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22nd April 2024

February 2024

Dear comrade, the Electoral Commission welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the 2024 general elections will be held on 29 May 2024. Election Day is part of our themes for discussion. This edition then looks at some political parties and their promises to mining communities.

We also explore various actions on the ground and in the courts that are playing out and ask if there is such a thing as responsible mining. The assurance body IRMA believes there is such a thing and we interrogate this further.

Readers are alerted to the recently concerned Alternative Mining Indaba that sought to scrutinise the mining sector from a feminist lens. That is not a once-off and will have to be continued. Important news for this constituency is that one of its own, Eric Mokoua, has been elected to chair the Alternative Mining Indaba.

Palestine still bleeds as we write and we ask you to organise and pray for justice but, in the interim, a modest CEASEFIRE remains the call from the citizens of the world. Energy and South Africa’s addiction to coal is the main resource for this month.

Read, pass or/and enjoy…

· OPINION ·

Is IRMA taking self regulation and voluntary reporting by corporations seriously? A personal view 

With great anticipation, I helped to organise some civil society participation to the IRMA South African consultative webinar. Their website proudly proclaims that the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) is the answer to a global demand for more socially and environmentally responsible mining.

The invite was appealing and I went there with great expectations. The invitation to the webinar and the significance of the gathering was clear. It was the first IRMA audit of South African operations and stakeholders can use the information audits provided to make mining more responsible. The notice also stated that Anglo American Platinum’s Head of Sustainability, Stephen Bullock, would be present to discuss what they learned from the audit process. IRMA’s Executive Director Aimee Boulanger, Regional Lead for Africa Davidzo Muchawaya, and Assurance Director Michelle Smith were all there representing IRMA.

Bullock was going to talk about Anglo American’s operations and their scores at Amandelbult, Mototolo PGM operations achieving IRMA 50, IRMA 75.

What we found was different – a bit of a let-down, as I will explain. My focus is largely around the architecture of the meeting and the substantive issue that flows from it. Perhaps a later contribution will talk about how this soft law, being recognised by the European Union, Chilean governments and others has blurred the lines between soft and hard law as it applies to these standards. But we must start with this meeting for now.  

In the back of my mind, I always feared that these spaces are really compromised spaces or greenwashing. But I had convinced myself that if the board of governance was co-managed, that would give us a real fighting chance. By us, I mean communities, NGOs dealing with the environment and workers. 

They affirmed and re-affirmed that what makes IRMA different was that it was exactly that – equal power. Their website explains that the Equal, multi-stakeholder leadership is what makes IRMA unique and that they are  governed by a:

  • Board of Directors with two representatives from each of six sectors, including:
  • Mining companies
  • Companies that purchase mined materials to make other products
  • Non-governmental organisations
  • Affected communities
  • Organised labour
  • Investment and finance

I will not even go into whether this is a confirmation of greenwashing, as I know that some people have really tried hard to get us to attend. So, here is some free advice, about how this webinar was organised and how it must be improved if I have to attend again.

Firstly, the meeting was an hour long – not a minute earlier nor  a minute later. Secondly, we had to use the chat to ask questions in writing and that the chair Ms Boulanger could determine what was relevant to be asked. Frustratedly, I could only write and read the questions that I wrote in the chat. I was not part of a community. SO here goes:

  • Why can’t we see who else is participating? This transparency is necessary because we asked many communities and CSOs to attend. you may use my name. Hassen Lorgat Bench Marks Foundation
  • This question has been answered live
  • Are there user friendly, plain language versions of the 170 page reports?
  • Prepare early… which organisations that support communities have you reached out to before finalising the report? How did you engage the community? and in what language did you undertake these conversations?
  • How is waste managed? Are  tailings management in these mines publicly available, transparent?

The substance behind these questions is that if IRMA really wants to report back or consult, they have to do it in a manner that is less corporate. We have our own cultures and want to ask questions in a manner that others can add on to or even argue with. This presentation was like one that corporations dish out in their boardrooms where a shared understanding is already in place. Reaching out to those who do not agree with you or who are sceptical means that the webinar at least could have been 1 hour 30 minutes if not 2, if it is the first of many.

