Illegal miners, organised under the banner of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), took to the streets of Pretoria on Tuesday and marched on the Department of Minerals Resources to deliver a memorandum demanding the scrapping of the Mineral And Petroleum Resources Development Act and to decriminalise zama zamas. By ORATENG LEPODISE.
“We are here for recognition, to tell (the department) that we also exist, that we are not criminals and that we are not doing anything bad, just trying to provide for our families,” said Mmileng Bairwang, a small-scale miner from Kimberley in the Northern Cape.
“The (Mineral And Petroleum Resources Development Act) states that companies should give at least 8% of their shares to communities but does not say how this should be done,” said Meshack Mbangula, the national organiser of MACUA.
MACUA argued that the act was filled with legal jargon, was too technical for an ordinary person to read and that the department did not engage with the communities when making laws.
According to their memorandum the organisation demands :
- the scrapping of the MPRDA – stating that the Act is the product of an undemocratic process;
- that the DMR enter negotiations with MACUA;
- that an immediate moratorium on “persecuting hungry and needy zama zama miners” be put in place and that the DMR work with MACUA to call an urgent zama zama conference which should include government, communities, zama zama miners, corporates, academics and civil society, to discuss possible solutions to the crisis;
- an immediate stop to unilateral interventions and top-down solutions that are aimed at the elites only.
Mineral Regulation Chief director Modilati Malapane accepted the memorandum on behalf of the minister and ensured the marchers that the issues raised would be addressed by the department.
“On behalf of the minister I thank you for bringing and raising issues with us, I will take the memorandum to the offices of the minister and the director-general. I have noted the content of the memorandum and will respond accordingly,” said Malapane.
Mbangula said they wanted the government to formalise illegal mining and to address the impact of abandoned and unrehabilitated mines. “Companies have abandoned the mines and left comrades with mining skills. With the high unemployment rate people will go back to those mines to try and put food on their table, if they did not want workers to go back they should have closed the holes,” said Mbangula.
He said minerals which are found in the abandoned mines are sold to commercial mines at a cheaper rate. “The commercial mines also benefit from us,” Mbangula stated.
“Today we want to work in the law. I need a job to make a living and I am already old with no qualification and no hope of being hired. I need a job to take care of my son. I want him to have a better life than I did, that is why I am here today, to ask DMR to recognise us as legal miners,” said Dominica Mothibi, an illegal miner from Taung.
“The zama zamas should not be called illegal miners because they are merely providing for their families and they should not be treated the way they are,” Mbangula said.
Among the demonstrators was a family who wanted assistance from the department to help them look for their lost son. “In February my son fell into a mine shaft and we haven’t found help till this day. We came here to put our case forward to the department,” said Nonbeko Thole and Meshack Mohlala, the child’s parents.
MACUA has given the department seven days to respond to their demands.
“We submit this memorandum fully conscious of the fact that it might be ignored by a government that always claims to be democratic. We are aware that neither the DMR, the Minister of Mineral Resources, the Office of the President or Planning Commission has given due respect to the demands of the mining affected communities and this is why we continue to live in poverty and desperation,” stated MACUA in their memorandum. DM
Photo: Zama zamas march on the Department of Mineral Resources in Pretoria demanding to be legally recognised. Photo: Orateng Lepodise