Corporate arrogance behind mining protests: Bench Marks Foundation

08 September 2015 - 20:41 By RDM News Wire
BURNING FUSE: A man walks on a road strewn with rocks leading to Mokopane in Limpopo after a protest by frustrated villagers
BURNING FUSE: A man walks on a road strewn with rocks leading to Mokopane in Limpopo after a protest by frustrated villagers

The violent protests that erupted in Ga-Mapela in Mogalakwena municipality in Limpopo Province on Tuesday reflected mining in South Africa as a whole‚ said John Capel‚ executive director of the Bench Marks Foundation.

The protests allegedly follow a decision by Anglo Platinum's Mogalakwena platinum mine to relocate a high school‚ built by the community in the 1970s‚ to a new facility 14km away.

Capel said the corporate “arrogance of mining companies effectively excludes communities from critical decisions that affect their lives”.

“All communities want is to be treated with respect and dignity. Instead‚ they are treated like animals or irritants in the way of mining‚ and to add fuel to the fire‚ in come the police to quell any dissent.

“No real attempt is made to address the underlying issues. No wonder they feel isolated and we see developments such as those today in Limpopo‚" he said.

Capel said that the Bench Marks Foundation had for the last 10 years encouraged proper consultation with community members. It was now advocating an independent central fund to be established on which communities that were affected by the actions of mines could draw from to appoint and pay for their own experts during consultations.

This would ensure that communities were empowered to defend their property without being pushed into actions that they did not understand.

Capel said that all mines disrespected communities and rode roughshod over community concerns. In this case‚ Anglo Platinum's Mogalakwena Mine was in the spotlight.

“The people suffer land contestation that directly impacts on their rural life style‚ air quality and water pollution. Sadly‚ this is all that is on offer to communities - not development or employment.

“The common cry of communities is to have a way to lift themselves out of the destitution created by mining. Winners and losers abound while the industry acts with impunity towards community concerns.

“The continual use of police and security services to crush objections and opposition undermines community’s constitutional rights to administrative justice‚ to be consulted in an informed manner and to have the right to object‚ protest and be heard‚" Capel said.

Capel also said that those communities situated in rural areas were often overlooked. “Anglo Platinum and the police itself must not forget the Marikana massacre and the outcome. This militarist approach to dealing with protests is unacceptable.

“Anglo American must be held responsible for what happens here. The mindset that production must continue at any cost must end and the world must know about human rights abuse in the mining industry and the use of detaining opposition.”

“It is this culture of impunity that needs addressing. But unfortunately the South African government is not interested in far-flung communities that are affected by such actions of the mines. In our experience and through our research‚ we have discovered that this is where empowerment of elites usually takes place‚ and it is regrettable that the present government is party to this.

“Until we have proper oversight and regulation of mining‚ this impunity will continue. Once again‚ the losers will be the poor and the most desperate in society. And the unhappiness and unrest by communities will continue.”

The Bench Marks Foundation monitors multinational corporations operation in southern Africa and the rest of the African continent to ensure that they meet minimum social‚ environmental and economic standards and promotes an ethical and critical voice on what constitutes corporate social responsibility.

RDM News Wire.