Women win SA court case brought by Anglo Platinum
In what seems to be a striking decision on behalf of community activists trying to resist damage and displacement, a magistrate in South Africa's Limpopo Province has dismissed charges laid against three women brought before his court.
They were accused of stoning a mine security vehicle employed by Anglo American's subsidiary, Angloplat, as the company tried to blast near their homes last year.
The magistrate ruled that the women had "acted legitimately in a situation of sudden emergency and in defence of their lives and property."
Angloplat Mining Community Members Acquitted!
Press Release, issued by Richard Spoor (lawyer)
Anglo Platinum Mining Community Members Acquitted (Limpopo Province)
31 July 2009
Three members of the Mohlohlo community, which has been engaged in a years long struggle against Anglo Platinum over forced removals have been acquitted on charges of malicious damage to property in the Mahwelereng Magistrates Court near Mokopane today.
The three women, Patricia Thebogo Matjiu, Helen Matjiu, and Patricia Mothupi were arrested and subsequently admitted to having stoned a mine security vehicle during protests against blasting activities that took place at Anglo Platinum's PPL mine on 1 October 2008.
The women claimed in their defence that they and other community members were engaged in legitimate defence of their lives and their property which were threatened by Anglo Platinum's blasting activities.
Community witnesses testified to the enormous damage being done to their homes by blasting activities. They testified to large boulders being dislodged from the mountains behind the village, smashed window panes and extensive structural damage including collapsing walls caused by the blasting.
They testified that following previous damage and protests the mine had undertaken not to continue blasting until such time as their homes had been repaid and that the mine had undertaken to give the community adequate notice of the blasting so that they could take precautionary measures to guard against further damage.
The PPL mine manager Mr Ted Mohajer, testifying for the prosecution, stated that the damage being suffered by the community was unrelated to the mine's blasting activities.
The magistrate Mr George Mokau found that Mohajer was contradicted by the project engineer charged with the removal of the Mohlohlo Community, Mr Greg Morris, who had knowledge that the damage suffered by the community could be attributable to the blasting and that the testing and monitoring done by Anglo Platinum did not exclude this possibility.
The magistrate also found that Anglo had not given adequate notice to the community of its intention to blast and that the community had acted legitimately in a situation of sudden emergency and in defence of their lives and property.
The judgement is a vindication for the community that has long protested to the authorities and Anglo Platinum that their rights are being violated and that their homes, lives and property are threatened by Anglo's mining activities that are taking place on their doorsteps.
To date the Department of Minerals and Energy has refused to come to the community's aid insisting that the shock wave from the blasting is within the prescribed limits. The community insists that the standards used by the DME were designed to protect well engineered and constructed houses and are not adequate to protect rural communities living in mud and cement block structures.
The residents of Mohlohlo have been resisting their relocation to resettlement villages established for them by Anglo Platinum at Armoede and Rooibokfontein. The community claims that the section 21 companies that agreed on the community's behalf to be relocated or illegitimate structures that are neither democratic nor accountable and that they had no mandate to conclude such agreement on their behalf.
Anglo Platinum has consistently refused to engage in direct talks with the community and its representatives to settle the dispute.
Mohlohlo is one of several communities negatively impacted by Anglo Platinum's mining activities at the giant PPL mine. To date approximately 15,000 residents have been forced to relocate and at least 10,000 more have lost most or all of their farming land.
Critics say that the relocation villages are unsustainable and are plagued by chronic water shortages and failing services, little better than those created by the apartheid regime's forced removals.
The promised benefits - namely jobs, services and business opportunities - have not materialised and without agricultural land to sustain them residents are condemned to lives of poverty, hunger and hardship.
In terms of an agreement reached between Anglo Platinum and the South African Government, the PPL mine is exempted from the BEE requirements stipulated in the mining charter. The Mapela tribe on whose land the mine operates also has no equity stake in the mine.
Despite a visit to Mohlohlo by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year where he expressed his shock over the conditions there and promised prompt action government has been slow to intervene in defence of the community's rights.
Richard Spoor +27 (0) 83 772 7535
Attorney for the Mohlohlo Community