experience the daily crime and structural and systemic violence and the indignity of everyday life. So, you can understand why so many are disturbed at the half hearted attempts at reconstruction and the corruption and the hopelessness that prevails… we can do better.

There are too many missed opportunities and failures. We have not kept our eyes on the prize, the total liberation of Africans living in dignity and without fear nor want.

  • The government has failed to make quality public health and quality public education work for all. 
  • On the economy, over 11 million people are unemployed and seem unlikely to obtain jobs under this neoliberal management of the economy. 
  • Police repression and gun violence remains very high.
  • South Africa still has large numbers of children living in poverty. One in 10 South African children went to bed hungry at some point, according to CSOs. This is done despite a large government programme providing social security of various forms and sizes.
  • The information resources on places and poverty or spatial apartheid are many and we should not shy away from using them and educating ourselves. It is, for instance, reported that the poorest province in this country is the Eastern Cape whilst the wealthiest is Gauteng. Within these provinces, there are extreme levels of poverty. In the  mostly rural Eastern Cape, it is said that 880,000 people live in poverty. In Gauteng, the city of Gold, where most people flock to for jobs and other opportunities, over 610,000 people live in poverty. These numbers are calculated from Statistics South Africa’s 2016 Community Survey. Poverty in South Africa has deep historical roots that show up in more recent movements of people according to this project. 

What is undeniable is that South Africa is the world’s most unequal society, which in many ways keeps the insult of apartheid alive. In their study, the World Bank found that race still plays a determining factor in a society where 10 percent of the population owns more than 80 percent of the wealth: “South Africa… is the most unequal country in the world, ranking first among 164 countries.” Almost three decades after the end of apartheid, “race remains a key driver of high inequality in South Africa, due to its impact on education and the labour market,” it concluded.

In the face of this, we continue to permit corporations to do what they want and here I am not talking of the Gold Mafia, as sordid as it is, but the legal powers on transfer pricing and so on. The economy has not been democratised and the lame efforts of Black Economic Empowerment have only enriched a few. Mass poverty and inequality is an indictment that must be fixed. Now. All this breeds violence, which has reached an unprecedented stage. Too many guns and a lack of hope. No jobs.

To have hope we must choose democracy over the bullets and the men with guns. We must deal with the rampant poverty and inequality, the crime and the hoplesness. Everyday when we wake up, we attempt to do what is right for our communities and ourselves. It may be appropriate to ask, are we in crisis not only because of the corporations non investment in the economy and the government’s failure to lead? Or are we in a crisis because we have no leadership from the mass organisations in society? It is clear that the leadership role of mass, democratic trade unions and civic organisations has been in decline for over a decade and no other formation has taken their place. We have to pick up the pieces and rebuild our own organisations, our societies and those we elect into public office (including the so-called private sector).

We must try to rebuild our society by looking at our history and our values. We must try to refresh and renew ourselves through ubuntu, which is about life with others, in community.
 

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu 
Motho ke motho ka batho. 


Simply this means that a person is a person because of others. It is about community rebuilding and solidarity.

As we do this, we must keep our leaders accountable at all levels of our society and our lives, in the mosques, churches, sportsfields, the economy and the polity. The late socialist MP Tony Benn codified what may be called an accountable democracy, beyond the trappings, the motions and lies. 

I end this section by admitting that I really do love Tony Benn for codifying in very simple terms what he called the five little questions which those in positions of economic, social and political power should always be asked:

  1. “What power have you got?”
  2. “Where did you get it from?”
  3. “In whose interests do you use it?”
  4. “To whom are you accountable?”
  5. “How do we get rid of you?”

Benn apparently raised these questions everywhere and wrote them down in lecture halls, class rooms and shared them at rallies, TV stations and so on. This lesson is worth emulating. For this to be realised here in Mzansi, we must organise and be in communion with others. Let freedom live.

ARTICLES

Jagersfontein reporting: keeping leaders accountable on tailings collapse

We are thrilled that civil society organisations and their media and advocacy activism has been at the forefront of covering the good work of our sector. The Workers World Media Productions and their Newspaper Elitshanews has done their job of informing and educating our public. The journalist and cameraman Mzi Velapi and Muzi Mzoyi have reported compassionately and accurately about the conditions of the people of Jagersfontein. Their work began in early April and was published on 18 April 2023.

