Giving back to local communities
Our commitment to developing and empowering our host communities remains a pillar of our transformation journey
Thandeka Ncube oversees one of the toughest portfolios at Lonmin, dealing with communities and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
With its recent history, Lonmin has enormous legacy issues to overcome. The truth is, it probably never will, making the Sibanyestillwater transaction to take over the company and give it fresh impetus possibly the best outcome for the assets.
Ncube, who is Lonmin’s executive vice president of stakeholder engagement & regulatory affairs, came to Lonmin in 2011 as an appointee of Shanduka Resources, the empowerment company headed by Cyril Ramaphosa, who wanted skills transfer and Shanduka’s presence in an investment to be meaningful.
“After the Marikana tragedy in 2012, Lonmin went into organisational post-traumatic stress disorder and we had to work through a lot of issues. Just as we thought we were coming through the other side, we had the five-month strike in 2015 and it set us back,” Ncube says.
Sitting on the executive committee, Ncube — with combined community and DMR responsibilities — saw a gap as the regulator took a much harder look at Lonmin’s social and labour plans and the company’s commitments.
An important element of dealing with the community was working with the regulatory bodies and within the law, leaving no room for interpretation or contestation of who should be engaged on community issues, a common problem in these types of relationships.
“We had to unpack the community first and truly understand all of its elements. We took the firm view that the municipality was integral in whatever we were doing and that’s working for us,” she says.
One of her challenges was forging a team constrained by a tight budget and gaps in understanding of legislation.
“I had to fix the team. Team members were so demoralised and the world was telling them they had not delivered on the promises in the social and labour plans,” she says.
One of the steps to restore morale and spirit was rehabilitating the dilapidated offices in Mooinooi to better reflect the renewed focus on community interactions.
Building the relationship with the Bapo community has proved challenging, but one of the toughest lessons has been able to say “no” as opposed to the acquiescence in the past that wasn’t followed through with action.
Another lesson was to hold community delegates accountable for their sides of agreements and to behave in good faith during talks.
“We talk and talk and talk to communities. We have helped set up structures on the ground in the communities, working within the law because it really is the only protection we have,” she says.
“The way to win the trust and respect of communities and the DMR is to be open, honest and to scrupulously adhere to agreements, delivering on promises within the stipulated timeframes.”
Thandeka Ncube: Lonmin’s social and labour plans and commitments benefit its communities