Min­ing gi­ant threat­ens to gag crit­i­cal film

Pla­treef con­tro­versy

CityPress - - News - CHARL BLIGNAUT charl.blignaut@city­press.co.za

A South African doc­u­men­tary, which took just less than four years to com­plete, almost did not make it to its screen­ing at the Dur­ban In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val to­day. Min­ing com­pany Ivan­hoe had threat­ened to in­ter­dict it.

“Why Marikana can still hap­pen again!” is the pay­off line of the film called Black Lives Mat­ter, which deals head-on with the ques­tion of land and il­le­git­i­mate tra­di­tional chiefs mak­ing deals that do lit­tle to up­lift their com­mu­ni­ties.

“I was pre­par­ing a meal with my aunt in Lon­don when we heard over the ra­dio about the Marikana shoot­ing,” says veteran jour­nal­ist and film­maker Joseph Oesi over lunch on the Dur­ban beach­front. “Just days af­ter the mas­sacre, I was back home in South Africa shoot­ing the film.”

Af­ter meet­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ivan­hoe on at least two oc­ca­sions in the pre­vi­ous week and a marathon ses­sion on Wed­nes­day be­tween Oesi’s lawyers, Web­ster’s Le­gal, and those of the min­ing com­pany, Ivan­hoe de­cided not to pur­sue an in­ter­dict. All Web­ster’s Le­gal will say of the mat­ter is: “Ivan­hoe’s lawyers ini­tially con­sid­ered in­ter­dict­ing parts of the doc­u­men­tary but thought bet­ter of it af­ter the film­maker re­mained stead­fast.”

Ivan­hoe did not an­swer ques­tions de­spite ear­lier in­di­cat­ing they could be­fore City Press went to print.

Oesi says he had con­tacted all the min­ing houses he was fea­tur­ing to re­quest film­ing on their prop­er­ties, and then later with the script.

“Im­pala Plat­inum re­fused. So did An­glo and Lon­min, but they of­fered their own footage of min­ing op­er­a­tions for me to use. Ivan­hoe Plat ac­knowl­edged re­ceipt but then sat on it for two years. I tried to talk to them re­peat­edly. I needed a re­sponse to the se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions lev­elled at them by com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by their op­er­a­tions. At the last minute – two weeks ago – they in­vited us to go there and see what we could do to, as they put it, “bal­ance the story”. Claims in the doc­u­men­tary in­clude that:

A chief re­ceives a “salary” and has his home paid for by Ivan­hoe;

Vil­lagers re­ceive “min­i­mal” com­pen­sa­tion when the com­pany car­ries out drilling on the plots as­signed to them by the tra­di­tional au­thor­i­ties; and

Ivan­hoe paid roy­al­ties to the Mokopane com­mu­nity prior to 2003, but that these “dwin­dled” af­ter the new chief was in­stalled.

Oesi doesn’t want to say more about Ivan­hoe. He wants to talk about the project, which, he says, asks the ques­tion: “What ben­e­fits does an im­pov­er­ished The Pla­treef (Ivan­plats) project is still un­der de­vel­op­ment, with the sink­ing of the first shaft hav­ing been sched­uled for this month. Ivan­hoe chair­man Robert Fried­land has punted it as po­ten­tially the world’s largest and most ad­vanced plat­inum mine, a ti­tle cur­rently held by the nearby Mo­galak­wena mine owned by An­glo Amer­i­can Plat­inum, which also fea­tures in the film.

At this point, there is no mine yet, al­though prospect­ing in the area has been on­go­ing for decades.

The al­le­ga­tions in the doc­u­men­tary re­gard­ing Ivan­hoe and Pla­treef are mostly a mat­ter of pub­lic record, with a dis­pute over the suc­ces­sion of Mokopane chief Vaal­tyn Kekana drag­ging on for more than a decade.

Ear­lier this year, Ivan­hoe crit­i­cised the Cana­dian non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion (NGO) Min­ing Watch for the “pro­mo­tion of false and dis­hon­est claims” af­ter it for­warded a scathing re­port on Pla­treef to the com­pany’s Cana­dian share­hold­ers.

The re­port cen­tred on the re­cent grant­ing of a per­mit to Ivan­hoe to re­lo­cate graves around Pla­treef to make way for its shaft – as well as al­leged blast­ing within 500m of res­i­den­tial build­ings.

The com­pany is­sued a press re­lease that said Aubrey Langa, a Mokopane ac­tivist who was the source of most of Min­ing Watch’s in­for­ma­tion on com­mu­nity griev­ances about the mine project, had been con­victed for at­tempted mur­der.

They did not add that this was in re­la­tion to a sui­cide at­tempt he made while in the apartheid po­lice’s cus­tody in the 1970s, the lo­cal NGO Bench Marks Foun­da­tion coun­tered.

– De­wald van Rens­burg

com­mu­nity get from these min­er­als?”

Black Lives Mat­ters looks at deals made with var­i­ous chiefs in North West and Lim­popo – and ques­tions the le­git­i­macy of some of them. The ti­tle of the doc­u­men­tary is de­rived from a work by protest artist Ayanda Mab­ulu, a com­men­ta­tor in the film, along with young Mokopane com­mu­nity ac­tivist Mokete Khoda.

This is the lat­est ma­jor lo­cal doc­u­men­tary about the min­ing in­dus­try, fol­low­ing on from award win­ners Min­ers Shot Down, about Marikana and Lon­min, and The Shore Break, about dune min­ing in the for­mer Transkei.

Joseph Oesi

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