The mining tailings dam collapse in Jagersfontein in September last year left a trail of destruction, despair, divisions within the community and a climate of fear in the small mining town 120 kilometres south-west of Bloemfontein. The nearby poor communities of Charlesville and Itumeleng have been left to fend for themselves while provincial and local governments are still registering the names of those who lost their livelihoods.

Our team visited Jagersfontein and spoke to David van Wyk, a researcher from Benchmarks Foundation who is based in the Free State. In the video below, van Wyk explains what led to the collapse.
Read more.

More recently, mainstream journalists like Veronica Mokhoali have pushed the boundaries of the mainstream media by reporting on 26 April 2023 on Jagersfontein. Like Elitsha, WWMP – affiliates of the Peoples Media consortium -, she has given voice to the voiceless and have exposed governments regulatory bodies inaptness.

BOTSWANA: diamond deal up for re-negotiation

This landlocked country of just close to 2.5 million citizens, that obtained independence from Britain on 30 September (1966), may have something to teach its bigger neighbours, if they can take on the big giant, de Beers.

Early in March, news channels reported that the Botswana government was insistent on continuing its dispute with Anglo’s de Beers Mining corporation. The government of President Mokgweetsi Masisi said that they will continue demanding that the government sell a bigger share of the diamonds produced by its joint venture with De Beers. The Botswana and De Beers mine diamonds under the equally-owned joint venture Debswana, which many believe favours the corporation.

Reuters reported that “three-quarters of Debswana’s production, which was 24 million carats in 2022, is sold to De Beers. The balance is sold to state-owned Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), which was set up under the current 2011 sales deal as Botswana sought to market gems outside the De Beers system. Botswana supplies 70% of De Beers’ rough diamonds.”

The deal of 2011 on diamond sales expires in June this year and this  54-year-old joint venture comes up for renegotiation. And it is not clear if this is simply or only a negotiating stance prior to the contract renewal or it presents greater opportunities.

The government believes that they have amassed a lot of experience in the joint venture and is convinced to get more for the rough stones if they, the government, sold it. It is clear that there are internal political factors also fueling the opportunity. 

David van Wyk, Bench Marks Foundations research head, supports the government’s moves, thus: “The move to renegotiate terms of the agreement is a good one. We note that, whilst 70% of the diamonds processed, cut, polished and retailed by DeBeers, originate from Botswana, the country does not receive what it deserves. It only receives the revenue derived from the sale of rough and semi-cut diamonds produced in the country, as most of the beneficiation takes place elsewhere in India (Mumbai), UK (London), the Netherlands (Antwerp) and Israel (Tel Aviv). Thus most of the value is derived outside Botswana.

It has also been reported that going as far back as the 1970s, de Beers has under-declared diamonds it mined in the country for the sole purpose of avoiding and evading taxation.” (For more, follow here)

For years, researchers (see Sarwatch’s The Diamond Deception) have called for: 
• Disclosure of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) internal financing structure, including domestic and foreign entities, shareholdings, investments, donations and other inflow and outflow; 
• Cap on political finance donations related to elections and other; 
• Separation of BDP and De Beers interests including principals shared in both party and corporate structures; 
• Removal of monopoly, oligopolies, and cartels in the diamond industry. 

Sarwatch’s executive director Claude Kabemba affirms that the “best scenario for Botswana is to get shares from value-added and polished diamonds rather than raw diamonds.

Furthermore, the government is in “a strong position to push for a 50-50 arrangement on the diamond sales agreement. However, the centrality of Diamonds to the country’s economy gives it less wiggle room. Diamond sales, almost entirely from Debswana, account for two-thirds of Botswana’s foreign currency receipts and a fifth of its gross domestic product.

To bolster Botswana’s negotiations, other African diamond-producing countries, especially South Africa and Namibia which also have a partnership with De Beers – a unit of Anglo-American, need to add their voice in solidarity because of the precedent this deal will set for the continent. A unified position by Africa will uphold the aspirations of the African mining vision and change the future dynamics of negotiations of mining contracts and deals. This is especially important given the growing interest in Africa’s critical minerals required for the energy transition.”

The Bench Marks Foundation released the hard hitting Policy Gap 5 SADC Research Report in 2009 entitled Corporate Social Responsibility in the Diamond Mining Industry in Botswana De Beers, Botswana and the Control of a Country. The report listed a wide range of human rights violations on the part of the company. In the recommendations, it called on the government to “take a lead role in the sustainable development of mining communities and social responsibilities in communities; a role that has been seriously forsaken and neglected up to now. In market economies where mining is a privately driven activity, the state must assume a strong and independent regulatory role. In Botswana where the government is a 50% shareholder in Debswana, its independence is clouded by its involvement. There is a strong perception that the Botswana government is the tool of De Beers rather than being an impartial arbiter in issues relating to the impact of mining on society, communities and the environment.” 