With corporations and the IRMA staff speaking, it was like an exercise in filibustering and not a real engagement.

There were so many deficits in democratic engagement that I really really wonder how these reports could have been written. I do not want to get into that substance but from the stats that ANGLO gave and the threshold of participants, it looks really really low. But I will have to dig into those reports to make those conclusions.

But this must serve as a wake-up call for our REPRESENTATIVES from NGOs, affected communities, and organised labour on the IRMA Governance Board to reach out to us to make sure that our views, values and ways of doing are also representative in an organisation that purports to include us all.

By Hassen Lorgat

ARTICLES

It is time to exercise your vote, critically

Inequality has grown and people feel hopeless. So it is easy to argue that the masses must not vote but, by doing so, you are only asking those to allow the elites to determine our futures with a budget without us. We are in this situation not only because of the power of the bosses and their allies, but also because of the fragmentation and sectarianism in large sections of the people’s movements.

Emma Goldman, a Russian-born US political activist, anarchist and writer (1869-1940) famously wrote that “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” That statement is not untrue as it affirms the direct power of communities in their workplaces, and communities that must be exercised everyday. But from where we sit today, it looks a bit exaggerated. 

Looking at how parliamentary democracies have worked including ours and how they have used our vote is not a pretty picture. The system has left largely unchanged some of the BIG issues outside the scope for radical change. These include eradicating racism, sexism and patriarchy (big issues for 30 years). In addition, the electorate and those they vote for seem unable to change the systems of money and state functioning, the conduct of corporations as well as the thorny issue or land reform. 

But it need not be like that, if conditions are created at home and internationally for fundamental changes that touch on the issues that up to now seemed largely untouchable.

We know that free market capitalism or neoliberalism has never been a friend of genuine democracy. In fact, they hate it or at best tolerate it, and seem to want to whittle the power of the poor and working classes. This marks the epic battle between the haves (tiny minority) vs the have-nots. Their power is immense, as the recent Oxfam report argued: the world’s five richest men have  “more than doubled their fortunes from $405 billion to $869 billion since 2020 —at a rate of $14 million per hour— while nearly five billion people have been made poorer, reveals a new Oxfam report on inequality and global corporate power. If current trends continue, the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade but poverty won’t be eradicated for another 229 years.”

This money is not only used for yachts and caviar, but it is a tool for them to intrude and corrupt political systems, directly and indirectly. 

These issues are rarely on the agenda, although nothing really stops them from being on the agenda other than the lack of political will and power to resist the global backlash of the tiny minority.

Whilst they are not on the agenda, we must still strive to maintain, to use Tony Ben’s words, the power of the ballot over the power of the wallet (we must limit how the wallet has crept into politics big time).

Of course, the media, repressive agencies of the state and private groups do play a role to undermine the collective and united power of the poor and working people. We have experienced the media silences and misinformation here about the role of our government in the Genocide case and for justice for Palestine. In the US, disinformation, voter suppression, and harassment is the order of the day. These tactics are aimed at intimidating and making people disillusioned with the process – thereby, the elites maintain control, because they have divided us. An old tactic but it works. The antidote to it is to maintain or rebuild our unity, educate ourselves, share with others what we have learnt as well as what we have to eat. Being informed and critical and in solidarity with our neighbours will make us difficult to control and corralled into the axis of violence/wars, profits and greed. We want a better life for all and we know it is possible. 

I cannot begin to say which political parties standing for elections rely only on the dues of their members! Reading their manifestos, they do not divulge who pays them or who they are backed by. The manifestos are vague and generalised, and it seems that mining has declined – for all but the EFF – as a major area of reflection and campaigning.

I will now look at what the top three political parties say about mining, but I am aware that mining takes place in municipalities, involves traditional leaders as well as land use issues. I have not looked at energy wealth and poverty, in particular issues around Eskom, which I know all parties have something to say. Thus, this survey is an incomplete but necessary investigation and an invitation for you to read their manifestos and those of all parties before you sign up to them.  

