The king’s speech

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za As King Good­will Zwelethini puts the fin­ish­ing touches on a mas­sive land claim, he wants to use a to sup­port his am­bi­tions for a 21st cen­tury Zulu em­pire

Amin­ing boom is about to hit Zu­l­u­land and some of the 2.8 mil­lion hectares of ru­ral KwaZulu-Natal un­der tribal con­trol. Min­ing com­pa­nies are lin­ing up to ac­cess bil­lions of rands in coal, an­thracite, ti­ta­nium and other met­als buried be­neath the province’s hills.

King Good­will Zwelithini this week gath­ered to­gether the key play­ers in the small-scale ru­ral min­ing sec­tor in Richards Bay for a two-day ses­sion aimed at turn­ing min­ing into a big hope for ru­ral job cre­ation.

Zwelithini wants to place the province’s amakhosi at the cen­tre of the process – to en­sure the res­i­dents they rep­re­sent get the 26% of the prof­its min­ing com­pa­nies are legally obliged to tithe in com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives. He also wants the chiefs to be trained in how the in­dus­try works, and in the le­gal frame­work for ex­plo­ration and ex­trac­tion.

Chiefs and their tribal coun­cils lis­tened en­thralled as the king, read­ing from a pre­pared speech on his iPad, out­lined his vi­sion. His plan, he said, was to change min­ing from an in­dus­try that ben­e­fited lo­cals “by ac­ci­dent, if at all” and paid “slave wages” into “a ma­jor cre­ator of jobs in ru­ral ar­eas”.

Dressed in a blue busi­ness suit and flanked by of­fi­cials from the In­gonyama Trust Board – which ad­min­is­ters tribal land ceded to the monarch in terms of a 1993 agree­ment – Zwelithini said the ru­ral econ­omy needed to move away from “the till­ing of the soil” to­wards min­ing.

The amakhosi, he said, “should be the driv­ers of min­ing in ru­ral de­vel­op­ment”, and work with min­ing houses and res­i­dents to cre­ate jobs.

The amakhosi, some of whom hailed from ar­eas like Mtu­batuba, Fair­breeze, Ulundi and Richards Bay – where min­ing is al­ready un­der way – made up most of the au­di­ence, along with their tra­di­tional coun­cils. Eight min­ing com­pa­nies, with in­ter­ests rang­ing from ti­ta­nium to gravel, were there too.

But there were also a small num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from com­mu­ni­ties al­ready af­fected by min­ing, and they were far less en­thu­si­as­tic than their tra­di­tional lead­ers. On the sec­ond day of the con­fer­ence, at a ses­sion not at­tended by the king, they pre­sented a litany of com­plaints rang­ing from amakhosi sign­ing un­law­ful ac­cess agree­ments with min­ing houses, to fam­ily grave­yards be­ing bull­dozed to make way for mines or their ac­cess roads. They called on Zwelithini to en­sure the amakhosi con­sulted com­mu­ni­ties and to make cer­tain they ben­e­fited from the mines. Glad­man Md­ladla, who, with other res­i­dents of Mtu­batuba, has op­posed the build­ing of the Ten­dele mine at Somkhele, said he and his neigh­bours had lost live­stock and had been forcibly re­moved to make way for min­ing.

“Don’t we, as the poor, have rights as well and have some­where to take our com­plaints to? We have lost our cat­tle and our farms. We have lost all. When we com­plained to the inkosi about this, they fought with us,” he said.

Non­goma res­i­dent Amos Mjadu said his lo­cal tra­di­tional leader had not at­tended to their com­plaints about los­ing live­stock dur­ing min­ing oper­a­tions.

Bheki Mkhwanazi from Makhasa­neni in Mel­moth said “we are be­ing abused”.

“We see our­selves as not im­por­tant. They are dig­ging up our fathers’ graves for mines. It is so painful. When it is rain­ing, we can see their bones with our eyes,” he said.

Si­fiso Dladla, spokesper­son for Min­ing Af­fected Com­mu­ni­ties United in Ac­tion, wel­comed the king’s in­ter­ven­tion. But he said a fo­rum needed to be cre­ated at which com­mu­ni­ties could have a voice equal to that of tra­di­tional lead­ers and min­ing com­pa­nies.

“The process is very welcome. We be­lieve there needs to be a pro­vin­cial min­ing struc­ture, in­volv­ing ev­ery­one af­fected by min­ing, at which no one voice is more pow­er­ful. We need to work to­wards a pro­vin­cial min­ing char­ter to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties and en­sure that the law is ad­hered to,” he said.

In­gonyama Trust Board chair­per­son Jerome Ng­wenya said com­mu­ni­ties who had lost land and whose prop­erty had been dam­aged would be com­pen­sated. “Those who did not get paid for dam­ages will be paid. The law pro­tects us all equally, but point­ing fin­gers at the amakhosi will not help,” he said.

PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

TILL­ING OF THE SOIL

Con­struc­tion works at the new Fair­breeze min­ing op­er­a­tion in Mtun­zini

Good­will Zwelithini Jerome Ng­wenya

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