2019-03-05 05:00

It seems that Gwede Mantashe is not paying sufficient attention to the core principles of constitutional democracy that puts citizens at the centre of shaping their futures, writes Mamphela Ramphele.

The Amadiba people of Xolobeni are going
though a nightmare of seeing their heritage being threatened by the extractive
clutches of an Australian mining company, MCR. 

Their struggle to protect their heritage is
one that all citizens should support to protect our collective heritage and

The Constitutional Court on the 28 October
2018 introduced their judgment in favour of the first applicant, Maledu, on
behalf of the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela by quoting Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth: “For a colonised people the most
essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the
land which will bring them bread and, above all dignity.”

READ: Why Xolobeni’s win against a mining company matters

The Xolobeni community successfully
defended themselves against an apartheid government that wanted to impose a “Betterment
Program” under the then Bantustan system. The development model being
imposed on them again in the name of job creation, is at variance with the rich
traditions and customs that have enabled the Amadiba to live in harmony with
nature over many generations. 

Minister Gwede Mantashe seems prepared to
side-step a high court judgment that reaffirmed the rights of the Amadiba over
their land on the basis that he suspects that “within the next ten years
the right to issue licenses is systematically shifting from government to
communities, and if we do that there will be no mining.”

Was the struggle for freedom not to promote
decision making by communities such as the Xolobeni community? It seems that Minister
Mantashe is not paying sufficient attention to the core principles of constitutional
democracy that puts citizens at the centre of shaping their futures with
government officials as the servants of the people, not their masters.

The minister also seems to be interpreting
the mandate of his department too narrowly in his eagerness to do his job.  The mandate of the Department of Mineral
Resources according to its own website is, “To promote and regulate the
minerals and mining for transformation, growth, development and to ensure that
all South Africans benefit from the country’s mineral wealth.”

One would have thought that Mantashe as a
former migrant worker in the industry, leader of National Union of Mine Workers,
former chair of the SACP, former ANC secretary general, and now chair of the
ANC that styles itself as the leader of society, would demonstrate greater
empathy for courageous communities
such as the Amadiba, instead of resenting their
determination to assert their rights.

The Xolobeni community is sadly not alone
in being betrayed by post-apartheid political leaders. Advocate Thuli
Madonsela, the former public protector, produced a report in 2016 on the
missing funds (estimated to be R610m), from an Escrow D-Account, belonging to
the Bapo Ba Mogale community in North West. 
Both the provincial and national government officials were implicated in
turning a blind eye to the neglect of good governance that led to misuse of
these resources. There is yet to be redress for this betrayal.

An estimated 18-20 million rural people are
vulnerable to abuse of power by traditional leaders and local, provincial and
national government officials who undermine their traditional land ownership
recognised under Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA) of
1996. The cruel irony is that the very ANC government that enacted IPILRA, is
undermining it. In the last few weeks several court judgments have come to the
aid of betrayed communities, including the Ngonyama Trust in KZN. 

These cases make a mockery of the
pronouncements of the ANC that it is determined to restore land to its real
owners. Amending Section 25 of the Constitution to effect land restitution
without compensation is a distraction from the core problem – the lack of
political will by the ANC government to implement land reform efficiently. Impunity
in corruption and criminal neglect of rural communities by public officials in
all provinces is a crying shame. 

Minister Mantashe’s legitimate concern
about creating jobs through promoting new mining opportunities is misplaced. The
titanium mine in Xolobeni would only be viable for 17 years, at the expense of
permanent destruction of the irreplaceable beautiful Wild Coast Dunes. The
impact of such destruction in the face of the reality of global warming would
lead to rising sea levels, could prove catastrophic for poor coastal

Alternative development models supporting
organic carbon-based agriculture indigenous to this community would be more
appropriate. Investments by government in building proper infrastructure
including roads, water and sanitation systems, basic education and health
service facilities would create sustainable jobs and secure livelihoods in
perpetuity. Ecotourism, livestock farming and food production would make for a
thriving ecologically sound environment.

In addition, enforcing social and labour
plans as well as land rehabilitation by mining companies could create thousands
of jobs young people on the Witwatersrand to address the ecological disasters
that are looming.

Acid mine drainage is hollowing out the
underbelly of Johannesburg, whilst mine dunes dotting the landscapes are undermining
the health of thousands of poor communities living on the periphery of
Johannesburg city. Successive governments have neglected their regulatory
responsibilities to date.

Our government is a signatory to the UN Intergovernmental
Climate Change Agreement in Paris in 2015. We are obligated to meet our
commitments to contribute to ecosystems sustainability and to enhance harmony
with nature.  The Wild Coast is one of
the treasures of our natural heritage in Africa.

The ultimate irony is that the Australian
mining company, MCR, that is putting pressure on the Xolobeni community to
allow it to destroy their ecosystem, has already done damage to the Matzikama
local municipality in the Western Cape where it breached its legal boundaries
leading to collapse of a 17meter cliff! Our regulators have yet to hold MCR

In a landmark case in February 2019 in
Australia, the chief judge, Brian Preston of the NSW Land and Environment
Court, refused to approve a new coal mine because of its impact on climate
change saying, “the mine proposal was in the wrong place at the wrong

Minister Mantashe should accept that the proposal
to mine the Xolobeni Wild Coast Dunes is in the wrong place at the wrong

– Mamphela Ramphele is co-founder of ReimagineSA.

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