The government believes that it has acquired skills and bolstered its political resolve to demand more but the corporation disagrees. It is clear, as reported by Reuters, that Anglo American Plc (AAL.L) unit is a powerful player. It has mines in “Canada, Namibia and South Africa, sold rough diamonds worth $4.3 billion in 2022, a 13% increase over the 2021 sales. ODC’s sales were $1.2 billion in 2022, up from $963 million in 2021.”

It seems that the government has at last mobilised the political courage to set things right. Many questions still remain. But it is a first step, if the ruling party, with its legacy to be one of truly uplifting its people as its slogan professes “Tsholetsa Domkrag”, deals with the allegations in these reports and cleans up party state relations and ensures, if successful, the new additional resources can benefit the poorest in our neighbouring country.

FROM THE GROUND

Photo Courtesy of the Daily Vox

Parents of Children living with Cerebral Palsy speak out
Thoko Mntambo

South Africa has a large number of abandoned tailing dams / facilities if the number of abandoned mines is anything to go by. The Auditor General recently noted that there were over 6 000 abandoned mines with 2 322 of them classified as high risk. Snake Park is a township situated in a basin of a tailing mine dump in Soweto. The people reside side by side with a radioactive toxic tailing dam that contains uranium and other heavy metals. This tailing dam is neither signposted, fenced, nor rehabilitated. Dust from the mine dump is blown into the air every day and people inhale the dust causing implications to their health.

In 2017, the Bench Marks Foundation’s research team embarked on a study in Soweto, looking at the impacts of mining on the community. The study Policy Gap 12 was conducted by researcher David Van Wyk with the assistance of community activist Tiny Dhlamini.

This study reveals how radioactive dust causes respiratory problems such as asthma, coughing, and impacting children born with cerebral palsy. The organisation is aware that whenever negative impacts of mining are pointed out to the corporations, they will deny that they have caused harm.

I went out to investigate how the parents and children are “living” with cerebral palsy.

There are many children with cerebral palsy in our community. This is because many pregnant women swallow or breathe in radioactive materials, and absorb them into their bloodstreams. It is believed that from the blood, these toxins pass to the umbilical cord or near the womb and expose the foetus to radiation.

When walking around our streets, one will notice many disabled people and widespread poverty. Many mothers are living in distress because of the challenges that come with raising a child with disabilities, especially when living in a marginalised community like Snake Park. The Foundation and its allies have been campaigning for years for justice for this community. The BBC and numerous media houses have reported on it.

Palesa
I interviewed parents who are living with children born with cerebral palsy in Snake Park Soweto. They spoke out about how the government and the corporations have failed them. The government has to provide them quality health care and that negligence must be dealt with. I will share how one parent complained of hospital negligence that has traumatised the family. I spoke to Palesa Motete.

She is a 33-year-old mum of Oratillwe Motete who is a 13-year-old girl, who was born at Baragwanath Hospital in 2010. Palesa then was only 21 years old. Miss Motete couldn’t cope with the fact that her child was diagnosed with mental illness and cerebral palsy. At that time, she was still young and vulnerable and did not receive any trauma counselling as a teenage mother who would have to care for a child with special needs.

“I was depressed and had a mental breakdown and I started doing drugs, went to live on the streets, and smoked Nyaope (drugs). I could not take care of my child because it was hard for me to accept that she can’t walk, talk or play outside like other children. I was a single parent who dropped out of high school and was unemployed. My boyfriend walked out on us. It felt like my life was coming to an end. “

While she was still on drugs, her mother had to step in and take care of Oratilwe for almost nine years until 2020 when Miss Motete decided that she would stop smoking drugs. She went to rehab and she got help. She has been sober for three years now and has started to take responsibility for being a good mother to her daughter.

Mpho
I also spoke to Mpho Matsimela who is a 40-year-old mum to a 19-year-old boy Lehlohonolo Matsimela. He was born in 2001 at Baragwanath Hospital without any disability. Lehlohonolo was able to walk and talk until he was 4 years old. In 2005, he started to have a high fever and his mother took him to the hospital. On their arrival, he was admitted to high care and they put him on life support machines. After three days, his family was told that he had passed away.

