MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-02-25


"Act now before irreparable harm is done"

From: Richard Spoor
South Africa

To: Sir Mark Moody-Stuart
Anglo American, London, UK
By e-mail

25 February 2007

Dear Sir Mark


This is an open letter.

Earlier this month I was delighted when Anglo Platinum Chief Executive Officer Ralph Havenstein dropped in to visit the Magobading community, no doubt to apprise himself of the situation there first hand. This is a first for Anglo Platinum and we hope that it won’t be the last time that the CEO comes to establish for himself what the circumstances are in the communities affected by its mining activities.

He saw for himself that there is no water and no proper sanitation, in this village that was built by Anglo Platinum to accommodate people and communities forced off their ancestral land by mining operations at the Twickenham and Lebowa Platinum mines.

He saw for himself the state of overflowing pit toilets that teem with maggots and the disgraceful circumstance at the cemetery where deceased family members were re-interred.

He would have noted that the claims of his company to respect the culture of the communities where it operates to be a sham as he surveyed the rotten workmanship that caused most of the graves and surrounds to collapse.

It is a pity that Mr Havenstein did not have time to visit the stream where the community of some 1 100 people draw their water. Granted it is a long walk through the thorn scrub to get there and it is terribly hot and dusty. Had Mr Havenstein done so however, he would no doubt have been very concerned about the grave health risk posed by the contaminated water source to children in Magobading and the huge burden imposed upon the women of the community who carry the water back to their homes.

Mr Havenstein’s public gesture that followed his visit, namely to make R 5 million available to the local municipality to restore the water supply to Magobading and to empty the overflowing sewerage pits, was a positive one.

It is a pity therefore that he spoiled the gesture by making clear his company’s continued refusal to enter into discussions with the community and its representatives regarding their concerns and grievances. That being the case, the community was obliged to inform him that it would not accept any assistance from Anglo Platinum that was offered on a unilateral basis.

I was also very pleased to note the release of a damning research report compiled by the Limpopo legislature into the removals of the Mohlohlo community by Anglo Platinum’s PPL Mine

It was gratifying to note the legislature’s findings, as to:

* the appalling condition of the houses being built at the relocation site;

* the health hazard posed by Anglo Platinum’s open cast mining and blasting activities adjacent to the village and the associated disruption of learning and teaching in the community; and

* the unrepresentative character of the structures through which Anglo Platinum engages the communities and the fact that members of those structures were motivated by money rather than a desire to serve the interests of the community and the fact that their activities were tainted by nepotism and favouritism, because they confirm what my clients have long held to be true.

It is however distressing that Anglo Platinum has chosen (laughably) to deny the authenticity of the report rather than to face up to the findings.

It is constant wonder that Anglo Platinum continues to delude itself that the structures that it has created and bankrolled and that have no formal or de facto accountability to the community and that have not had any elections in 10 or more years are the true and only representatives of the communities on whose land it operates.

Anglo Platinum’s refusal to hear the community and its blind support for the venal and self-interested “leaders” whom it has manipulated and corrupted has grave consequences.

In January 2007 there were a series of arrests and beatings at Twickenham and the Potgietersrust Platinums Ltd (PPL) Mine. Many of the victims were old men and women, defending their land against Anglo Platinum’s bulldozers and fencing crews.

On the evening of Monday 19 February 2007 children in Ga Puka Village were dancing and singing in the streets following the broadcast of a critical programme on national television on the relocation that highlighted its shortcomings. The chairman of the section 21 company * lodged a complaint about this with the police. As a result, on Tuesday afternoon, 20 February 2007, 5 children were arrested. The children, the youngest of which is an 11 year old girl named Shirley Ramotsela (whose mother, Caroline, was herself beaten and detained in January for standing in front of the bulldozers), and the oldest of which is 17, appeared in Court today on charges of malicious damage to property.

As is their wont, no independent investigation was done by the police before affecting the arrests and they rely solely on the say so of the complainant. Had they done so they would have established that there was no damage done to the property of the complainant.

