There were celebrations at the High Court in Pretoria on Monday after a ruling compelled the South African government and the Chamber of Mines -- which represents producers in the mining sector -- to involve communities living in mining areas, in the ongoing discussions over the controversial Mining Charter.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo ordered that the mining communities be recognised as “interested and relevant stakeholders for the purpose of consultation on the charter formulation process”.
Soon after the court judgement, Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) pressure group national organiser Meshack Mbangula told the African News Agency (ANA) in Pretoria that the court ruling was a significant victory for the communities.
“They [the high court] gave an order to say we must be consulted, we must be part of the decision making. We are happy that we have an order, if the DMR [department of mineral resources] doesn't comply to that, we would definitely be able to take them to court and make sure that they comply, and make our people benefit from that,” said Mbangula.
“The charter must reflect what people want not what [mining] companies want. As you can see now, everybody is happy, singing and that is the victory. We will definitely make copies to give to them. In all the eight provinces that are affected by mines, we've forced this to happen.”
Mbangula said the communities he leads “are very happy and excited”.
Hundreds of members of Macua were gathered outside court on Monday, protesting against what they termed “persistent exclusion” from talks on the controversial latest iteration of the Mining Charter.
A court battle between government and the SA Chamber of Mines, which was scheduled to play out in the high court on Monday, has been put on hold after President Cyril Ramaphosa's office and the Chamber of Mines said on Sunday they would be negotiating out of court to resolve the row over the blueprint.
Macua complained that they were not included in this process and called for the court case to proceed urgently.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines issued a statement on Monday, saying it had noted the high court judgment.
“The Chamber agreed to postpone its court application on the basis of the Presidency’s commitment to resolving the impasse over the Mining Charter and to facilitate a process of developing a new Mining Charter by way of negotiations, inclusive of all stakeholders including government, business, labour and communities in the interests of the industry and the country as a whole,” said the Chamber of Mines.
“Over the recent months, the Chamber has repeatedly expressed its commitment to community participation. The Chamber’s view is that it will be necessary for that constituency to establish a representative body to participate. Importantly, that body would need to be able to deliver on commitments as the government, organised labour and industry representatives do.”
The Chamber of Mines said seeking legal recourse on the controversial Charter “was always a last resort, intended to get the parties to the table”.