Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, visits the Somkhele Community
On Saturday 22nd of September 2018, Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe will finally face the community of Somkhele/Mpukunyoni. The community, which for years has suffered a number of injustices and human rights abuses under the hands of ruthless mining bullies, will finally get a chance to engage the minister on issues related to mining in their area. (DMR media release)
For years they have tried without success to engage with the various ministers and the Department of Mineral Resources. Most recently, on 14 July 2018 they extended an invitation to minister Mantashe through the previous premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Senzo Mchunu. Previously, on 13 April 2018, one of the community activists, Bongani Pearce, invited Mantashe at the Newcastle mining indaba. And also, Dumisani Ntombela a community representative from Myeki invited Mantashe in Newcastle at the mining charter meeting on 31 May 2018.
What makes Mantashe’s visit even more interesting is that on the 24th of August 2018, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) representing over 3500 residents from the very same community crossed swords with the Tendele Mining Company at the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Legal representatives of the community tabled evidence of how the mine was violating environmental laws and how the current operation by Tendele has already displaced and destructed countless livelihoods; taking away and polluting land and water, vital self-sustainability sources for this rural farming community. Judgement is still pending.
Leading up to the court case, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) released a scathing report titled National Hearings on the Underlying Socio-economic Challenges of Mining-affected Communities in South Africa. The community of Somkhele also participated in the hearings, and human rights abuses identified in the area form a large part of the findings by the SAHRC.
And there’s more. This week, preceding Mantashe’s visit, Youens Attorneys the law firm representing MCEJO sent a letter to the minister. Acting on behalf of the community, groundwork, the Earthlore Foundation, the Global Environmental Trust and WoMin, the letter expressed how those who have been negatively affected by mining were looking forward to inform and engage with the minister about their suffering. Also included in the letter are extracts of communication from mine officials to their employees, the content of which should be labeled as more than just irresponsible statements from mine officials (Please see attachment).
The community is hoping the minister will finally get to see and hear all about Tendele’s human rights abuses and negative impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the greater Mpukunyoni area, where Somkhele is situated.
“We want to hear what action government is planning to take regarding the concerns of MCEJO and the rest of the Mpukunyoni community in relation to mining. We’re also demanding government’s response about the illegality of Tendele’s operations and how they plan to ensure our safety in light of intimidation and the incitement to violence by the mine. Our Constitution upholds freedom of speech and the right to say No! to mining without fear of being attacked or illegally arrested,” says Sabelo Dladla.
NB: The minister is also set to meet the people of Xolobeni in the wild coast.
Date: 22 September 2018
Place: Somkhele sport ground, Umfolozi, Northern KwaZulu-Natal
Sabelo Dladla – MCEJO – 083 218 4529
Bongani Pearce – Mpukunyoni Community Property Association & MCEJO – 079 636 5892
Medical Ndziba – Siyaphakama, MCEJO & Womin – 071 497 5228
Kirsten Youens – Youens Attorneys – 061 226 6868 (after 24 September)
Sheila Berry – Global Environmental Trust (GET) – 0822957328
Robby Mokgalaka – groundWork – 073 774 3362