Take look a look what the top three say about mining:

The African National Congress (ANC) 2024 Manifesto reads:
“Continue to cultivate partnerships to expand domestic industries with significant potential to create sustainable jobs such as mining (including artisanal and small-scale mining),agriculture, energy, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, the green and blue economies, tourism, the creative sector and the digital economy”.

In 2019, the ANC saw mining similarly as and integrated whole thus:
“The ANC will strengthen the country’s industrialisation path by boosting domestic demand through public and private procurement, building our core industries of manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing, mining and beneficiation, energy and renewable energy, tourism, the ocean economy and creative industries.”

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is silent this year about mining, but in 2019 it had this to say about mining:
A DA national government will: 

  • User stricter enforcement protocols, including criminal charges, against mines that discharge untreated mine water into water courses; 
  • Work to create a sustainable solution to the historic acid mine drainage problem; 
  • Ensure that existing mines that wish to close are properly rehabilitated before final closure is permitted. 
  • Declare areas of significant biodiversity importance and areas which are under significant water stress off-limits to mining using the relevant sections of the MPRDA. 
  • Subject mines to stringent enforcement of the relevant environment and water legislation.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has a dedicated section in their manifesto around mining that is detailed and long. It runs into  some half a dozen pages consisting of 34 paragraphs about mining. This level of detail has to be carefully read and debated.

In addition to their demands for a state mining company and issues around nationalisation, they include very specific issues like this:

  • The EFF government will develop mining development and beneficiation schools in Rustenburg in the North West, Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Phalaborwa in Limpopo, Randfontein in Gauteng, and Emalahleni in Mpumalanga, each specialising in the minerals found in their respective areas of existence.
  • The EFF government will conduct mass-based consultative and democratic processes with local communities in which greenfields mining projects have been proposed, such as the Xolobeni case and similar communities.
  • The EFF government will close all illegal exit points which are currently available to private mining houses for the illicit movement of minerals out of the country, such as the Fire Blade private airport utilised by the Anglo American Corporation at the OR Tambo International Airport.
  • The EFF government will revitalise abandoned mining towns like Welkom in the Free State, Okiep, and Poffader in the Northern Cape, establishing mining-based manufacturing industries to rejuvenate these communities.
  • The EFF government will track all ex-mineworkers and their close family members to ensure they gain access to their pension funds and receive adequate support.
  • The EFF government will utilise unused mine rehabilitation funds paid by mines to create jobs in mining towns.

I am not giving the EFF more coverage but to merely affirm that these are things that mining and environmental activists have been saying for years. Either they are listening or they are merely putting our views across to make us think that they are listening. Communities have to read, discuss with others and decide which is which.

Whom to vote for?
We cannot tell you. But consider those who hold your class, national, gender and environmental including climate crisis and socio political values at heart. Do not follow only what they say, but what they do and when. Seeing them only now – at the time of elections – cannot be a good sign. Demanding an accountable and participatory democracy that will ensure that quality public services work for all (especially health and education), that no one goes to hunger because the economy works for the benefits of all, a society where solidarity with women who face sexual violence and marginalisation – and much more is what we demand. Austerity will not work to eradicate the mega challenges inherited and the mis-opportunities since 1994. For this to be realised working class organisations must once again become the agent for our wider unity.

I end with Tony Benn’s famous five questions, which we must ask all persons seeking to borrow our vote or, to put it another way, they are asking us to EM-Power them for a set number of years. To grant them this mandate, we must ensure it is limited and we must keep asking them the following questions:

What power have you got? 
Where did you get it from? 
In whose interests do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable? 
And how can we get rid of you?

By Hassen Lorgat

They cannot turn their back on Palestine – ever

For people of conscience all over the world, South Africa’s bravery in taking Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) resonates beyond the act but represents a turning point for the Global South in challenging  unjust global power. This power has its roots in colonialism and slavery.

