Mining discussion on Ukhozi FM

Khuluma Sikuzwe (Speak, let’s hear you) on Ukhozi FM breakfast show with Sipho Mbatha broadcasted live from Esikhawini College (15 July 2015 between 8am and 8:30am)

Sipho Mbatha: Welcome to the show, this morning we will be discussing the issue of exploitation of people living in rural areas. Mr Ngwenya, when we speak of rural people who exactly are we referring to?

Jerome Ngwenya: When we speak of rural people we are referring to those people who still live on land that is managed by traditional way and is under traditional leadership.  In other words you will not find people with tittle deeds; however, they have full rights to the land.

Sipho Mbatha: We are happy to speak to you Mr Ngwenya because you are a judge, which means you can help us understand the laws better in this regard.  If we look from a distance, to us it looks as if the people living in rural areas do not have rights to conduct business activities, how true is this?

Jerome Ngwenya: There is not a single person in South Africa who has lesser rights than others, all people have equal rights.

Sipho Mbatha: Let’s hear the views of Chief Cebekhulu; Mr Cebekhulu we hear of complaints from the communities about some chiefs and headmen who drive expensive cars while the ordinary members of the community are poor, it looks like when these mining companies arrive, only those in positions benefit. What is your take on this?

Mr Cebekhulu: That is the truth we cannot deny.  We have heard of such stories where the chiefs support the mines saying that mining brings about development. This has caused problems within communities and the traditional councils

Sipho Mbatha: Let us hear what the people living in rural communities have to say about this issue:

Community member 1- did not say his name and where he was from: I would like to emphasise the point that was raised by Mr Mtaka about the importance of communicating in the language that the people in rural areas understand. When mining companies come to speak with us, they speak in English and we do not understand what they are talking about, we nod meanwhile we are so lost.  We feel obliged to sign because we are told that if we do not sign then the development opportunity will go somewhere else. The other problem is that when the mining companies employ people, they do not employ us because we are too old. Lastly when we get land from our chiefs and when we want money to invest in farming we do not get support from the government.

Community member 2 did not say his name, but he is from eNtembeni (this is the same area where Mavuso and Mnyandu come from): I would like to comment on the importance of having knowledge about land related laws, especially the chiefs. In the area where I come from we almost lost our land and relocated to Babanango because the chief signed for mining to take place but not knowing that actually he was signing the land away. The chief thought he was signing to bring development in the area. As a family we got shocked and very surprised to hear that the chief had done this, so we spoke to him to find out what was happening and he said he thought it was for a good reason,  he did not realise he had sold the land to the mining company. We then decided to inform the mining company that the chief had made a mistake and so we requested that they should re-apply and start the process all over again.

Community member 3, Mathenjwa from Nseleni: Thank you for the chance to speak. What is being discussed here today is happening in our area. There is a mine in Nseleni that is extremely exploiting people. The problem started when the chief received a horse from the mining company. Nowadays the chiefs have secretaries that are paid for by the government. The secretaries are the ones that read the mine documents.  Many houses were damaged from mining activities and nobody was compensated.  When we went to the mining company to ask about this, they told us to go and speak to the traditional council. The traditional council does not want to speak about this issue, they intimidate and threaten us 

Sipho Mbatha: Another issue that has come about is that of the MPRDA 28 of 2002 which stipulates who exactly has the right to give miming companies permission to operate, starting from the role of the minister to the roles of chiefs and headmen. In addition it also looks at the responsibilities of the mining company, suggesting that they should leave the land the way that that found it. A lot of rural communities have been asking about this. We will be taking more views from the audience.

Community member 4, Sboniso Mthembu from Mhlathuze: My grievance concerns mining in our area, which is under Chief Mkhwanazi. We do not know how the mining company came and who authorised it.  We used to collect sand for free as the community, but now we are told we should pay for it because the land has been sold for billions of Rand. None of the members of the community are employed at this mine. We do not know who received this huge amount of money and what are we, as the community, getting out of this mining.

Sipho Mbatha: We are still discussing the issue of exploitation of rural people; let’s hear more views from the audience

Community member 5 (did not say her name of where she was from): I would like to know if the headmen have the right to charge people money for living on the chief’s land? I hear the headmen denying this but it is happening everyday where we live. I will give an example, let us say you buy land from Mr Skhakhane for R10 000 and then you are told to pay the headmen R2000 for allocating you. The headmen here are denying this.

