Minister gives priority to mines over communities

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Communities that oppose mining on their land have failed to understand the benefits it brings, Mineral and Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said this week, three weeks after a prominent opponent of dune mining, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, was murdered in the Eastern Cape.

“If the majorityMinister Mosebenzi do not want mining it means this government and everybody should be able to say hang on, there is something we are not doing cor
rectly.

Why would the majority fail to see a point if there is a point that would benefit everybody in the area,” Zwane said at a news conference ahead of his budget speech to Parliament on Tuesday.

 

Zwane did not directly answer a question about possible protection for opponents of mining, who have faced increasing attacks around South Africa this year.

“We have been saying since we arrived here that we can be able to sit around the table and deal with our differences on this matter and move forward” he said.

He went on to urge both mining rights holders and communities in consultations about mining to avoid violence. According to Zwane communities are often bought out by outsiders either for or against mining and he made reference of the anti-mining group in Xolobeni wearing t-shirts which alleges they were “influenced” from outside.

Zwane said: “People must be given a chance to air their views. People should not engage in violent acts if they are against mining. We are calling on communities after consultation is concluded and the majority wants the mine to allow rights holders to go ahead”

According to government the whole of South Africa should benefit from the resources not just those who are living closer to them he said.  Zwane spoke to reporters before tabling his R1.66 billion budget which will focus on health and safety, regulatory certainty, getting the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act enacted, research, human resource development, woman empowerment and beneficiation.

Communities have been calling for government to enforce empowerment regulation because, they say, mining companies are not honouring their obligations to host communities. In a press statement released by the Amadiba Crisis Committee after a delegation from the Department of Mineral Resources visited the area earlier this month. In the delegation there was Director General, Deputy Director General and the Advisor to the Minister.

“This government is not a good listener. They are prepared to sacrifice the lives of South Africans to please the big companies. The whole of South Africa is suffering because of this.”  Said Nonhle Mbuthuma Secretary of Amadiba Crisis Committee

Zwane encouraged mining applicants to consult with communities and emphasized that it’s also a regulatory requirement. He cautioned mine hosting communities not to be influenced by outsiders who are for or against mining he said.

“People must be given a chance to air their views. People should not engage in violent acts if they are against mining. We are calling on communities after consultation is concluded and the majority wants the mine to allow rights holders to go ahead” he said.

There has been policy uncertainty in the industry with the Mining Charter being contested between government and mining houses. The long awaited Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Act is currently with the House of Traditional Leaders since it was sent back to Parliament by President Jacob Zuma last year for further consultation.

opinion-grey Sifiso Dladla is a community activist working with the Land & Accountability Research Centre at the University of Cape Town.
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