Israel is the agent of Western power, thus South Africa’s challenge in the genocide case was at the same time a struggle against Western imperialism. It would appear South Africa gave courage for others to speak out against the abuses of power and impunity.

Over 30 000 humans were eliminated, most of them children. Their homes, schools, playgrounds, places of worship and play are rubble. The Israeli Minister of Social Equality and Women’s Advancement, May Golan said that “I am personally proud of the ruins of Gaza, and that every baby, even 80 years from now, will tell their grandchildren what the Jews did.” 

But sadly, it is not only Golan who lacks a conscience. Such brutality can only exist with the  backing of the USA, the UK, and Germany – and not forgetting the silence of many countries…

But Palestine cannot only be our metaphor of resistance, as Palestinians are real humans who love life but are dying so that we could tell their stories and work every day that such a hell on earth does not visit any of us. 

The war upon the gaza rages on and we all know we have so much more to do. The anti colonial black intellectual writer and thinker Aimé Césaire wrote in his Notebook of a Return to the Native Land

What can I do?

One must begin somewhere.
Begin what?
The only thing in the world worth beginning:
The end of the world of course.
So much blood in my memory! In my memory are lagoons.
They are covered with death’s-heads. They are not covered with water lilies.
In my memory are lagoons.
No women’s loin-cloths spread out on their shores.
My memory is encircled with blood. My memory has a belt of corpses!
And machine gun fire of rum barrels brilliantly sprinkling our ignominious revolts, amorous glances swooning from having swigged too much ferocious freedom.

Eric takes over at the helm at the Alternative Mining Indaba: 

I think the AMI needs to make an urgent and drastic shift and open up for more communities affected by extractives. As a strategic platform, it should be deliberate in building power of the mine host communities. The commitment the Steering committee should make in this transition period is to denounce public talkshops as legitimate dialogue. 

We need to exert massive pressure from below on the system which has caused immense suffering in mining affected communities.

We appreciate all efforts that have been made to bring about conversations about change, but there must be a period where mere talks have to stop and action has to begin and to continue until we achieve our goals.

I believe that stage is now. Assuming the position of leadership, gives us an opportunity to lead this process without fear or doubts.


15th Edition of the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), 5-8 February 2024 
Energy Transition Minerals: Putting Communities First for an Inclusive Feminist Future
An extract from the Final Communique

A CALL TO AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS


To African Governments:
African countries have been at the receiving end when it comes to debt servicing which has seen them defaulting and, in some cases, ceding huge mine claims to lenders to further borrow, thus, there is need for a clear legal framework to safeguard the rights of both borrowers and lenders.  