Miss Matsimela was asked to come to the hospital to sign postmortem papers. She started to make funeral arrangements back at home when she went back to the hospital to fetch her son’s body. They then discovered that he was still alive and he was rushed to ICU. Doctors performed an operation on him.

After the operation Lehlohonolo could not walk anymore, and the side on which the doctors operated is now disabled and no longer working. The hospital then discharged him without any wheelchair.

“I want the hospital to compensate my son because he was not disabled when they operated on him and now he is disabled,” said Miss Matsimela. “He is now at home instead of attending school because the transport is expensive and the money I get for the disability grant is not enough to take care of his needs,” she explained.

Thulani Snake Park in Soweto is one of the impoverished communities with many children born and living with cerebral palsy. Their parents are poor and do not have jobs. In addition, the care of a child living with cerebral palsy is great. The parents have to do the care work, feeding and avoiding seizures.

The parents believe that schooling for children with special needs is far and expensive. Sometimes, they say that schools do not admit children who are still on nappies and are not able to go to the toilet on their own.

This is one of the reasons that they formed a Non Profit Organisation called Snake Park Cerebral Palsy Forum. According to Nobulawo Sitshaluza, secretary of the organisation, “we are struggling to pay school fees for our children because the grant money our children get monthly is R2 000. This money is not enough to cover school transport, it only covers food and toiletries.” “What we urgently need here is a centre for children with special needs funded by the government,” she said.

Natalya Dinat, medical doctor and researcher for Science for the People of Southern Africa, agrees. She adds that “Poor parents who have children with disabilities must come together and form a movement which will challenge the government and the Department of Health about difficulties and challenges they encounter from the hospitals.” 

Caring for a child with disabilities affects the carer’s physical wellbeing and independence. We can all assist and support families of children with disabilities by signing this petition I started. Please join me.

ORGANISING IN AND AROUND THE ANGLO AMERICAN CORPORATION


Readers of this BULLETIN will recall our reporting on Kabwe community vs Anglo American. This came to the fore as the High Court in Johannesburg heard evidence from Zambian children and women against the mining giant Anglo American, seeking compensation for lead poisoning. The court has heard evidence and it will now decide if the matter goes ahead or not. If it does, it will present the citizens of Kabwe (Zambia) the opportunity to tell the world of their lives and hopefully obtain justice for the violations of their rights to life, and dignity at the hands of Anglo. In this featured section we have a few pieces, mostly around the Anglo American Annual General Meeting that will take place in London, whose notice was sent out thus:

Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of Anglo American plc will be held at The Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE and virtually (details set out in Appendix 1 to the Notice of Annual General Meeting) at 11:00 on Wednesday, 26 April 2023 for the following business…

Very little of the format includes the concerns of mining affected communities. But activists will be there hoping to make them account.

Human Rights Award given to Alessandra Korap Munduruku

The BBC interviewed the winner of this year’s Goldman Prize, Ms Alessandra Korap Munduruku. She is a grassroots activist who has campaigned with her community to protect the Munduruku territory, which brought her into conflict with Anglo American. Because of their pressure, the corporation withdrew 27 research applications to mine inside indigenous territories. A rare victory for a community. In an interview with the BBC, she was asked whether she did not fear taking on a mining giant, to which Munduruku responded that she received her powers from the territory and the people they were protecting:

“It [Anglo American] may be powerful to you, but to me, the powerful ones are the river, the strength of our territory and our people, the ant doing its work and the resistance of our people for more than 500 years in the fight for our land.” 

Meanwhile at the AGM, Richard Solly from London Mining Watch did battle in solidarity with us in London…

London Mining Watch has a programme that focuses on Anglo American Plc, which is a British multinational registered mining company based in London, with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and in the FTSE 100 Index. They state on their website that Anglo also has a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, reflecting the company’s South African origins where it was formed in 1917. Anglo American is the fifth biggest mining company in the world, with a value of over $55 billion in 2020

My name is Richard Solly and I am asking a question on behalf of the Bench Marks Foundation in South Africa and the communities with which it works. 

The question concerns the company’s impacts on the Magobading, Sterkwater and Skimming communities and the Sekhukhune Combined Mining Affected Communities (SCMAC) organisation in Limpopo, South Africa.

