Mining companies dispossess communities in South Africa ‘in conduct reminiscent of criminal syndicates’ – SAFTU

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Xolobeni community members marching against the takeover of their land by the Australian mining company Mineral Commodities

‘A CHINESE mining company is taking over plots of land in South Africa, paying residents small lump sums to give over mining rights to their land.

SAFTU (The South African Federation of Trade Unions) learns with disgust the dirty tricks of how the mining company, Nkwe Platinum Limited, is attempting to rob the people of Ga-Mamphahlane land.
In conduct reminiscent of criminal syndicates, this corporation has colluded with the parasitic national bourgeoisie to dispossess the community of their land.
In the reports given to the Sunday Times by residents, different sinister methods of dispossession came to light. They did not give the community sufficient information: while others, because of a lack of English comprehension, could not comprehend the contents of the leases they were signing.
The corporation sought to bribe them by bringing them to Sandton in the hope that the fancy meals and accommodation would put them under duress to sign. Those who refused to sign, were denied transport back home to Limpopo.
The corporation also tried to isolate them individually rather than negotiating with them as a community.
Those who have signed the leases already were being paid a one-off amount of R40,000. Nkwe Platinum aims to pay a total of R7.2 million for the estimated 495 hectares of land: the R7.2 million to be divided amongst the 189 families to the tune of R40,000 each.
The lease would cover a period of 40 years. This barely covers the loss of economic opportunities in terms of harvest over a 40-year period.
The consultants of Nkwe Platinum who executed this process in a mixture of dirty criminal methods of coaxing and forcing residents to give up their land to Nkwe Platinums include the discredited former Director General of the Department of Public Enterprise, Richard Seleke, who was involved in allegations of irregular awarding of tenders and wasteful expenditure at the Public Enterprises Ministry; and Bally Chuene, who has been struck off the roll of advocates.
The third consulting associate, Vuyani Gaga, is said to have told residents that he is a nephew of Gwede Mantashe, hoping Mantashe’s political status will either soften or intimidate the residents into agreeing easily to mining.
The dodgy style of consultation aimed at land grabbing and acquisition lease for mining is the modus operandi of how mining corporations annex the lands of local communities in rural areas:– By co-opting and promising the local chiefs fortunes, bribing people in the Department of Mineral Resources and Land Affairs Department, and using black consultancy firms to do their dirty bidding.
Beside co-option of traditional leaders, and bribing of political officials, consultations have been misused. Minutes and attendance registers from PowerPoint briefings are presented to the DMRE as community consent to mining.
In the process, the mine communities have been robbed of any potential real benefit derived from the mineral riches of their own lands. In this case, a one-off R40,000 payment is not a true reflection of the value of the land, of what is on the surface and below it for the community of Ga-Mamphahlane.
On the surface, people are ploughing and grazing their livestock, the natural wells provide clean water for their animals, and generally they benefit from the clean environment and ecology.
Beneath the land, the prospected minerals are said to be chrome, gold, cobalt and copper. These are precious minerals that are in high demand across the world, and their value would be trillions of Rands.
This should determine the price at which the land should be leased from the community. The mine companies make whopping billions per year, and yet do not factor this into their valuation of lands they lease from communities.
In Policy Gap 11, Benchmarks Foundation makes a point that ‘mining corporations should determine the value of not only the land but also the economic/market value of the agricultural and business activities conducted on the land by the occupants of that land.
The occupant will thus typically be compensated for one season’s crop only. The value of the mineral resource under the land is not factored into the compensation at all.
The deliberate process of robbing these communities has been conducted with the aid of the parasitic black bourgeoisie, whose unsustainable appetite for wealth accumulation has up to now been conducted through looting of the State-Owned Enterprises and robbing of communities in this manner.
In their precarious position as comprador capitalists they are readily available to be used as the ‘economic hitmen’ of the bigger mining corporations in our communities.
SAFTU supports the members of the villages – both those who have already received R40,000 and those who have not – to fight against this land-grabbing disguised as economic empowerment and prosperity. Many communities have been robbed in the name of job creation.
It turns out that not only do communities not benefit from jobs, but have to live with explosive induced tremors that crack their houses, contamination of local rivers and streams leading to death of livestock, the contamination of underground waters which are used as drinking water and for domestic purposes through boreholes in rural communities and the eventual land degradation.
The community of Ga-Mamphahlane, and those around Mandagshoek, should organise to resist this form of land dispossession.
This dispossession will marginalise them from economic beneficiation of the minerals and displace their means of subsistence through the enclosure of their grazing and ploughing lands.
The long-term consequences of which is land degradation and total alienation from making subsistence through farming from their lands.
The styles of land invasions that mine corporations use in this country 27 years into ‘democracy’, are reminiscent of the early stages of capital accumulation.
The accumulation of capital is done through the means of dispossession and no sustainable beneficiation for the local communities except long-term negative economic and environmental externalities.
The irony of the methods deployed by Nkwe Platinum and other companies in various mining communities is that the government would use force and violence to remove shack dwellers from their occupation of lands for residential purposes because they are overcrowded in the backyards of matchbox yards in the townships, but is reluctant and often, is party to the land invasions by mining corporations.
Far from surprising us, this is a vindication that the ANC government is pro-capitalism and would do all to please capitalist magnates at the expense of the people.
The people of Ga-Mphahlane must organise themselves against this invasion. SAFTU is in full support of the efforts to resist mining invasions and land grabbing by these corporates in which the ANC government is complicit.
Further, we support:

  • Mandagshoek Community Against Land Invasion (MCALI), the lawyers assisting them to fight these dirty methods and all community organisations that are fighting mining invasions.
  • Proper valuation of the land (factoring the surface produce and the mineral wealth beneath) must be conducted to determine the true value of the land so that the community can be paid the true value of that land in case the community wants to go ahead in leasing it.
  • Community activists must be protected in this fight. Lessons from other mining communities such as Xolobeni, and the communities in the whole of Latin America, is that activists opposed to mining are often harassed and killed.

SAFTU invites the Mandagshoek Community Against Land Invasion to be part of the network of co-ordinated grassroot movements fighting (the) austerity programme and the capitalist onslaught on the ordinary working people.’