Sipho Mbatha: Let us get some responses on these issues raised.

Respondant 1 (did not say his name or position):Thank you Sipho, we hear about such matters of money paid to headmen and so on, but we do not know for sure as this differs from area to area. Also here in uThungulu we do not see it reflected on the receipts. 

Sipho Mbatha: Another issue that has come up is that of the importance of knowledge. As a college, do you perhaps have programmes that deal with the issues we have been discussing here today? Have you established relationships with the mining companies to help train the youth after they have completed their studies at the college?

(No response) 

Sipho Mbatha: Let’s take more views from the audience 

Mr Biyela (Community member 6): We have a big problem with mining here. I am one of the people whose health has been affected as a result of mining, today I suffer from epilepsy; something I never had before.  Different companies come to our area, sometimes they say they are from the municipality and they have received a tender. And then I asked them, how can you come and dig on my land, the land that was allocated to me by the chief? They say “Baba (father) we believe that you do know the law and understand it well, we have gone through the right channels and got permission to work here. We went to inkantolo (court/traditional council) and signed the papers.” I then asked them if they spoke to my headman. They said yes. I called the headman and he admitted that he knew about them.

Sipho Mbatha: In closing let us hear from Mr Johan Mkhwanazi.

Johan Mkhwanazi: I would like to support what Chief Cebekhulu raised earlier, saying that not all the chiefs and headmen are corrupt and selling out the their communities. I am sure you will all remember what happened in eMacimbini when crooks from Dubai wanted to take the land and the chief stopped it. If the chief was not vigilant, people would have lost their land. They were going to be relocated to a smaller land somewhere, and this would have made it hard for people who depend mostly on farming. If all the chiefs could be like that of eMacimbini or learn from him. He stood by his people and protected their land from the crooks that were promising to bring development. How can you say you are bringing development by removing people from their land, what kind of development is that? People are dumped on the land that is unsuitable, yet great land is reserved for game animals, how can you do that?

Sipho Mbatha: Time is against me now let us wrap, let’s remind ourselves about the issues that were discussed today. There was an issue to encourage people in rural areas to become entrepreneurs and not to always seek to be employed.  I would like to thank our guests today Mr Mtaka of Bayede, Mr Ngwenya of Ingonyama Trust Board, Mr Zungu of the college, Chief Cebekhulu and all the headmen that were present today. I would like to give Mr Ngwenya a chance to give his last words, and also Mr Mtaka who is an expect in politics to also share his last thoughts.

Jerome Ngwenya:  We would like to thank uKhozi FM as you have said Sipho that the instigator was Bayede newspaper; I will not say much on that, but we would also like to thank everyone that made this day turn out the way that it did. We hope that as the community you have managed to direct ourselves to matters that we should follow up. I would like to urge people living in rural areas to start thinking about how they can become employers and not employees. Let us train the communities because they are the ones carrying the wealth. I would also like to urge you who seat in traditional leadership positions not to rush and become partners with those investors who come to your areas, because they are the ones that betray you and turn you against your own communities. If you are part of the mining boards, you also become the mine while the people under you are unhappy.  Sometimes using English creates problems, you are quick to call yourselves BEE, you speak of equity but when will you call yourselves other things. You should one day make these investments, but you need to be patient.  I thank you.

Sipho Mbatha: Thank you, now let’s give a chance to Mr Mtaka to say his last words.

Nhlanhla Mtaka: Thank you msakazi (radio presenter) and a big thank you to Ingonyama Trust. All I want to say is this issue of mining is an easy one. Let us not beat about the bush. A fish lives in water; the mine is like a fish and the community and the land is like water.  The day water runs dry the fish would not survive. Do you understand what I am talking about or do you want me to interpret this? The is not for Ingonyama Trust to do, perhaps the trust could just assist with the laws and regulations; however, you are the ones in charge and can make things happen.  You must be careful of your language, when you start talking as an individual and saying I all the time, then the mining company would target you. They would offer your children jobs just to silence you. Most people who come to complain at these types of meetings do so because they have not had a chance to get something out of the mines. Mining companies would never do in white areas what they do in your areas, no matter how small it is, they would always consult and get permission from the people first. But when it comes to you, they only tell you after they have done what they wanted to do and only because you have asked them and that is because you are not well organized.

Sipho Mbatha: that was the end of the show let us meet again soon.

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