Dear Freinds welcome to our April edition, which reaches you on 27 April 2022, designated as Freedom Day in the South African historical calendar. We hope you use the day to rest and reflect on what was won, and lost and what is worth fighting for in our country.
This Bulletin features the regular sections as we reflect on our work, highlighting a new publication by the Community Monitors, and burning issues of the weeks since our last bulletin. This edition continues to share a growing list of creative and informative resources.
THE CLIMATE CATASTROPHE
Undoubtedly, the big story for April we regretfully have to admit was thrust upon us. It should not have been like this as the climate crisis or catastrophe must always be on the agenda. It must be on the agenda, not as a slogan or to dislodge those we disagree with from their ivory towers, but because it is about all our futures.
Last year we got some hints about the wider damage floods can cause. This is explored in our podcast interview with Ms Kirsten Youens, who is one of the lawyers working with affected communities living around the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC). The tailings facility / slurry dam that was supposed to be under its care and maintenance burst, unleashing its black muck said to be at least 1,500,000 litres of polluted mine waste into the surrounding land and rivers. It is said that the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve was also impacted. Next month the Foundation with its national and international partners will release a new study that will provide guidelines and standards on the management of tailings facilities.
The climate crisis does not always reveal itself that dramatically but happens because of what we do or do not do every day. Government and corporate inaction and lack of mass civil society action on climate issues are some of the problems we are experiencing. Whilst our fates are tied, our contrition to the crisis must be borne by the powerful whose inaction has resulted in us being in this mess.
A recent study found that “the world’s top banks provided $742 billion in finance to the fossil fuel industry in 2021, little changed from the prior year… despite growing calls to rein in lending to help tackle global warming.
Banks are increasingly in the crosshairs of investors and campaigners over their role in bank-rolling coal, oil and gas – the leading causes of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.”
The tragic floods in Kwazulu and Eastern Cape have forcefully made the issue a public issue – something we cannot duck or dive around. Too many people have died or have lost their livelihoods, homes and, for the poorest, their most modest possessions, and for that they need our support.
Due to the apartheid spatial legacies and the shortages of quality homes for the poor and working people, it is them who suffer the most when a crisis hits. Thus I was not surprised to learn that it was the shack dwellers movement Abahlali Basemjondolo, who set out an appeal to assist all people suffering loss. They have been at the forefront of fighting institutional racism and aggressive neoliberalism as it impacts the housing and livelihood options for the communities they serve.
In a media release the movement confirmed this: ”Since 2005 we have been saying that the conditions under which we are forced to live in a repressive society are dangerous as well as undignified. The floods in KwaZulu-Natal have devastated many shack settlements, and some rural areas too. Some people were rescued as the rivers burst their banks but many lives have been lost.”
It is in times of crisis where people pull together and this is evident now again. It may be appropriate to point out that many citizens have railed against government corruption and do not want to see the government near to the funds raised. I hear it, but it is not sustainable.
It is fine as a sign of protest but we must note that democracy and the values of the constitution and active citizenry are best vehicles for an accountable democracy. The vote, the ballot in particular, is the ultimate test – arbitrator if you like -, where misleaders, crooks, hypocrites and the corrupt must be judged.
Many civil society organisations – well loved at that – do not subject themselves to an open ballot and, like the many corporations, are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as elected politicians are. They try to limit our rights for the media, freedom of expression and the rights to associate and organise, particularly for the poor and working people – but we still have these rights – and we will not give it up easily. We must ensure the government works and uses our taxpayers’ rands in a smart and empowering way for the most deserving, not the self serving leaders.
This is not to say we must not give to civil society organisations. What we cannot do is automatically assume that civil society organisations are automatically more transparent and accountable than other sectors of society. Civil society formations, variously constituted and structured, do play a positive role. I have no doubt that the “mistake” made by the authorities who determined that flood related damages due to Prasa and other infrastructure amounted to R954 622 534 526,00 would not have been spotted and downscaled to the R17 bn that the public must now foot.