  • African governments should make mineral resource audits (geological surveys) to be at a better footing when negotiating mining concessions as evidence has shown that most African governments due to lack of knowledge on the quantities and types of resources, they own have been under negotiating contracts. For example, in some instances, countries have agreed to platinum concessions, but the mining companies end up extracting other minerals such as gold, rhodium and palladium.  
  • Unmanaged health impacts from mining and lack of awareness on health impact assessment is a critical process that should be legally binding and align with respective countries national Health & Safety laws. On a different but related note, it is important to engage artisanal miners on health and safety not only for those directly involved but also, communities where they operate.
  • African governments should closely examine tax relief and expenses declared by mining companies to combat tax evasion. A just transition should prioritise eradicating poverty and fostering social development within communities. Furthermore, efforts should be directed towards addressing excessive consumption in privileged sectors. Concrete mechanisms for dialogue, reporting corruption, and addressing human rights violations in mining areas is crucial for ensuring transparency and accountability.
  • Governments should prioritise value addition for critical minerals to address issues of unemployment and to broaden the tax pool. Laws to empower effective participation of communities in the value chain (Local Content Policies) and punitive clauses to defaulters.
  • African governments, CSOs, community organisations and all development partners should come up with laws that empower effective participation of communities in the critical minerals value chain (Local Content Policies). The legal pieces should also have punitive clauses for defaulters.
  • Governments should make deliberate and significant investments in the value addition of minerals mined in Africa.
  • Policy makers ought to prioritise the interests of young people in the communities while negotiating mining contracts with corporations especially when it comes to the distribution of royalties and what happens to the people in the communities after the completion of the mining.
  • Ensure enforcement of national, regional, and international laws on Health & Safety. Children involved in artisanal mining need protection from sexual exploitation in addition to natural problems such as snake bites. 
  • Establish Mineral Funds derived from mine closure bonds to support community economic and social development for mine host communities.
  • Civil society should monitor the space to ensure sub-national disbursements are made timeously and in full. For instance, the EITI as part of their reporting can compute expected disbursements and actual allocations to local communities to keep all governments in check.
  • Align national mining laws and policies to the AMV and amplify the voices of vulnerable groups involved in artisanal mining particularly as women, children, LGBTIQ+ and those living with disabilities from an intersectionality framing.
  • Demilitarise and decriminalise the ASM sector and uphold the human and labour rights of artisanal miners as key stakeholders in job creation. They should be entitled to social security and compensation for occupational injuries and death. The products from ASM end up in mainstream commodity value chains and it is critical that artisanal miners enjoy the same labour rights as their counterparts in the formal economy.
  • Raising and redistributing revenue from the extractive industries are two sides of the same coin: governments need to stop companies from tax dodging and we, the people, must ensure tax revenues are not stolen and work for us, the people, especially for women and children in mining communities.
  • Ratify relevant regional protocols such as the African Mining Vision (AMV) which serves as the blueprint and point of reference for developing policies on critical transition minerals. 

Continue reading the Final Declaration

FROM THE GROUND TO THE COURTS

Photo Courtesy Jindal: A Jindal coal mine in Tamnar, India. 

Jindal loses in court but will appeal 

There has been a sustained campaign against the JINDAL Steel & Power Ltd, an Indian Transnational Corporation, and Bench Marks Foundation has joined many other CSO groups such as Mkhasaneni Community and other Entembeni Communities and villages affected, Land Access Movement of South Africa Lamosa, Association for Rural Democracy, Association for Rural Advancement, and the Alternative Information Development Centre, in adopting various strategies to oppose the Jindal mine. 

The main reason for this is the concern about the negative impacts to land use and environmental degradation that will result from Jindal’s proposed mining operations. Jindal is controlled by Asia’s richest woman, Savitri Jindal, and her family. The proposed mine, intended for eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, would be South Africa’s second-biggest iron ore mine producing seven million tons of iron ore concentrate.

The two main strategies involved: 1) legal (courts), and 2) an application to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy about the failure of the company to genuinely consult and engage with the community. This we will report on next month but in this edition, we report on the case taken up by All Rise, a firm of environmental lawyers who took Jindal to court on questions of the environment and won.

Whilst the mainstream media have only focused on the so-called loss of  $2bn investment, listen to All Rise lawyer Janice Tooley explain why the DMRE rejected the Indian steel and power company’s attempt to acquire a new mining licence in the province.  

All Rise confirmed that the application was rejected because of the “extensive gaps in the environmental impact assessment in the context of constitutional rights.” In the radio interview, Tooley said: 

South Africa has a Constitution and its Bill of Rights protects the environment and gives people the right to an environment that’s not harmful to their health and wellbeing.

And to give effect to that right, there’s a whole lot of environmental legislation. Where activities like [those of] a big mine have a significant impact on the environment, on culture and the socioeconomic environment, the applicant is required to get an environmental authorisation and various other licences – like a water use licence and a waste management licence.

I think Jindal started this process in 2013 and the current process that led to the refusal has been running since 2021.

They then appointed in terms of the regulations a whole lot of specialists to do studies, and they are also required to consult with all the interested and affected parties.

So the two-and-a-half-year period with all these specialists ended up in a report of over 3 000 pages – but with significant gaps.

So basically what the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the DMRE, said is that it can’t make an informed decision to give effect to our constitutional rights in Section 24 because there’s just not sufficient information to make that decision.


