Residents speak to mining minister

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mokopane - Residents living in the rural area of Motlhotlo in Limpopo, have urged the Minister of Mining, Susan Shabangu, to intervene in what they call the meagre resettlement packages offered by Anglo-Platinum.

Despite the hot, uncomfortable weather, residents turned out in large numbers to voice their grievances to the minister and Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale who were visiting their village. Both Mathale and Shabangu visited the area as part of government's Public Participation Programme, which kicked off on Monday, giving citizens an opportunity to directly interact with government.

More than 1600 households were voluntarily relocated to a new settlement in 2007 to make way for mining operations, but residents are unhappy about the resettlement packages which were offered by Anglo-Platinum.

A handful of households have refused to relocate as they are still holding out for more compensation.

The relocation costs for the mining company have totalled more than R1 billion over the past six years and are still continuing.

Included in this amount is the construction of new houses for 1600 households, cash payments of R2 000 per household, the replacement of agricultural land with twice as much land, investments in schools and a clinic as well as continuing royalties from mining operations which is paid into a community trust.

Some residents at the gathering held up placards reading: "We need democracy, responsibility and sustainability. No job, no future, your friendship our concern, our ploughing land, our future, stop mining and let's start talking".

Community representative, Paul Thobane, became emotional when he read out the community's proposals for resettlement to the Minister, the Premier and representatives of the mine.

Included in the proposal are the recognition of the representatives of the community including their legal advisors and equitable benefits accruing to Angloplat from their mining operations on community's land which is 26 percent according to the signed Mining Charter.

Residents also demanded that benefits be controlled and administered by an independent, democratic and accountable community representative structure, established with the support of government.

Thobane said they also wanted basic services such as water, electricity, schooling and health services to be maintained pending the outcomes of the negotiations.

Chairperson of Motlhotlo Relocation Resistance Committee, Sammy Ledwaba, said: "We are not going to allow people to exploit us anymore in this village."

He told Mathale and Shabangu that residents were against the so-called Section 21 companies because he claimed they were closely working with the mining company for their own benefit.

He added that at the new resettlement area, households were using the bucket system because the Mokgalakwena Local Municipality had failed to provide them with water. "Some of the roofs of these houses are leaking, while in others the ceilings are falling."

The minister assured residents that government would look into dissolving Section 21 companies accused of working with the mining company and misleading the community.

She said that working with the Premier, a technical team had been established to help residents in setting up a community structure to resolve the problem.

"We are going to dispatch a technical team to work with you. We also want to say that Section 21 companies should go and we don't bury them with our mouth, but through signing a resolution," she said.

Anglo Platinum representative, Neville Nicholau denied working with Section 21 companies, saying that they were committed to working with the community through a legitimate structure elected by residents.