If you want and able to contribute to the flood relief efforts, here is the info:
Account name: ABAHLALI BASEMJONDOLO MOVEMENT SA / Bank Name: FNB / Account no.: 6278 6238 230 / Reference: KZN Flood Relief
Photo by Sheree Bega
RESISTING UNJUST POWER: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Below we list three cases of action currently underway in various parts of the world, starting in Zambia, where a newspaper reports that a corporation knowingly and seemingly with impunity poisoned them. The second story is about a corporation seeking to relocate 1000 households for a shiny metal. The final story is about a petition against a corporation, alleging that the corporation has disrupted indigenous communities, stolen land and other natural resources. What is the name of this corporation?
- Zambia. A newspaper report points out that a company has poisoned citizens of Kabwe. The lawyers for the community allege that the company knew that their operations were harmful, but it seems that once again profits trumped health and human lives…
- Limpopo: South Africa. A company wants to relocate 1 000 households to make way for further platinum mining. An editorial in 2021 noted that “talks about moving 1,000 households in the impoverished Limpopo province so that it can expand its fantastically profitable opencast Mogalakwena mine, eyebrows are sure to go up and hearts beat a little faster.”
Later, they noted that “Mining companies work hard to combat an image of being rapacious, polluting and indifferently selfish in their pursuit of minerals and profits.
This image simply cannot be perpetuated in any way as the industry strives to meet the environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements that funds, investors, governments and the broader public now expect. Any lapses by mining companies on these three legs will bring severe consequences…..”
- The final reference takes us to a civil society petition. It begins thus: Dear members of the board of directors and members of the Anglo American management team. I am writing to you because I am concerned about the impact that your company has been leaving on the territories where it operates, especially the negative impact on indigenous communities and ecosystems. I have witnessed how your operations generate the dispossession of many indigenous communities, use large amounts of water, impact our most relevant sources of water, such as glaciers, degrade forests and disturb the balance of many ecosystems around them, causing irreparable damage to them. For me, responsible mining means protecting the communities, the natural, cultural and ancestral heritage, using less and less water and not competing with the communities for this resource…”
The above 3 cases – and trust us there are many around – involve the Transnational Corporation that goes by the name ANGLO AMERICAN. In all of them, different tools of organising are employed. The Zambian article highlights the use of CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT IN ZAMBIA working with community claimants said to number 100 000 claimants.
The second also involves ANGLO AMERICAN CORPORATION. The community complains that they are starved of real concrete information and this has resulted in serious handicaps for informed and active consent to the proceedings.
The third story is about a petition organised by London Mining Network and involves an inside and outside strategy. Both shareholder activism inside the Annual General meeting and protests outside the venue are on the menu.
These are all commendable actions but I have a simple question: Is it not time to make ONE BIG FOCUS ON ANGLO AMERICAN CORPORATION? This does not exclude a number of subcommittees and campaigns based on regional or other important considerations.
OUR PEOPLE, PLANTS AND CATTLE ARE SUFFERING is a new publication by a number of community monitors, writes Mmathapelo Thobejane.
This publication was undertaken during the months of September, October and November 2021, whilst Covid was still a factor. The research was done in the villages of the Sekhukhune district. The community monitors went about interviewing residents as well as taking photographs in different places to determine what the impact waste in their area had on them and the environment.
We agreed that there was a need to map out this waste challenge because we were surprised as community activists and environmentalists how the authorities could leave these waste dumps lying in our communities. We decided to focus the study in the Sekhukhune local municipalities of Fetakgomo, Tubatse and Makhuduthamaga
Whilst we were busy with the study we learnt that only Burgersfort, which is a town not far from our area of study,does have waste collection as does the small township of Praktiseer. The dumpsters or site where waste is managed the local government claims are many is not true and they are not properly managed. There are only a few dumpsters and because of this the waste rots and smells further polluting the air and the land with hazardous waste. Furthermore the children play in or new these sites – opening them up to further diseases and ill health.
Our study found the following:
- Only few places closer to town have waste collection,
- There are no proper waste management systems in place,
- The dumpsiers and waste management sites are far from the people in their villages,
- People lack knowledge about dangers of waste to their health and safety, and
- The dumpsters (bins and so on) are not sufficient to cater for the communities waste needs.
