Farm work­ers refuse to move for Tegeta

CityPress - - News - JO­HAN EYBERS news@city­press.co.za

Twenty farm work­ers and their fam­i­lies in Mpumalanga are stand­ing be­tween the Gupta fam­ily and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s son Duduzane’s huge con­tract of R564 mil­lion to sup­ply coal to Eskom.

These fam­i­lies are dig­ging in their heels against Gupta-con­trolled Tegeta Ex­plo­ration and Re­sources’ plans to re­lo­cate them so that the com­pany can ex­tend its open-pit mine ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Our houses are lit­er­ally be­ing pulled out from un­der us, but we won’t be in­tim­i­dated by it,” said 76-year-old Poppy Djiana.

The walls and ceil­ings of her and her neigh­bour’s houses are cav­ing in, al­legedly due to the in­ces­sant blast­ing op­er­a­tions at the mine. In ad­di­tion, the area suf­fers from power out­ages and wa­ter short­ages.

There are no longer open plains in front of their homes, nor is there fresh air any more.

They now have a view of the moun­tain of coal that is pil­ing up only a few hun­dred me­tres from their homes on the other side of the bound­ary fence.

“We are scared our homes are go­ing to col­lapse on top of us,” said Djiana.

She and her hus­band, Matthew (76), have been liv­ing on their patch of land on Leon Cass’ Van Ee­den farm to­gether with two other fam­i­lies since 1974. An­other four fam­i­lies live on Cass’ land.

Ac­cord­ing to Sun­ny­boy Mn­guni (45), an­other res­i­dent on the farm, their David and Go­liath strug­gle be­gan last year while the Swiss min­ing gi­ant Glen­core was still the owner of the Op­ti­mum mine.

Fif­teen other fam­i­lies agreed to re­lo­cate to Rock­dale, a set­tle­ment out­side Mid­del­burg. The re­main­ing fam­i­lies weren’t sat­is­fied with the houses they were promised and there is no pas­ture for their an­i­mals in Rock­dale.

Now that Tegeta has bought Op­ti­mum, the ne­go­ti­a­tions have to start afresh.

Koos Djiana (41) be­lieves the mines make it dif­fi­cult for them to stay on pur­pose. Since they re­jected the set­tle­ment of­fer, the min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are slowly creep­ing ever closer to their homes.

“You are busy mak­ing food or do­ing house work when sud­denly a bakkie comes by to pick you up and take you away be­cause they are blast­ing. Then we have to stand and wait in the veld hun­dreds of me­tres from our homes un­til they are fin­ished,” he said.

Their an­i­mals run away in panic be­cause of the noise, and some never re­turned.

Hu­man rights lawyer Richard Spoor, who has been rep­re­sent­ing the fam­i­lies for the past 18 months, said min­ing com­pa­nies were obliged to pro­vide peo­ple with al­ter­na­tive land if they had to move, even if they just lived on the land and were not the own­ers of it.

The two- and three-bed­room houses they were of­fered in Rock­dale were much too small for the fam­i­lies, and there was no space for a veg­etable gar­den or fields in which to graze their cat­tle – their only source of in­come, Spoor said.

“Glen­core ig­nored the in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tions for such re­lo­ca­tions in their ef­fort to get rid of these peo­ple. Tegeta mustn’t think they will now get away with it.

“The com­mu­nity is not will­ing to move un­til there is agree­ment,” he said.

Spoor said his clients knew that for­mer neigh­bours who were re­lo­cated were now liv­ing “with­out work, with­out an in­come and with­out a fu­ture in Rock­dale”.

“We are a big headache for the Gup­tas and for Zuma be­cause we are now stand­ing be­tween them and pros­per­ity,” said Spoor.

Tegeta Ex­plo­ration and Re­sources did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment by the time of go­ing to press.

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