South Africa

POST-ELECTIONS 2024

While politicians edge towards a power-sharing deal, mining activists demand a voice

While politicians edge towards a power-sharing deal, mining activists demand a voice
From left: Edgar Matome of Casual Workers‘ Advice Office (CWAO), Israel Nkosi of  Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua Somkhele Coordinator), Nandi Mgijima (Independent feminist activist), Patricia Rabanyane of Women Affected by Mining United in Action (Wamua Merafong coordinator) and Aston Chaole (Macua political head). (Photos: Macua)

In the wake of post-election negotiations for a government of national unity, civil society groups are asserting their right to be heard. ‘Nothing about us without us,’ declared a webinar hosted by the mining communities’ organisation, Macua, as they demanded a seat at the table.

As post-election talks heat up, the focus has shifted to the potential implications of coalitions across various sectors. Recently, Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) hosted a webinar to unpack what multiparty governance could mean for mining-affected communities. 

Mineral and energy sectors contribute at least 6.2% to South Africa’s GDP, and yet voices from mining communities are often left out of key conversations.

So far in the ongoing dialogues about potential coalitions, no one is talking about community representation. Instead, the conversation is focused on the political parties, their seats in Parliament and the posts they are targeting.

A call for introspection

Amid the political jockeying, Macua’s webinar on 10 June emphasised the urgency of addressing real-world issues like unemployment, poverty and inequality, reminding leaders that the electorate voted for change on 29 May.

With impassioned pleas for inclusivity, participants challenged the notion that political power alone can shape South Africa’s future.

Speaking during the webinar, feminist activist Nandi Mgijima said: “There is nothing really to be celebrated about post-elections by the working class. Perhaps we need to do an introspection about our own struggles, strategies and tactics.

“This period gives us an opportunity to go back to the drawing board because we are faced with people who are in a precarious situation; a government that is so unsettled and unsure… this demands us to intensify our struggles.

“As the poor working class, we are still faced with a huge challenge of [the] ANC still being in power, although not getting an outright majority in the recent elections. What happens now, with all of these talks about the government of national unity (GNU), coalitions and the minority parties or affiliations, is that the main parties that are approached are also parties that have neoliberal agendas and economic policies,” said Mgijima.

“With the fairly new baby in politics, the MK party, which we still don’t know what policies it advocates for, with its formation and key people being that of the ANC, it’s pro-business… BEE.

“We are faced with a patriarchal front of political parties with tribal tendencies and what we need are parties that represent issues of all, including the often forgotten mining communities and women.”

Uncertainty amid coalition discussions

Aston Chaole, Macua’s political head, said the GNU would make it even harder to predict the future of the country and its people.

“The political parties might come together, but as time goes on and they see their demands are not met, they can exit the GNU, which also has an impact on the market. Already the market is dictating that a better coalition would be the ANC-DA.

“But there are also other issues at play, including the Phala Phala saga, Marikana, and others, which have not been concluded. It begs the question of what that means for the rest of us.

“South Africa’s future can’t be decided by politicians only… The politicians are going to want to show who is stronger than the other instead of attending to the urgent matters of unemployment, poverty and inequality, forgetting people suffering on the ground who cast their votes on the 29th of May for change. Even if we are not invited, we will invite ourselves to the  table so that we are represented.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Clock ticking as big SA parties scramble to meet deadline for first parliament sitting

Disillusionment in mining communities

Patricia Rabanyane of Women Affected by Mining United in Action (Wamua), says that after voting, there is little hope that anything will change any time soon in communities as politicians are only focused on themselves and not the communities they were campaigning in and making promises to.

“Whether it’s a coalition or not, we are stuck with the challenges we are facing because all the political parties are championing for their benefit. No political party is currently speaking about the involvement of communities, and how communities will be able to benefit in a coalition.

“Political education is needed now more than ever. But people have lost hope in politics and now, as information is coming to them, many are not sure what to do with it.”

Rabanyane, Wamua’s Merafong branch coordinator, added: “As a resident of a mining town, if it means shutting down shafts in the mining industry so that they listen to us, we should do so because they are not listening to us. Mining companies are the baby of the government but we are not benefiting as communities.

“As far as the mining industry is concerned, we need them to account. We are hoping our involvement will change the political landscape in our country because following political parties that do nothing for us will not get us anywhere.”

Realities of mining towns

In May 2024, Daily Maverick visited two once-thriving gold mining towns that were crucial to South Africa’s economy and labour market in Gauteng – Carletonville and Springs – to get a perspective of how people are making ends meet amid the decline of mining activity.

Read more in Daily Maverick: No jobs and no services in former mining towns of Springs and Carletonville

In such communities, there are people whose hopes have turned into disappointment as they grapple with unemployment, environmental degradation and living in informal settlements that lack basic infrastructure, reliable electricity, ablution facilities and proper roads.

Mobilising the working class

Edgar Matome of the Casual Workers Advice Office said the working class needed to engage in the dialogue on coalitions and the future of South Africa.

“The coalition talks represent a pivotal moment for the working class to assert their demands and ensure their voices are heard. Mobilising communities and actively participating in these discussions is not just an opportunity but a necessity. As decisions are being made that will shape the future of South Africa, no one must be left behind. 

“By actively engaging in these conversations, the working class can advocate for their needs and ensure that the government serves as a true representation of the people it aims to govern,” said Matome. DM

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