In addition, we also found the health and other risks caused by waste such as the danger of people, mostly children and waste pickers being cut by sharp objects and needles as well as the foul odour (smells).
The items that were mostly dumped included the following:
- Baby diapers (from households), and
- Beer bottles (from households, supermarkets, shebeens and such places).
As a result of these and the failure of government systems the communities have been trying to fix the system themselves but there are some shortcoming, such as:
- The waste is all over; sides of the roads, under bridges, in the households, shopping centres, supermarket, rivers and other places where people used to do their cultural related work,
- People did not have proper resources to collect or place waste at one place, and
- Because the waters are polluted, traditional religious groups find it difficult to perform prayer and rituals in such filthy waters
- The report will help us as a community to engage several departments and take action around the issue of waste, and
- We plan to engage departments of environmental affairs, mines, shebeen, owners, business and supermarkets for them to urgently address our concerns – for the sake of all our health.
Finally we agreed to further develop our thinking for a Community driven waste management system which will guided by the following principles:
- Start with the community Listen to the ideas of the people, affected communities on how this problem could be solved,
- Help them develop an action plan and support this action, and
- Talk to the ward committee structures and councillors we urge you to persuade and win their support for a community plan to solve this problem.
Finally, we agreed to put these ideas into a project proposal and source local funding to resolve local problems. The potential to solve burning issues in our community also present opportunities for learning and campaigning but critically also present employment opportunities for the unemployed and the youth in particular.
The authors are all community activists: Happiness Koma, Molin Moseamedi, Selowa Moshabi, Donald Mphethi, Victoria Makgoo, Tiego Thobejane, Boitumelo Thobejane, Eustine Matsepane, Mmabore Mogashoa, Kamogelo Mogashoa, Julian Tsoka, and Mmathapelo Thobejane.
The full publication can be found here:
You were correct to declare a national state of disaster for the floods in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape Province.
You announced that the floods in Durban that have resulted in the deaths of over 400 people were not unexpected but continued to cause devastation far worse than we should have experienced. Whilst the public rescue efforts are still in place, opposition groups and others are criticising the government on various grounds, most of which are legitimate. Some have sought to downplay the government’s blame for the floods on climate change but the reality is that – whilst there are multifold causes such as general government incompetence, mass scale corruption and malgovernance – climate change or the failure to address the climate crisis lays at the centre of this.
While you and civil society organisations agree that the problem is “climate change” – or the climate crisis / catastrophe as we prefer to call it -, the parties diverge on what to do about it concretely. Many of us believe that the government has largely paid lip service to the climate crisis. Internationally our government makes grand commitments but quietly at home we continue our reliance on fossil fuels.
When visiting the areas devastated by floods in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape after you, your Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma revisited the government talking points. These were “the worst floods we have ever seen in living memory”, she said. She continued to add that KwaZulu-Natal had between 300 and 400mm of rain over a 24-hour period, which was a rare occurrence even in the wettest months. “In Durban for instance, in February, which is the wettest month, we normally get about 102mm of rain in the whole month. April is not even the wettest month, but that’s what happened,” she said. “Scientists have been telling us that the eastern part of the country is going to be wetter and will have frequent floods, the western part of the country is going to be drier and will have frequent drought and maybe we thought it is something that was in the distant future. But if we look at what happened just over the last five years in KZN, each flood gets worse than the previous one. Clearly climate change is with us and we are beginning to feel the effects.”
With these underlying sentiments your government changed the declaration from a provincial state of disaster to a national state of disaster. Whilst community groups and citizens raise funds to save lives and livelihoods, some activists have demanded more radical action.
The Climate Justice Charter Movement, you will recall, recently embarked on a campaign to criminally charge you, President Ramaphosa, as well as KZN Premier Zikalala, deputy chairperson of the Presidential Climate Commission Valli Moosa, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, and Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy for your inaction on tackling the climate crisis.