Anglo American Platinum has conducted a number of community relocations to facilitate mine expansion. This has built a lucrative platinum business portfolio for the company, but little value for the communities. Anglo American Platinum’s previous relocations, including the Magobading and Ga-pila Sterkwater communities, has left a bitter taste in these communities. The relocations have been badly handled and community members do not consider that they made life any better for them. There are still outstanding demands and many unfulfilled promises. The current project to expand the Mogalakwena mine is anticipated to include the relocation of 1000 households in Skimming village but is being pursued with little transparency
.

Relocation of communities in Limpopo province has been a recurring feature of Anglo Platinum’s mining. This is a very serious concern because community relocation impacts generations. According to the Relocated community of Magobading, Anglo American Platinum has frustrated them by always playing hot and cold. The Magobading community was relocated in 2002 to make way for the Twickenham shaft. The community has been communicating their dissatisfaction with this relocation since 2009. Anglo American Platinum has been promising to address their concerns. An intervention in which the Bench Marks Foundation was involved led to an agreement on compensation of R10 million, which was paid to families in 2020. This was over 10 years since the community raised the issue of inadequate compensation. However, the community’s other priorities, which include replacing grazing land, general infrastructure development, renovations of houses, access to water and relocation of graves, have not been addressed. The community is now reporting that they have been calling on the company for engagement on these promises to no avail. The community has marched and written to the office of the CEO but there has been no positive response.

The same goes for the Sterkwater community, which was relocated after a protracted conflict over the quality of housing provided by Anglo American in early 2000. This was the most difficult relocation as it was largely resisted and ended up in a confrontation between the community and the police. This community has not completely healed and settled as they still contest the quality of their houses and are aggrieved over the quality of land as compared to the previous settlement. They claim that the promised employment per family has failed. The Sterkwater community has waited on the Independent Resettlement Review Report which was commissioned by Anglo American Platinum. This report has not been released to them but has been verbally presented. The community believes this is inadequate information. The company has since gone silent on this report and has not bothered to engage with the community.

The most painful issue for the Skimming/Leruleng community is that 1000 households face relocation to a place not yet known. What is more worrying is that the relocation process does not meet recognised standards of transparency. There is confusion in the community. There is no clear documentation of who is going to be relocated at what time. Information is circulating in the community with no clarity. As a result, there is high tension and suspicion of outsiders. Given the concerns of security, the Bench Marks’ informant prefers to remain anonymous. The process has commenced with a survey of which the community has no full knowledge. A large section of the community are rejecting this relocation because of the lack of information. The community is currently divided and tensions are high. Relocation is a delicate process which requires openness and clear independent monitoring by civil society. This process has been shrouded in mystery and the community are being provided with very limited information on which to make decisions.

Lastly, the issue of concern raised by SCMAC is the attitude of the leadership of Anglo-American Platinum with regard to engagement. The current attitude is problematic: there is no appetite to engage with the directly affected mining communities. The company has been playing a diplomatic game which does not involve actually changing their practice. SCMAC have marched and presented a memorandum of demands and requested engagement with the company but with no result. The Bench Marks Foundation’s intervention has not succeeded in persuading Anglo American Platinum to engage with the communities.

The question therefore is, what will Anglo American Plc’s management in London do to ensure that Anglo American Platinum treats communities in Limpopo with sufficient respect to deal with their concerns, engage with them honestly and share information about relocation plans fully and promptly?

Movimiento No Más Anglo – Chile

Impossible to believe them when they continue to destroy life. Days before its shareholders’ meeting in London and the resolution of the Committee of Ministers that has to decide on the Los Bronces Integrated Expansion project, which has already been rejected by the Environmental Assessment Service, Anglo American shows its siren song before the United Nations.

The mining company has pledged to stop using fresh water at its Los Bronces operation by 2030. But it does not say that it currently uses at least 1380 litres per second at its Los Bronces operations. Nor does it mention that it systematically destroys glacial areas that are the main source of water supply in the Metropolitan Region, nor does it talk about its tailings dams that pollute groundwater or the industrial water used to irrigate roads. But Anglo American’s greenwashing actions fail to hide the fact that the water scarcity we face has been caused by the overexploitation of water sources, and mega-mining is one of the key players.

Mining is right to review and seek solutions to the irreparable damage they cause, but it must be real. Desalination is not a panacea. The first is the realisation that it will have further negative impacts on the marine ecosystems along the coastline and on the entire length of pipelines that will be required to transfer the water from the sea to Colina. There is also the underlying issue: we continue to take water from anywhere and at any cost in order to ensure a mining business over life. It makes no sense to make a mega-investment that will result in more pollution to keep intact the demand for a model that devastates nature.

