Following two days of deliberation, which included a presentation by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), mining-affected communities have rejected the current draft of the Mining Charter, as gazetted by Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe last month.
This follows after 100 community representatives from several organisations gathered in Johannesburg on July 2 to consider the latest iteration of the draft charter.
The organisations included Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua), Women from Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Wamua) and Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa (Mejcon-SA).
The parties resolved that those community representatives invited to the Mining Charter Summit, due to be held on July 7 and 8, should attend and express the collective outcomes of this week’s community conference.
At the centre of its resolution, Macua and Wamua said, is the DMR’s alleged refusal to include Macua, Wamua and Mejcon in negotiations on the charter despite a court directing the DMR to do so.
According to the statement on Wednesday, communities expressed anger and disappointment that the Minister and the DMR had shown “a complete disregard for their fundamental human right to be treated as equals and instead the DMR treated communities as if they had no rights”.
Appealing to the DMR, Macua national coordinator Meshack Mbangula requested that the department “listen to communities who have fundamental and inalienable human rights to be heard”, and as such, suggested that the DMR should start formulating a charter that will appropriately reflect what communities have been asking for in the People's Mining Charter.
During the two-day conference this week, the parties said the proposed Mining Charter III is “deeply flawed”, with some of the key concerns, namely the definition of communities, not being specified.
The lack of a distinction between an affected community and the broader municipality, has been used to enrich municipalities at the expense of those communities who suffer under mining, the parties noted.
Gender, meanwhile, is not included extensively enough to shift the patriarchal nature of the sector and the targets for women’s empowerment need to be significantly increased in all areas of the charter, the parties noted in a statement.
Further, they called for social and labour plan (SLP) budgets to be specified according to an agreed target and to be made transparent, adding that SLPs should include consent from the affected communities.
“The budget, if not spent, needs to be carried over into the new period and not amended”.
Further, the new draft Mining Charter excludes the principle of ‘Free Prior and Informed Consent’ or the right to say no to mining, which Macua and Wamua pointed out “is a vital requirement for communities to receive any kind of justice in the historical exploitative sector”.
According to the organisations, the draft Mining Charter does not adequately explain how community trusts are to be managed, which will, in turn, be exposed to abuse from traditional leaders and connected politicians, which will lead to increased conflict in communities.
“The Mining Charter should clearly outline how the community trusts will be managed . . . and governed and must include extensive community participation,” they suggested.
The organisations further lamented that insufficient attention had been paid to environmental rehabilitation post-mining and that the exclusion of this element from the current draft Mining Charter is indicative of the interests that the charter seeks to serve, namely that of big business and not communities.
“Insufficient attention has been paid to zama-zamas or the promotion of community work programmes through local procurement that can help to lift communities out of poverty,” Macua and Wamua argued.
Additionally, the lack of focus on youth is glaring within Mining Charter III, they said.
“The issue of youth unemployment cannot be . . . glossed over and the draft Mining Charter III must include substantive targets and programmes to empower and benefit the youth,” they suggested.
The allocation of 14% of companies’ shareholdings to black entrepreneurs should not be derived from the community and workers’ shares and should be dealt with separately as business transactions, Macua and Wamua further suggested.
Meanwhile, the full complement of 30% black ownership should be allocated to affected communities living in poverty and “should not be used to benefit and enrich politically connected individuals”.
The DMR, during its presentation at the conference, indicated that the shareholding will be effected according to the State’s appetite to acquire these shares, if the State so wishes.
This, the organisations pointed out, reduces the community benefits and, exposes the nature of a predatory State opening up shareholdings to politically connected individuals based on the claim by the State to exploit their “custodianship” of mineral wealth.
The nature of how this was delivered was also troubling, they said, as this is not clearly defined in the draft charter, but rather communicated in person during a presentation.
In conclusion, Macua and Wamua felt that the People's Mining Charter should be incorporated into the Mining Charter as an expression of the will and aspirations of affected communities as opposed to the current expression of the draft Mining Charter as a conduit to enrich the politically connected.