The move is meant to make you think and act with urgency and the jury is out as to whether they have succeeded in pricking your collective conscience. The point the movement makes is undeniable: your government and previous ANC administrations have failed to act with haste in line with the scientific advice given. The charge sheet given to you, in part, reads:
“The South African government has failed to take the climate crisis seriously and it must be held accountable for its dereliction of duty. The South African government has been part of the UN-COP and International Panel on Climate Change process since the early 1990s. Almost three decades later, not much has happened to protect South Africa from the worsening climate crisis.
As a signatory to IPPC reports, the South African government signed off on the 2021 report The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change which affirms we are living in a world of climate extremes and urgent action is needed. The South African government also signed off on two reports released this year (AR6 Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability in February 2022 and the Mitigation of Climate Change Report released in April 2022) which confirm the need for urgent climate emergency action. Yet the government has stood by.
There is a clear pattern of destructive and extreme weather patterns in KZN as a result of the climate crisis. La Nina induced droughts from 2014-to 2016 decimated livestock and crop farming across the province, leaving many subsistence farmers without food. In 2019 devastating floods and mudslides killed over 80 people including a 6-month-old baby, a tornado also had devastating impacts in the province and late last year and at the beginning of 2022, the province witnessed another devastating flood that caused severe destruction in towns such as Ladysmith which lead to a state of disaster” the activists argued.
One thing that is clear is this: Resisting the climate catastrophe cannot be a partisan issue-as civil society organisations cannot solve this crisis alone. It is also obvious that the government has to lead otherwise things will get so bad and diverting water tankers to the homes of elites will be an everyday affair but it will be resisted. The time for servant leadership and active citizenry is now!”
Finally Mr President, as a Mining Man – from unionist to mining boss and president -, you do know that when infrastructure is poorly constructed – weakened by corruption and lack of quality controls -, bridges, tailings facilities and other dams will drown us all in sludge, mud and water.
It is for this reason Mr President that we are seeking to organise mining communities – or those communities where mining is a form of production, consumption and disruption – to become aware of the non-transparent and non-accountable management of tailing facilities in our country, as it is an invitation for a greater man made environmental disaster. The Zululand Anthracite colliery pollution dam disaster on 24 December 2021 compromised animal, nature and human life. On January 25, 2019, the Brumadinho dam disaster in Minas Gerais, Brazil, released a mudflow that advanced through the mine’s offices, including a cafeteria during lunchtime, along with houses, farms, inns, and roads downstream. 270 people died as a result of the collapse, of whom 259 were officially confirmed dead, and 11 others reported as missing, whose bodies had not been found.
Our time to act is now.
Thank you for your attention Mr President.
THE MEET - UP
A meeting place to learn about organisations, networks, movements and people resisting injustices and whom we work with.
BOARD MEMBER GRAEME KÖRNER
Graeme Leslie Körner is married to Renita, with two adult daughters and lives in Kyalami, Midrand.
He is a practising Christian who believes that one’s faith must result in action and is passionate about the church being relevant and in the ‘real’ world through impactful outreach initiatives.
The relevance Graeme brings to the board is his immense knowledge and experience as he is a member of the Institute of Directors. He also serves on the boards of and advises a number of public interest entities and private sector companies.
Graeme has obtained a variety of finance related qualifications, including a B Com (Hons.) in investment management from RAU (now UJ) and a diploma in Estate Administration from UNISA, as well as being a qualified CFP (member of the FPI).
Graeme’s business energy is mainly focussed on Korner Perspective, a boutique asset management company that he established in early 2010 and KP Fiduciary Solutions, a professional fiduciary services business in 2015.
Graeme is a regular market and investment commentator on a variety of media platforms, including 702, BDTV and MoneyWeb.
Graeme is also involved in a number of other early stage/ startup companies, including Dott Risk (a digital enterprise risk tool), Asukume Training (an entrepreneur and enterprise development entity) and LionPride Capital (an entity focussed on promoting ethical investing and creating awareness of the need for more relevant investment benchmarks).
A common denominator of all of these ventures is how they all reflect Graeme’s desire to combine greater good and business, with these all seeking to have a positive societal impact while being fundamentally commercial.
Greater good orientation
Graeme sees the allocation of time, energy and skill to greater good causes as a core belief, and as such serves on the boards of a number of public benefit organisations and also serves pro deo on the investment committees of some church funds. Graeme is also the managing trustee of the Summit Educational Trust.
