President Zuma used the ANC’s annual January 8 statement to acknowledge the 100-year anniversary of the Native Land Act and its role in the destruction of the wealth and prosperity of black people. Earlier this week the minister of mineral resources blasted Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) for its plans to shut down part of its South African operations. And yet, for all the political gain that the ANC might enjoy, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) released its review of two pieces of legislation that will go before Parliament this year – and finds that the proposed amendments will make life harder for rural communities living in mining country. By PAUL BERKOWITZ.
The LRC’s press release pre-empted Zuma’s January 8 address in its focus on the centenary of the Native Land Act and the legacy of economic subjugation that it bequeathed the majority of people in South Africa. It agrees with Zuma (and the ANC) that there is a pressing need to reverse the damage of the past but suggests that the government is guilty of doing exactly the opposite.
The irony, all unintentional, goes one step further: on Wednesday Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu accused Amplats management of “arrogance” for its lack of consultation with the department. And yet, the LRC accuses the department and the minister of similar actions.
The LRC’s analysis concerns itself with the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill of 2012 and the draft Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill of 2012, focusing mainly on the latter piece of legislation. This was published by the minister on 27 December 2012, with the deadline for public submission on 26 January. It could be argued that giving the public a month to respond to such important legislation does not constitute a proper consultation process. (It could even be claimed that such behaviour is arrogant.)
The draft bill proposes amendments to both the original bill and to the 2008 amendment of that bill. Many of the changes would limit, rather than increase, the input and participation of the communities affected by mining operations. For example, the draft removes an earlier provision for the minister to impose conditions on mining companies to address community benefit and participation.
To add insult to injury, the provision was hard-won by rural community representatives who went to Parliament to make representation. Turns out, the proposals in the draft bill are retrograde. They certainly do not chime with the body of the January 8 speech.
There is another irony in the juxtaposition of the LRC’s words and those of Zuma: the invocation of the national development plan (NDP). Zuma was expected to make reference to the (now adopted) plan and he made it a main focus of his speech, urging “all South African to unite behind the [NDP].” The LRC also made reference to the NDP, but to highlight the gap between its recommendations and the work on the proposed legislation.
As the LRC writes: “The NDP calls for a ‘review of mining industry commitments to social investment’ and a rise in economic participation in rural areas. It emphasises the explicit requirement that mining companies ‘participate in local economic development’.”
The debate around the mining sector, its future and its obligations has been distorted by Marikana and its aftermath, which includes the announced job cuts in the sector. Without glossing over the immediate problems in the mining sector, some general themes must be emphasised, themes that existed prior to Marikana.
Firstly, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and its predecessor, the Department of Minerals and Energy, stand accused of collaborating with some mining companies and bypassing the input of other actors affected by mining. These include residential communities but also, in the case of coal mining in Mpumalanga, can include commercial farmers and the Department of Water Affairs.
The DMR has earned a reputation of not following due process in the awarding of mining licenses, or at least of not fulfilling its mandate of proper regulation of the industry. For example, the awarding of coal mining licences should not be awarded without proper environmental impact assessments and coal miners don’t always have the water rights they require before they commence operations.
The proposed legislation will reinforce the worst aspects of the department’s image and will also rob it of its moral high ground when it next accuses the mines of behaving unilaterally.
Secondly, the role of government in the sector has not been properly interrogated. In the wreckage of Marikana fingers were pointed at the mining company, the police, and the loan sharks but not many people questioned the role that the local municipality (Rustenburg), the district (Bojanala) or the province (North West) should have played in the provision of basic services and economic development.
It is known that the mining companies in the region provided a housing allowance to their employees in some cases, and some had converted mining hostels into more family-friendly accommodation. It is also known that most miners chose to take their housing allowances in cash.
If the municipalities and the province (and the national and provincial departments of the DMR, cooperative governance, rural development et al) were happy with the status quo, or did not choose to pursue a different form of economic development, then they must account for their role, however small, in perpetuating the migrant labour system, however dilute and transformed from the Apartheid structure.
Many workers at Marikana live two lives in two different places, one where they work and one that they call home. If the aim of government is to end this practice or to change it, the various parts of government must account for their work and for their failings.
Lastly, there must be a sober discussion on the benefits and costs of the sector and its future. The mining industry is an important piece of the South African economy facing very difficult times. If Europeans continue to drift in economic limbo they will not buy cars fitted with bits of South African platinum and no amount of threatening will change this or make the platinum sector any more profitable.
The foreign exchange, jobs and other economic linkages provided by the sector must be weighed up against the costs of pollution and reduced economic development for affected communities. Without real property rights or chance of redress, there are often only negative outcomes for these communities.
Again, government must accept responsibility for its role in helping or hindering the growth of the sector, including the spike in electricity costs, generally poor administration at the local government level, and policy-making which is hostile to business.
The new year presents an opportunity for new beginnings. If the government and the ruling party are serious about sustainable rural development and job creation, and about stabilising the mining sector, then they need to make proper resolutions, and stick to them. DM
Photo: A worker walks between rows of vegetables at a farm in Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
"I know of a cure for everything: salt water...in one way or the other. Sweat or tears or the salt sea." ~ Karen Blixen