Hundreds of members of the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) pressure group gathered at the Pretoria High Court on Monday, protesting against what they termed “persistent exclusion” from talks on the controversial latest iteration of the Mining Charter.
A court battle between government and the SA Chamber of Mines, which was scheduled to play out in the high court on Monday, has been put on hold after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office and the Chamber of Mines said on Sunday they would be negotiating out of court to resolve the row over the blueprint.
Macua complained that they were not included in this process and called for the court case to proceed urgently.
“We are here because for the case against the department of mineral resources, which did not consult us with regards to the Mining Charter. We were not consulted, and we don’t recognise this Mining Charter because we were not consulted at all, and it doesn’t reflect what communities want to see happening. It doesn’t benefit us at all,” Macua national organiser Meshack Mbangula told the African News Agency.
“From last year, we have been saying we want this court to make a judgement. The case has been postponed twice, and now we are putting pressure to the court. We want to see this case taking place. The things that are happening in mining areas are very serious. Our people are not working, they are not compensated, they are not benefiting from the mines while the mines are busy looting our minerals.”
Earlier, Lawyers for Human Rights said the affected communities’ court challenge was proceeding in court – despite the agreement between government the Chamber of Mines, which represents producers.
The Chamber of Mines said on Sunday it had agreed, after talks with Ramaphosa’s office, to postpone its court application against the DMR over the Mining Charter. It was due to be heard from Monday to Wednesday.
On Monday rights lawyers said the communities of Sefikile, Lesethleng, Babina Phuthi Ba Ga-Makola and Kgatlu, located in the NorthWest and Limpopo provinces, which host mining operations on their land, affecting thousands of residents, had not been consulted on the suspension of the court wrangle.
“It is unfortunate that this agreement between the chamber and the government appears to extend the pattern of exclusion that prompted our clients to intervene in this matter in the first place”, said Michael Clements, head of the Environmental Rights Programme at Lawyers for Human Rights.
“The court allowed this intervention on the basis that our clients and the other community co-applicants have a direct interest in this matter, and so it is up
to the court to determine if the case can be postponed.”
The rights lawyers are asking the court to order Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and his department to begin a fresh, properly consultative process to develop and implement a new Mining Charter that reflects the rights and interests of mining affected communities.
Several police officers were at the court on Monday morning, monitoring the Macua members who kept up their picket despite rain over Pretoria.