Graeme believes that the primary goal of any leadership team is to ensure that their organisations remain focussed on their real purpose (essentially serving those they exist to serve) and focus heavily on sustainability.
Jamie Kneen: MiningWatch staff saying farewell to Ugo (centre): Sahsa Kazakova, Val Croft, Jamie Kneen, Ugo Lapointe, Rodrigue Turgeon, Kirsten Francescone, Catherine Coumans
Bua MINING COMMUNITIES
The human rights community based organisation Bua Mining Communities (BuaMC) is a social movement that is in the process of rebuilding itself. The relationship between BuaMC and the Bench Marks Foundation is close and has a long history. Today, many of its activists are to be found in the Foundation.
Whilst BuaMC is in its teenage years, it is undeniable that it has been a fountain of knowledge and a cradle where many social justice activists from the mining communities have sprung. Eric Mokuoa, Thusi Rapoo, Olebogeng Motene, Joseph Magobe and numerous others have emerged from here to make their mark on social justice and environmental activism.
Over the years, they represented close to a dozen mine-hosting communities in and around the Bojanala platinum district municipality in the North West province. They were formed to protect, promote and defend human rights in their areas. That is, on the ground.
They have been through many battles and self sustaining initiatives. These range from supporting the Marikana living wage battles and the victims of the massacre, land ownership struggles, the Mining Charter as well as dangerous on the ground and legal battles against bogus claims to chieftainship, inept and corrupt bureaucracy. In more recent years self-sufficiency in the fields of food production was a driving goal that the group developed.
At the time of Marikana workers’ strike and the subsequent massacre, BuaMC came out publicly to support workers’ struggle for a living wage. This, they said, was necessary to “restore the dignity of mineworkers and pay a living wage. Their coordinator at that time Thusi Rapoo shared his views publicly in support for the workers.
This is particularly appropriate given that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Marikana Massacre to which Thusi then spoke, thus:
“The R12 500 is a legitimate call by the miners which requires serious consideration. BuaMC supports a call for a living wage and believes a R12 500 call by mineworkers is reasonable and achievable.”
He further argued that the mineworkers had embarked on the strike not because it was fashionable or entertaining, but because “our understanding of the living wage includes, among others, a healthy environment, and access to better housing, easy access to transport, access to medical facilities, quality education, and generally an improved quality of life.”
Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at Impala Platinum, Lonmin, and Anglo American Platinum downed tools on January 23 demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500.
They have rejected the companies’ offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12 500 by July 2017.
Talks to end the strike facilitated by the labour court were expected to continue at an undisclosed location in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Rapoo said they had observed the intolerable and worsening conditions in the mine-hosting communities during the mine labour dispute in Rustenburg.
“The impasse in the mine labour dispute, which seems to be the weapon of the rich to get the worker to the position of desperation, does not serve communities and the workers any better.
“This strategic weapon in the hands of the mining industries has yielded nothing but a dire humanitarian crisis,” he said.
“It has displaced and plunged our communities into conflicts and fear. Crime has escalated, death and intimidation reigns in the communities. Our communities find themselves helpless and insecure under these intimidating conditions,” said Rapoo.”
Eric Mokuoa has been elected the coordinator of BuaMC. He has told the Bulletin that this year is a time for renewal for the organisation. We wish him all the best.For more information check out BuaMC on their Facebook and their blog.
Our podcast interview with Ms Kirsten Youens, who is one of the lawyers working with affected communities living around the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC), explores the burst of the tailings facility / slurry dam that was supposed to be under ZAC’s care and maintenance burst, unleashing its black muck said to be at least 1,500,000 litres of polluted mine waste into the surrounding land and rivers. It is said that the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve was also impacted.
—- Next month the Foundation with its national and international partners will release a new study that will provide guidelines and standards on the management of tailings facilities. Watch the space!
Follow this link for the recording of a new edition of the Resisting Mining Book Club, discussing Julie Michelle Klinger’s book Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes. Thanks to London Mining Network for this resource.
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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.
*Source of the photograph used in this edition of the bulletin header image: EWN
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