COM­MU­NITY BLAMES ‘AR­RO­GANT’ MINE FOR UN­REST

CityPress - - Business - LESETJA MA­LOPE lesetja.ma­lope@city­press.co.za

Are­volt is brew­ing among one of the com­mu­ni­ties at the rich­est end of the coun­try’s plat­inum belt and fin­gers are be­ing pointed at the “ar­ro­gant” mines for ne­glect­ing com­mu­nity con­cerns. The Fe­tak­gomo Tu­batse Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, sit­u­ated at the east­ern bor­der of Lim­popo and Mpumalanga, has the big­gest plat­inum re­serves in the coun­try. How­ever, it is still part of the gov­ern­ment’s list of 19 dis­tressed min­ing towns that are re­ceiv­ing spe­cial at­ten­tion from the depart­ment of plan­ning, mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers in Driekop, Lim­popo, have ac­cused man­age­ment of the Modikwa mine, which is partly owned by bil­lion­aire Pa­trice Mot­sepe’s African Rain­bow Min­er­als (ARM), of be­ing ar­ro­gant and let­ting the ten­sion be­tween lo­cals and the mine build up.

The area made head­lines when a bus trans­port­ing work­ers to their night shift at the mine was petrol bombed on Mon­day, April 2. Six work­ers were killed. Five peo­ple were ar­rested. One com­mu­nity leader said a storm had been brew­ing in the area for a while and the mine must shoul­der some of the blame for look­ing the other way.

Speak­ing to City Press at the scene of the hor­rific attack in Driekop, about 20km north­west of Burg­ers­fort, two lo­cal coun­cil­lors said Modikwa had been keep­ing its dis­tance from com­mu­nity griev­ances about the mine.

Coun­cil­lors Joyce Riba and Ti­mothy Ma­gane, of wards 7 and 14, re­spec­tively, said that de­spite ef­forts to get mine of­fi­cials to at­tend the com­mu­nity meet­ings, they were un­will­ing to come to the party.

“We have had many com­mu­nity meet­ings and peo­ple have lamented the is­sue of jobs,” Riba said.

“They say the mine does not em­ploy them and they also want the mine to build a train­ing cen­tre so that they are skilled, but the mine does not want to come,” she said.

Three weeks be­fore the attack on the bus, two trucks were set alight in the space of three days, in protests that blocked the R37 which, along with the R555, are the eco­nomic gate­ways to the town of Burg­ers­fort.

Riba said she was the first lo­cal leader to be in­formed about the bus ar­son. She said Modikwa mine of­fi­cials had been avoid­ing con­tact with lo­cals.

“They refuse to come to the peo­ple. I was in­formed of the second burn­ing of a truck while I was in a meet­ing at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity where their [Modikwa] of­fi­cials walked out with­out a rea­son,” she said.

Riba said she was re­cently told that mat­ters re­lat­ing to the com­mu­nity were be­ing han­dled at may­oral level.

Proof of this was that ARM cor­po­rate af­fairs ex­ec­u­tive Benny Boshielo was one of the first of­fi­cials on site the fol­low­ing morn­ing, af­ter the mayor called him, Riba said.

Boshielo is a former ANC heavy­weight in the prov­ince and is from the dis­trict.

Riba said the mur­ders on the bus were an ex­cep­tion be­cause in pre­vi­ous at­tacks, no lives were lost.

Both coun­cil­lors said they were side­lined when­ever prom­i­nent peo­ple came to the mine in­clud­ing dur­ing the re­cent visit by Mot­sepe and Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Gwede Man­tashe.

“As af­fected coun­cil­lors we just went with­out an in­vite,” Riba said.

The dis­trict has sig­nif­i­cant plat­inum min­ing re­serves and yet re­mains one of the poor­est – an eco­nomic irony that is ev­i­dent as one drives through the mined moun­tains and the pover­tys­tricken vil­lages.

Although the area has earned a rep­u­ta­tion for protests that block the main road lead­ing to the town, on the day City Press vis­ited there were no protests. How­ever, the talk of the vil­lage was that a teenage girl was found dead in a pit toi­let.

ARM has a 41.5% stake in the mine, lo­cal res­i­dents 8.5% via two sec­tion 21 com­pa­nies, Mam­pudima and Ma­ti­mat­jatji, and An­glo Amer­i­can Plat­inum has a 50% share­hold­ing.

In writ­ten re­sponses to ques­tions, the mine said that of its 4 036 em­ploy­ees, al­most 66% are from the dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

It said of the 40 com­pa­nies who are sup­pli­ers to the mine, 16 are lo­cal busi­nesses from the host vil­lages.

The mine ac­knowl­edged that its rep­re­sen­ta­tives did not at­tend meet­ings with lo­cal res­i­dents, but said it used al­ter­na­tive plat­forms.

“The com­mu­ni­ties elect the peo­ple who rep­re­sent them in the sec­tion 21 com­pa­nies. The mine en­gages with the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties via these struc­tures, in­clud­ing the Hwashi Difa­gate com­mu­nity trust, which owns the On­verwacht farm (where the ma­jor­ity of the mine’s in­fra­struc­ture is lo­cated).

“Monthly meet­ings are held to dis­cuss is­sues of mu­tual con­cern. In ad­di­tion, the sec­tion 21 rep­re­sen­ta­tives par­tic­i­pate in the mine’s com­mit­tees, which in­clude the safety and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee and the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body at the mine.

“By par­tic­i­pat­ing in these com­mit­tees, the sec­tion 21 rep­re­sen­ta­tives are able to be the voice of their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties at the mine, and to give feed­back to their com­mu­ni­ties on all is­sues af­fect­ing the mine.”

The com­pany said the mur­ders on the bus had af­fected the work­ers neg­a­tively and that they were get­ting coun­selling and sup­port.

THE CRIM­I­NAL CASE

Pro­vin­cial po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Mot­lalefa Mo­japelo said the five peo­ple ar­rested were caught in Driekop and neigh­bour­ing vil­lages. They were charged with ma­li­cious dam­age to prop­erty and six counts of mur­der and ap­peared in the Meck­len­burg Mag­is­trates’ Court on Thurs­day. Their bail ap­pli­ca­tions were post­poned to later this month.

They were named as Sipho Khu­malo, Aubrey Tjie, Thabo Mok­gala, Philimon Mak­wana and Kgao­gelo Moime.

THE MU­NIC­I­PAL­ITY

Mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesper­son Thabiso Mokoena said their only source of in­come was rates and that in the last fi­nan­cial year they had col­lected a mere R58 mil­lion.

Mokoena said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity had a bud­get of R619 mil­lion in the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year, which in­cluded a R81 mil­lion in­fra­struc­ture grant. This was used mainly for roads and bridges.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity had a staff com­ple­ment of around 350 and over 45% of its es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 483 000 was un­em­ployed. There were 17 ac­tive mines in the area.

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