Community kept in the dark over Amplats mining deal

The R175-mil lion “settlement ” signed between AngloAmerican Platinum (Amplats) and the Mapela traditional community of Limpopo is bound to explode.

The so-called settlement agreement was signed behind closed doors and the traditional rural community has lost land it used for grazing and ploughing, as well as ancestral land.

Since the Mogalakwena mine opened in the area in the early 1990s the Mapela community has had to bear health and environmental impacts caused by mining.

Some community members living next to the mine say blasting has caused their houses to crack. One showed researchers that her home had largely collapsed.

The community is frustrated with the lack of meaningful benefits from one of the world’s leading and most profitable open-cast platinum mines despite having to bear the brunt of mining disruptions. Community members, including members of bakgomana (people belonging to the ruling lineage), mantona (headmen) and ordinary community members, argue strongly that there has not been adequate consultation in this case.

In accordance with custom, a pitso or kgotha-kgothe (public gathering) should have been called for community members to debate the proposed settlement.

As things stand now, community members have no idea which of their disparate and long-standing grievances are being settled by Anglo’s pay out. Nor do they know who is expected to benefit from the capital injection.

Kgoshi [chief] David Langa, who negotiated the deal on be half of the community, is reported to have said that the agreement will ensure a flow of tangible benefits to the community. One can only wonder if and how the “benefits ” will flow when the community has not reaped any significant fruits from hosting the mine over two decades.

Amplats said in a statement announcing the deal that it had been modelled on the structure of the Royal Bafokeng Holdings in North West. For many, however, this corporate-autocratic model instills more fear than confidence.

In the case of the Mapela community, the development trust to be established in terms of the settlement agreement provides for seven trustees, with the kgoshi as the first trustee. The trust deed allows for only two community trustees and they will have little power as a minority on the board and are, in any event, to be appointed by the kgoshi himself.

This structure, therefore, gives the Mapela community no power to make decisions over the allocation of their own community assets. This largely unaccountable structure was kept secret from most members of the community until they engaged lawyers to get the information from Kgoshi Langa’s lawyer. That only happened after the deal was signed.

Structures for what investors call the “corporatisation ” of community assets frequently deny the rights of communities to consultation, including rights under section 2 of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, 1996.

They also centralize control with traditional leaders who conclude mining transactions without consulting the people who hold the underlying ownership rights to the land in question.

This is the same for the Mapela community. These structures essentially allow a convenient means for a small elite group to get control over the community’s assets while the majority of the community retains little to no power to make any decisions regarding their assets.

This corporate-autocratic model bears little resemblance to the consultative, democratic and inclusive approach to community assets required by the living customary law that should govern decisions of such significance.

The agreement lauded by Amplats and Kgoshi Langa this week was signed in violation of a clear request from the Mapela community that they should first be properly and adequately consulted and informed.

This article was first published in the SOWETAN on 03 May 2016

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