The communities do not believe in Anglo American. The company has not kept its promises, preferring to pay fines, use legal loopholes to move forward with its exploitation and seek intermediaries such as London Mining Network to try to talk to the communities. But in this way they only continue to destroy trust. For example, Anglo American has not fulfilled its promise since 2015 to remove the tailings from the Pérez Caldera waters. They are still holding on despite a judicial settlement that was promised to the communities and the imminent danger.

Anglo American’s siren songs are useless. The Los Bronces Integrado project not only poses a risk to the health of the population, but also has shortcomings in other fundamental aspects that were not duly considered by the SEA. As the Undersecretary of the Environment pointed out at the beginning of March, the project did not include innumerable glaciers that make up the mountain range of the Andes Mountains and that would be exposed to the construction and operation activities of the mining site, nor was the climate change factor considered in the assessment of the potential impacts on them, and the file did not provide sufficient information to rule out damage with respect to the deposit of sedimentable particulate matter and black carbon on the glaciers.

Do you care about water? Then don’t keep destroying glaciers, accelerating their melting and affecting flows that directly impact the habitats of the Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary, the Mapocho River and the Valparaiso and Metropolitan regions.

*This is an automatic translation of the original text in Spanish.

COMMUNICATION RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

This was the past, we have now an opportunity to turn things around. Honest reporting that empowers citizens is what the new board must strive to achieve. Photo courtesy Zapiro / biznews

SABC: at the crossroads, state or public broadcaster?

When the news came – six months late – that the president, in the face of legal action by Media Monitoring Africa, finally appointed the SABC board, we were elated. The Bench Marks Foundation is a member of the Peoples Media Coalition and has been active on two issues that have a direct bearing on the SABC: digitalisation and the board of governance of the SABC. 

Over the past year, the PMC has been actively campaigning in the Save Free TV to ensure that migration from analogue to digital does not leave out the poor and working people. We have been active supporters of the legal campaigns lodged in particular by Media Monitoring Africa and SOS coalition.

The President acceded to Parliament who, after their unanimous nominations of board members, were kept waiting for six months. At last, the president did what the law required him to do and appointed the board. So why are we elated? First, we are elated because it was a victory of the campaigners in parliament and civil society that forced the hand of the president. Second, in the face of a vicious campaign against some of the nominated members, they were nominated in what promises to be an exciting board. As I have said in many interviews, the new board has brilliant, creative and principled individuals, and they will have to become a team. Soon.

The new board members 
The mix of human talent on the board augurs well for our democracy, if they can act in terms of their mandate. They are:

·  Dr. Renee Horne (former journalist)
·  Adv Tseliso Thipanyane (former CEO of the Human Rights Commission)
·  Mr Khathutshelo Ramukumba;
·  Ms. Nomvuyiso Batyi;
·  Ms Phathiswa Magopeni (former head of news SABC)
·  Ms. Aifheli Makhwanya;
·  Ms Magdalene Moonsamy (lawyer and former EFF member)
·  Ms. Rearabetsoe Motaung;
·  Mr. David Maimela;
·  Mr Dinkwanyane Mohuba;
·  Mr Mpho Tsedu (former SABC journalist); and
·  Ms Palesa Kadi.

In terms of section 13(3) of the Act, President Ramaphosa designated Mr Khathutshelo Ramukumba as Chairperson and Ms Nomvuyiso Batyi as the Deputy Chairperson of the SABC Board. They will serve for 5 years.

Whilst we are optimistic, we are aware that the SABC has over the years been commercialised and the recent delay and the robust comments from ANC politicians presented severe threats to the autonomy of the broadcaster. Leaving that aside, the SABC faces the persistent challenge of whether, in practice, it can slip into state broadcaster, especially in the upcoming elections next year, as the light dims on the promise on realising its public broadcaster credentials. Coverage of the poor and working people aside from protests, is lacking and must be remedied. A focus on programming that brings in advertisers shifts the broadcaster from its noble goals. But what is this animal, called the SABC?  Is it a state broadcaster or a public broadcaster?
 
The state vs public broadcaster
This is a tough call. A state broadcaster is simply “the master’s” voice and does not have other objectives that will benefit public interest. A public service broadcaster is appointed after a process of nomination and deliberation by the national parliament. It has relatively wide participation although this can be widened some more. 