At Sterkwater, where the Ga Pila community was relocated in 2003, there was also trouble. On Monday, in a desperate effort to woo back some community support, the section 21 company began construction of the foundations of a community hall.

The traditional leader, Induna Pila, and his council of elders objected to the fact that there had been no consultation with the community and asked that construction be halted.

When their polite request was refused the elders removed the planks marking the foundation levels in order to disrupt construction and stored the planks at Induna Pila’s home. The elders acted openly and peaceably.

The section 21 company laid charges of theft and malicious damage to property. In a series of police raids, on Tuesday 27 community members, including Induna Puka and his entire council of elders, were arrested and detained. Induna Puka is in his late 70’s and many of his council are in the same age group.

The South African Police at Mokopane (where the PPL mine is situated) function very much as the attack dogs of Anglo Platinum. They are unleashed upon the community at their will or on the instructions of their proxies, the section 21 companies.

Arrests and beatings have become commonplace. Not a single matter has gone to trial, save that of a community leader, Mr Phillipus Dolo, who was arrested and detained for 6 days for allegedly referring to directors of the section 21 companies as rats and dung beetles.

His trial has been adjourned to 5 March 2007.

We record that in not one of the communities where people have been arrested and beaten or shot for resisting Anglo Platinum’s invasion of their land, has any person (other than the protesting community members who have been shot and beaten in numbers) been injured or any property damaged.

It is clear however that there is a growing crisis. Anglo Platinum’s proxy structures are now so utterly discredited and bankrupted that, but for their capacity to unleash police violence against the community, they have no power and influence and they can therefore be depended upon to unleash more violence against a thoroughly disenchanted and aggrieved community.

The section 21 companies are propped up only by the largesse of Anglo Platinum, which pours money into them in the vain hope that they can buy back community support.

Protected by the threat of police violence against those who resist them, Anglo Platinum continues with its unlawful seizure and destruction of tribal land on a terrible scale.

I remind you that at Twickenham and at Modikwa there are no lease agreements in place and that at PPL the lease concluded with the Bantustan authorities provides for a rental of R 15 000.00 (some £ 1 000.00) per annum for the right to use and destroy thousands of hectares of farmland, yet Anglo Platinum continues to seize and destroy tribal land against the express will of the community.

Yesterday I was called by a Mr Ezekial Thobejane from Swazi Mnyamane Village near Twickenham Mine, who complained that the mine had been drilling in his garden with a giant mobile rig, without his consent. Journalist Ronnie Morris of the Business Report yesterday visited his and other homes at Twickenham where the families flee their homes each time there is a blast for fear that the walls will fall down from the shock.

Induna David Chaba, the traditional leader of the Ga Chaba community also called me to say that the mine’s activities have created intolerable conditions in his village through dust and noise that continues day in and out.

Everyday there is another insult, another abuse, another show of contempt by Anglo Platinum towards members of local communities.

Premier Moloto of Limpopo Province recently called upon Anglo Platinum to show good neighbourliness towards local communities. My community clients have yet to see any sign that Anglo Platinum is willing to do so.

I previously called upon you to make independent enquiry into Anglo Platinum’s relations with local communities. You expressed your confidence in the direction of the company and declined to do so.

This is a call to you to reconsider your company’s position and to act now before irreparable harm is done to Anglo American’s standing and reputation, but even more before lives are lost in the cauldron of violence and disease that is being cooked up by Anglo Platinum.

The direction of Anglo Platinum is clearly ill informed and out of touch; it is steering a disastrous course. Anglo Platinum’s public statements on the issue of community relations are characterised by lies, dishonesty and deceipt, a sign perhaps of the bankruptcy of their ideas.

In the interests of the company, your shareholders and the communities where Anglo Platinum operates, you are implored to take firm and decisive action to address the parlous state of relations between Anglo Platinum and its host communities.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Richard Spoor

* Note: Section 21 companies are "not for gain" associations set up ostensibly to derive socio-cultural benefit for their members, as part of the post-apartheid "black empowerment" programme.


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