The lawyers also said that when a mine comes to a community, divisions in the community are evident and many people go into hiding and fear for their lives.

There are those in the community who totally oppose mining and others who are not convinced about the benefits of mining for them, particularly in terms of jobs. Giving up land , access to water and the ancestral graves or these vague promises of a few  jobs does not seem worthwhile.

The Entembeni Crisis Forum, the group organised a petition, articulated their views thus: “Our community of Makhasaneni has been fighting Indian giant mining company, Jindal Mine, who for years have been intruding with their plans to dig up iron ore in the lush hills that we have called home for generations”.

It is believed that over 3,000 households and 3,000 graves will be moved. In addition, the community fear that their water supplies or rights to water will be compromised and that thousands of  homes and graves would have to make way for mining to take place. 

Relocate is a sanitised word, which according to the Oxford Dictionary means:
(verb) move to a new place and establish one’s home or business there. The reality of the meaning is closer to forced removals which many have experienced under apartheid where the new place holds nothing positive for them but depression and anger and a lawful but fundamentally unjust transaction.

Whilst Jindal, like other companies, with their resettlement consultants have said the relocation of graves – that is, the cemeteries which connect people to the land and deceased (usually elders) – would be made in consultation with the communities, experience has taught us that this does not happen.

Courtesy Ground UP: Residents of Riverlea and surrounding areas gather for a community meeting with Minister of Police Bheki Cele and other officials at the Riverlea Recreation centre.

Small victory for communities: High Court finds Mantashe in contempt of court

On the 19th of February 2024, the South African High Court, Pretoria, found Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, in contempt of court for failure to rehabilitate an open cast pit left by the mining company, Central Rand Gold. The court had previously instructed Mantashe’s department to close the open cast pit which is less than five meters from two important heritage sites: George Harrison Park where the first mining licence was issued in Johannesburg, 1886, and TC Esterhuysen Primary School, one of SA’s oldest schools established in 1917.

Since 2007, the community of Riverlea, where the open cast pit is located, has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with both Mantashe’s department and the mining company which was granted the licence to operate in the area.  

Central Rand Gold failed to adhere to the national Environmental Management Act requirements and to make provision for mine closure and rehabilitations as required by the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act. The pit has also turned into an illegal mining sanctuary where community members are often caught in the middle of alleged turf wars among survival miners.

Clearly, Mantashe, who has become notorious for issuing out mining licences like candy in Christmas, shouldn’t have granted Central Rand Gold a licence to operate in such a compromised area. The controversial mining company was also linked to Patriotic Alliance leaders Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene – infamous for rhetoric of hate speech against foreign nationals.

Meanwhile, in the same week of this court ruling, the Presidential Climate Commission announced that Mantashe’s energy plan, which is meant to tackle the country’s ailing power supply, is out of sync and in contradiction with international agreements. The Commission criticised Mantashe’s ‘Integrated Resource Plan’ for reluctance to move away from coal for power generation. However, Mantashe has said that coal is ‘necessary for both employment and power supply’. The Presidential Climate Commission is the body established for the purpose of advising Cyril Ramaphosa on climate change issues.

It wasn’t a good week for Uncle ‘Gweezy’ Mantashe…

By Nteboheng Phakisi-Portas

Mining and extractivism is top of the SLAPPs list

The Bench Marks Foundation in its work on tackling repression against activists over the years allied with SARW to enhance a campaign against SLAPPs.

Our more recent involvement was around the First Quantum case, which Southern African ResourceWatch (Sarw) was engaged in. First Quantum is a Canadian mining company who took out a lawsuit, a Slapp, against Sarw and we stepped in to help. This is how the Canadian newspaper reported recent developments:

“They settled out of court last year, but two United Nations experts took notice. Last month, the UN rapporteurs released a letter they had sent to the company, First Quantum Minerals Ltd. FM-T, asking it to explain its actions.