The board that is appointed must perform its tasks in terms of law and policy and not the whims and fancy of individuals. Board members have to act in terms of their mandate and conscience. Our parliament votes to assign them a budget, but it is here that the biggest threats appear as the public broadcaster is forced to go to the market for funds through advertising. This weakens the public service mandate and threatens its independence and accountability. The commercialisation thrust has resulted in programmes focusing on workers and the poor being dumped. Take for instance the programme Workers on Wednesday (produced by Workers World Media Production, a member of PMC) being dropped, because it was not profitable. The programme ran for 14 years on SAfm.

The outgoing SABC board did a generally good job, but many levelled some criticisms against it when reports emerged that some of the board sought to influence senior staff to do the bidding for the ruling party. These lessons must be learnt and not repeated. Thus, knowing and living their role as board members will be critical if they are to remain and become fully a public broadcaster.

The mandate of the board is to provide broadcast services to the people of South Africa, and to realise the Broadcasting Act’s objectives. The first three of these many objectives tell you that they have their job cut out for them:

The object of this Act is to establish and develop a broadcasting policy in the Republic in the public interest and for that purpose to –
(a) contribute to democracy, development of society, gender equality, nation building, provision of education and strengthening the spiritual and moral fibre of society;
(b) safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of South Africa;
(c) encourage ownership and control of broadcasting services through participation by persons from historically disadvantaged groups;


If it attempts to do this, it will effectively turn to the people and not to the leaders to determine what needs to be reported. Hopefully, with a focus on achieving the mandate and obtaining a level of financial sustainability, the public broadcaster can remain free and independent from party politics and political agendas. This political independence from corporate and political parties means that it should speak truth to power – warts and all. We have come a long way in South Africa from a state broadcaster. The redress we seek must unite South Africans and report on the reconstruction from our racist and sexist apartheid past to a future where violence against women is no more, and racism becomes a relic stored in the Apartheid Museum. This is a long, hard road for the board, and all of us, to take. In this rocky terrain, remember the listeners and viewers of the broadcaster and important partners in this journey. Call on us and talk to us regularly as the job cannot be done without us.

Some snippets

South Africa’s Gold Mining Legacy

Johannesburg, South Africa – “This mine is a silent killer,” said Tiny Dlamini at Snake Park in Soweto, pointing at Johannesburg’s largest abandoned gold mine dump that looms over the impoverished settlement.

During over a century of highly profitable gold mining in South Africa, large amounts of mining waste were piled into massive hills, mainly in marginalised and densely populated residential areas such as Soweto.

There is no fencing, signposting or security around the tailings dump officially known as Thulani/Doornkop, but more popularly known as Snake Park. City officials say it has as many as 58,000 residents.

When it is hot, children swim in the highly toxic evaporation pools of the former mine, Dlamini said… Read more

Coalition Against SLAPPs in Africa: Join us for the Southern Africa Consultative Meeting and Launch on May 16 and 17, 2023, in Rosebank, Johannesburg

The convenors of the Coalition against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA), the Southern Africa Resource Watch and the Bench Marks Foundation call on you to join us in convening the subregional consultation and launch of the coalition.

The Southern African consultative meeting and launch will occur on 16 and 17 May 2023. Although there are limited spaces, those interested in this work must contact the organisers to attend in person. To attend online, please register here.
 
Organisers of the event said that “without active citizens’ participation, we cannot win. We can defeat Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) by building strong democratic organisations. In addition, we will campaign to enact legislation in our parliaments and regional bodies. SLAPPs are lawsuits against human rights activists from all walks of life and work in the public interest. Those who use SLAPPs undermine democracy and the public right to know.”

The continental launch of the Coalition against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA) is scheduled after the subregional consultations. 
For more information, contact Research and Policy Officer Monica Mbugua at monicam@sarwatch.org or +27 68 166 5922

A MUST WATCH: Al Jazee​​ra’s Gold Mafia – there is no clean gold

This series is a must see. We watch undercover reporters from Al Jazeera’s investigative unit posing as gangsters with up to a billion dollars of black money that need to be cleaned. In the show, they bring in the actual looters who fell out or lost out with the current Gold Mafia. It makes for riveting viewing.

Gold Mafia is a four-part series that stimulates discussion, but we ask you not to take our word for it. Go and watch:
Episode 1: The Laundry Service 
Episode 2: Smoke & Mirrors
Episode 3: El Dorado
Episode 4: Have the King with You

I kept asking myself, how can we organise for open, transparent and accountable change when we do not know what is happening beneath the surface? Not mining – but the looters and the money launderers. The blatant and near open looting of mineral resources gold in planes is frightening.

