A brief on the ‘Public Policy Dialogue on Mining, Communities, and Workers’ Conference funded by the Foundation for Human Rights
The Bafokeng Land Buyers Association (BLBA) made a presentation on the struggles waged by communities forming the Bafokeng ‘tribe’ at the conference funded by the Foundation for Human Rights, held in Johannesburg on the 01-02 February 2011. –reflects Thusi Rapoo.
The Conference was attended by community-based organisations from around the country engaged in vicious battles against mining companies operating in their areas. Academic papers were presented by experts on acid mine drainage that destroys ecosystems and water quality particularly in areas around gold mining towns; the cluttered State heritage resource management regime which condones the bombing and excavation of graves by the mining companies; and the State’s land restitution and reform process which has failed to redress the land question. The presenters painted a picture of State engineered maladministration, meant to confuse and deprive desperate poor rural communities of access to Government support around issues related to their land. Conflicting and overlapping Government mandates create a state of confusion which the mines can exploit and use to their advantage. For instance, when Anglo Platinum blew the graves of Sekuruwe community in Limpopo their defence was that once they have complied with mining laws overseen by the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME), they need not account to the National Heritage Resource Council who have jurisdiction on the protection of graves. The uninformed poor rural communities would be left to guess as to which Government department to approach for intervention.
Local Municipalities, who bear the brunt of bad mining practices, cannot hold the mines to account as they are often told that mining is a National competency, meaning therefore that the mines are only answerable to the national DME, and not the Municipalities.
In 1992, the World Bank released a policy framework to guide the new South African government on land and minerals. It has become clear that all the administrative confusion created around issues related to land ownership and control is deliberate, promoted and supported to empower multinational companies in their exploitation of resources (minerals and environment) and is done to the detriment and disempowerment of the affected land owners. At worst, such control of strategic resources (land and minerals) by a few elite at National level can be used by the West, through their agents (the World Bank, IMF and their imperialist multinational mining and agricultural companies) to ferment ethnic clashes within the ruling party and amongst communities.