Min­is­ters ac­cused of sab­o­tage

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Re­porter

THE prob­lems be­tween the Kao Mine and the lo­cal com­mu­nity in the Butha Buthe dis­trict re­cently took a new twist with the com­pany ac­cus­ing un­named cab­i­net min­is­ters of in­cit­ing vil­lagers into acts of van­dal­ism that forced op­er­a­tions to grind to a halt.

The com­pany said the cab­i­net min­is­ters main­tained di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the van­dals whose acts of sub­ver­sion had not only “plunged the mine into chaos” but cost the coun­try at least M202 500 for each day the mine did not op­er­ate.

Kao Mine is op­er­ated by Storm Moun­tain Di­a­monds (Pty) Lim­ited. Storm Di­a­monds (SMD) is jointly owned by South African com­pany, Na­makwa Di­a­monds Lim­ited (75 per­cent share­hold­ing) and the govern­ment (25 share­hold­ing).

There has been sim­mer­ing ten­sion be­tween the mine and the lo­cals who ac­cuse the mine of reneg­ing on its com­mit­ment to com­pen­sate them for re­lo­ca­tion from their homes to pave way for the mine as well as the fail­ure to give them jobs. The vil­lagers also ac­cuse the mine of fail­ing to im­ple­ment mean­ing­ful de­vel­op­ment projects in the area.

One per­son died and two oth­ers were crit­i­cally in­jured on 8 Fe­bru­ary 2018 after vi­o­lent clashes broke out be­tween the po­lice and vil­lagers who were protest­ing against the al­leged fail­ure by the mine to hon­our its prom­ises to com­pen­sate and re­lo­cate them from the ar­eas af­fected by min­ing op­er­a­tions.

Since then a se­ries of meet­ings have been held at the mine aimed at ad­dress­ing the vil­lagers’ griev­ances.

The mine has even of­fered em­ploy­ment to the widow of Terene Pi­tae who was shot dead by po­lice in Fe­bru­ary and even of­fered com­pen­sa­tion to his fam­ily and other vic­tims of the skir­mishes.

But even those ef­forts failed to pla­cate the lo­cals who joined with mine work­ers in stag­ing a protest against the mine from 25 to 27 April this year. The protest prompted the man­age­ment to close the mine for the du­ra­tion of the protests.

Equip­ment was van­dalised dur­ing the protests and the com­pany says the lo­cals also tres­passed on the min­ing lease area.

Yes­ter­day, the com­pany re­ported that the mine “has again…been plunged into chaos” after crim­i­nals van­dalised mine prop­erty for un­ex­plained rea­sons.

“Kao has again, from 30 May 2018…been plunged into chaos. Crim­i­nals have again van­dalised mine prop­erty on and off of the min­ing lease area.

“The van­dal­ism has again brought the mine to a stand-still,” the com­pany said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

“The rea­sons for the crim­i­nal acts are once again un­clear. The pre-text used in the past — the com­mu­nity griev­ances — are no longer pro­vided as rea­sons.

“We also know that the per­pe­tra­tors do not rep­re­sent the in­ter­est of the com­mu­nity, as com­mu­nity mem­bers are dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the ac­tions of this mob. SMD knows that the ma­jor­ity of the lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers are law-abid­ing and wish to live and work in friendly co-op­er­a­tion with the mine.

“The ques­tion then re­mains: what sits be­hind the crim­i­nal ac­tions? The an­swer ap­pears to be, as it so of­ten is in Le­sotho, pol­i­tics. We have fac­tual ev­i­dence that some of the per­pe­tra­tors are in di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with high-rank­ing politi­cians, in­clud­ing min­is­ters in the cab­i­net.

“It seems that there is a po­lit­i­cal agenda in cer­tain quar­ters to desta­bilise the min­ing sec­tor, ap­par­ently in the hope that the mines can fail and that rights can be dis­trib­uted to in­cum­bent op­er­a­tors, with largesse and ben­e­fits to lo­cal politi­cians and oth­ers. In this ar­range­ment the lo­cal of­fend­ers are used as agents by the politi­cians, with the prom­ise of some ben­e­fit.

“The un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties of the mi­nor­ity are im­pact­ing neg­a­tively on the rest of the com­mu­nity and on the mine. It is im­per­a­tive that peace­ful co­op­er­a­tion is re­stored.”

The com­pany fur­ther said the acts of van­dal­ism had as­sumed the added di­men­sion of “sub­ver­sion and sub­terfuge” that were detri­men­tal to pub­lic or­der.

It also said it be­lieved that the po­lice had been pre­vented from ap­pre­hend­ing the sus­pects by the politi­cians in govern­ment.

The com­pany said de­spite lay­ing nu­mer­ous crim­i­nal charges against the leader of the com­mu­nity com­mit­tee who it did not name, the po­lice were forced by politi­cians to re­lease him with­out any charges.

“The un­law­ful and crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties take on an­other di­men­sion- that of sub­ver­sion and sub­terfuge: of acts prej­u­di­cial to the pub­lic or­der; acts in­cit­ing vi­o­lence, dis­or­der, de­fi­ance and dis­obe­di­ence to the laws of the King­dom; and, acts di­rect­ing and or­gan­is­ing peo­ple to per­form un­law­ful acts.

“Ac­tions such as these, which can lead to the desta­bil­i­sa­tion of the min­ing sec­tor, are and should be of great con­cern to the govern­ment as this jeop­ar­dises not only the vi­a­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of the min­ing sec­tor, but also the in­ter­nal se­cu­rity of the coun­try.”

The com­pany fur­ther stated that the coun­try lost M202 500 for each day the mine was closed and the state would lose fur­ther in­come in the form of taxes gen­er­ated by the mine.

It said the mine had con­tributed M413 mil­lion in roy­al­ties and taxes to the fis­cus from Septem­ber 2013 to April 2018.

The com­pany said it needed as­sur­ance from the govern­ment that it would “through its ex­ec­u­tive and other or­gans, take the ur­gent steps re­quired to bring this an­ar­chy to an end”.

The on­go­ing con­flict has not gone down well with the man­age­ment who have de­fended their track record since tak­ing over the mine in 2010.

In a pre­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the on­go­ing con­flict, the com­pany said it had “in­vested sig­nif­i­cantly in com­mu­nity projects and in­fra­struc­ture since it started op­er­at­ing at Kao”.

“These (in­vest­ments) in­clude the in­vest­ment of more than M110 mil­lion bring­ing the pow­er­line to Kao (Liqhobong in­vested a sim­i­lar amount), which en­ables the govern­ment to draw power from the line to com­mu­ni­ties.

“The com­pany has also built and main­tains a 30 kilo­me­tre ac­cess road to Tlaeeng, which links the mine and its com­mu­ni­ties to the rest of the coun­try.

“The com­pany has started a cur­rent sta­tus needs anal­y­sis of com­mu­nity needs, which has been in­ter­rupted by the re­cent (protest) events.

“There is an un­rea­son­able de­mand on the com­pany to also build a road to Ha Le­jone,” the com­pany said.

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