I also learnt that gold is malleable, it is a mineral of choice for looters as when it is melted is reborn. Its origins cannot be traced. So, this is how gold is used to wash dirty money obtained in various ways, including the illicit sale of tobacco in South Africa. That is assuming that the world’s governments want to act on it, right? The series makes the point that there is no such thing as clean gold and that is why smugglers love it.

The series features Dubai, Zimbabwe and South African banks. In the case of Zimbabwe, ambassadors and the president are fingered. Why with such evidence has our public discourse not focussed here in SA on the banks and how easily they have been manipulated, even involving the Reserve Bank? During Covid 19, we spoke a lot of black market in cigarettes. Why has our discourse not used this to deepen the public consciousness? 

Through the use of gold, money is laundered, politicians are bribed or are complicit… to get a deeper insight, watch the four series, and engage in discussions about the sordid underbelly of our politics in the subregion and our continent. It undermines the country’s wealth, but there is silence not only in society at large, but by international bodies, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), the Gold Council, and so on. Why? Secret and hidden power by these groups and others like the Bilderberg group at a global level, undermines the voice of people and democracy. When business and politics take place in the dark, away from the light of transparency and accountability, state capture results.

By Hassen Lorgat

Coalition Against SLAPPs in Africa: Join us for the Southern Africa Consultative Meeting and Launch on May 16 and 17, 2023, in Rosebank, Johannesburg

The convenors of the Coalition against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA), the Southern Africa Resource Watch and the Bench Marks Foundation call on you to join us in convening the subregional consultation and launch of the coalition.

The Southern African consultative meeting and launch will occur on 16 and 17 May 2023. Although there are limited spaces, those interested in this work must contact the organisers to attend in person. To attend online, please register here.
 
Organisers of the event said that “without active citizens’ participation, we cannot win. We can defeat Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) by building strong democratic organisations. In addition, we will campaign to enact legislation in our parliaments and regional bodies. SLAPPs are lawsuits against human rights activists from all walks of life and work in the public interest. Those who use SLAPPs undermine democracy and the public right to know.”

The continental launch of the Coalition against SLAPPs in Africa (CASA) is scheduled after the subregional consultations. 
For more information, contact Research and Policy Officer Monica Mbugua at monicam@sarwatch.org or +27 68 166 5922

RESOURCES

🗐 Post-Mining and Climate Change Emerging Economic Models, and Best Practices (March 2023) 

The Fair4All programme is implemented across 13 countries: Brazil, South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The programme seeks to support civil society organisations (CSOs) to play their diverse roles as educators, mobilisers, creators and watchdogs in critical areas, which will enable global value chains to serve people and the planet before profit. At a regional level, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) is in a consortium led by the Third World Network (TWN). At the country level, it leads the South Africa programme interventions. In South Africa, the programme is implemented with other partners, which include the Bench Marks Foundation (BMF), Business and Human Rights Resources Centre (BHRC), Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Project activities are implemented based on a contextual analysis of mining in Southern Africa.

The project focuses on research, dialogue, capacity building, and advocacy aimed at building a more responsible private sector, strengthening regulatory frameworks to prevent human, labour and environmental rights violations, and advocating for fiscal and trade reforms in the mining sector that benefit communities, empower women and youth and promote local content procurement.

The project highlights the gendered impact of mining activities and aims to improve women’s economic empowerment in the sector. This research report is a result of SARW’s partnership with CALS to generate knowledge and information that can be used by the Fair4All programme.

🗐 Banking on Climate Chaos: This report by Banking on Climate Chaos profiles the world’s top 60 banks by assets, ranking them according to the financing – lending and underwriting – they have provided to fossil fuel companies since 2016, the year the Paris Agreement went into effect. The 60 largest banks continued to finance fossil fuel companies to the tune of $673 billion in 2022 alone.

🗐 SADC Protocol on Mining

📰 The Rise of the South: Can BRICS Weaken the Dominance of the IMF and World Bank? Who would have expected that the BRICS nations could rise as the potential rival of the G7 countries, the World Bank and the IMF combined? But that once seemingly distant possibility now has real prospects which could change the political equilibrium of world politics. 

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 credit in the header (Nelson Mandela casting his vote in 1994): Paul Weinberg.