This is the question a coalition of 11 civil society groups has posed, after Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi apparently ignored at least two requests for a meeting with a group of 70 community-based organisations under the umbrella of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua).
In a further request last week for an urgent meeting with Ramatlhodi, Macua and 10 other civil society groups said it seemed that the minister had chosen to ignore the calls by communities to be included in developing a path that would halt the “destructive practices of mining”.
Their complaints include pollution of water and air in the vicinity of mines and power stations, along with concern about labour policies.
“The minister seems to be completely ignoring the most pressing needs of society when dealing with the mining question and is intently focused on attracting and appeasing corporate business interests at the expense of both communities and South Africa as a whole.”
The coalition said Macua had requested a meeting with Ramatlhodi in May last year and again in August.
Before that, the Mining and Environmental Justice Network of South Africa had asked for a meeting with his predecessor, Susan Shabangu, in early 2013.
All these requests appeared to have been ignored.
“Instead, the minister goes from conference to conference to meet business leaders across the world to sell the very minerals that communities are contesting.
“In all the presentations made from Cape Town to Davos, we have not discerned any significant concern or focus on affected communities and their consistent demand for a just and inclusive mining policy, regulation and legislation,” the coalition said in its latest appeal.
It also appeared that Ramatlhodi was determined to railroad the new Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act Amendment Bill through the parliamentary process within the next six months.
“We call on the minister urgently to meet with civil society and mining-affected communities to urgently plan for a proper consultative conference where government, civil society and affected communities are able to work through the many challenges and vexing problems faced by communities and the industry.”
The 11 civil society groups that made the request are Macua, Women Affected by Mining United in Action (Wamua), Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, Govan Mbeki Joint Committees, ActionAid South Africa, Benchmarks Foundation, Numsa, groundWork, Oxfam and Federation for a Sustainable Environment.
Ramatlhodi’s office was invited to comment on the appeal, but no response has been received.
Published in The Mercury
Written by Tony Carnie