Residents want mine operator off their land
Lesseyton residents want the “notorious” rock quarry mining director of Webber Wezelts Repossessed Asset Recovery, who is allegedly operating illegally, to vacate their land after failing to comply with a number of requirements.
Residents who stopped operations claimed the company’s mining permit had expired on July 7.
Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) had intervened in the matter by serving the company’s director, Luzuko Mbilashe, with notice to stop operations until disputes were resolved, but operations continued.
Instead, Mbilashe filed a court interdict against nine people for disrupting operations, with ward councillor Ntomboxolo Solani included.
According to residents, explosion shock waves had resulted in some houses sustaining cracks. Also, the river from which they had drawn water had been closed, and bridges were broken down, without the company having consulted the community.
Mpumli Maawu, the community’s chair, alleged the houses were damaged because an environmental assessment was never done. “He is working illegally, his licence expired on July 7,” he said. Maawu said they had last heard from Mbilashe on the day they gave him permission to operate on their land on condition that their requirements were met.
“We had required that 25% of the employment be given to members of the community, that royalties be paid. “Mbilashe never returned with feedback about the benefits.” He said only two residents were employed from Lesseyton, with the rest from outside the district.
Maawu said: “We were shocked to find that one of the two residents was injured by one of the machines recently and that he was fired. The people are not receiving any royalties. The bridge clerk is from Mthatha.
“Mbilashe is running operations outside the council resolution. “Instead, he is sending the police to beat us when we are halting operations and a court interdict was filed against us.”
EMLM council speaker Noluthando Nqabisa and chief whip Nombuyiselo Ndlebe were recently contacted when the community halted mining after blocking the entrance.
Nqabisa said: “The residents reported the matter to us and we conducted a visit to assess what they were complaining about.
“We found people’s houses cracked, the quarry was not fenced, the river was closed and their bridges were removed.”
The speaker said a council resolution was taken in January that the quarry stop operating until the dispute was resolved.
“We served the resolution, but the company continued to mine. “Residents kept calling us when they were protesting.”
She said EMLM had arranged a meeting between Mbilashe and the residents to determine whether he was operating illegally.
”His mining permit expired on July 7. The community members expressed their unhappiness to him but he did not respond.
“We reached an agreement with the community that since his permit had expired, he should not continue operating.
“But the director said he renewed the licence weeks ago. We asked him which process he had followed without the community’s involvement. We again heard that he was continuing and had even filed a court interdict against community members.”
However, the speaker said the department of mineral resources official knew nothing about the permit being renewed.
“This means he was operating without a valid permit,” she said. “Today we were contacted by Pops because the community members had closed down the mining entrance. The police said they were instructed to beat and arrest the people.
“We advised them not to because the people had approached the municipality for assistance. If they wanted to arrest people they must arrest us. We requested the permit saying Mbilashe can mine.”
The Rep contacted Mbilashe, who said: All of these are rumours, none of what they are saying is true.”
He said the licence was renewed, but when asked for further explanation he abruptly said he would give The Rep a call, and terminated the conversation.
At the time of going to print, DMR had not responded to queries.