Without prejudging the accuracy of these allegations, we express our deep concern regarding the alleged acts of intimidation and criminalization of human-rights defenders,” wrote Mary Lawlor and Damilola Olawuyi, who serve as independent experts to monitor human rights for the UN.
  

The First Quantum case is one of a growing number of lawsuits by corporations against human-rights activists and other critics – often categorised as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPs. Mining companies and other resource corporations, including Canadian companies, have been among the most likely to file such lawsuits.”

The sectors most targeted for repression by the bosses and their allies is the Mining sector, followed by Agriculture and livestock, Logging and lumber, and finally Palm trees and oil. All these fall under the rubric of extractivism model. Extractivism is both an ideology and a way of exploitation of the natural resources that includes minerals like coal, gold and even the oceans. Nothing and no one is safe in this greed-growth path that feeds the wealthy and staves the poor.

The Thematic Social Forum held last year in Semarang, Indonesia in 19 October 2023 noted that “We are very worried that the continued reliance on fossil fuels and increased drive for mining of the purported ‘critical’, ‘strategic’ or ‘transition’ minerals and other resources for the new digital and ‘green’ technologies (renewable energy systems) and the blue economy, has become the driving force for further intensified extractivism bringing frontline communities to a vulnerable position while posing a great threat to decent work.”

RESOURCES

🖹 THE LONG AND SERIOUS READ: South Africa’s Toxic Legacy of Extractivism and Carbon-Intensive Energy

The convergence of social, economic and ecological crises in South Africa takes a uniquely toxic form because of the legacy of Apartheid and the economic dominance of what has been termed the “minerals-energy complex” (MEC): a system of accumulation that has shaped the South African economy into being extremely “extractivist” in nature and carbon intensive. A handful of corporations, located in the minerals, ferrochrome, petrochemical and energy sectors have gained and consolidated power over South Africa’s development policy. By the time of the democratic transition, the MEC was at the core of the economy and sectors without strong linkages to the MEC were left underdeveloped. Another consequence of this legacy of extractivism is that South Africa suffers widespread resource depletion across a wide range of key resource sectors, for instance: (a) estimates of coal reserves have been revised downwards to a mere 20% of original estimates; (b) by 2004, 98% of South Africa’s total water resources had already been allocated; (c) degradation of soil fertility is confirmed on 41% of cultivated land.

Despite the increasing urgency of tackling the global ecological crisis, the South African government remains unable to break away from the unsustainable path demanded by the dominant MINERALS-ENERGY-COMPLEX. While the country has made a number of basically sound policy commitments on paper to address climate change and reduce the carbon intensity of the economy, greenhouse gas emissions have increased 25% over the last 10 years. President Zuma’s recent “State of the Nation” address confirmed the extractivist and energy intensive orientation of his government. The vision outlined in the speech entrenches current neoliberal macroeconomic policy and reinforces the dominance of South Africa’s mining and energy complex; the attempt to offset impacts of the economic crisis through intensified mining undermines stated commitments to mitigate carbon emissions and create decent jobs.

Cheap electricity has been central to South Africa’s industrial expansion strategies throughout its history and was written into the 1928 law that established Eskom as a state-owned power utility. Mining and related industries were built on and became heavily reliant on cheap and abundant electricity with coal as the primary energy source. Over 90 per cent of the electricity generated is from burning coal. South Africa is reported to be the 12th biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world. More disconcerting is that its per capita emissions of CO2 exceeds the world average and is higher than that of China, Brazil and India. Cheap electricity does not just rely on the abundance of coal but also cheap labour, extensive externalities and huge additional historical and current subsidies. Making this situation even worse is the government’s commitment to replace aging coal plants with new coal-based and nuclear generation thereby entrenching and accentuating the centralised, carbon-intensive, capital-intensive and profit-orientated nature of the MEC economy.

🖹 What’s wrong with Eskom and how to fix it: Easy answers to important questions
This booklet packs many of the key points from Eskom Transformed into an accessible questions & answers format, where we address some of the common questions around the energy crisis and climate change.

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. Header Image: Tony Benn’s five questions.

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