The Mapela community, on the outskirts of Mokopane in Limpopo, who live in the shadows of the most profitable platinum mine in the world, find themselves at the centre of a systemic crisis that has denied them access to livelihoods, increased their food insecurity, limited their access to vital water and trampled on their heritage, all in the name of progress and profit.
The Mapela communities have been engaged in a protracted battle of attrition with Anglo Platinum for almost a century. Johannesburg Consolidated Investments purchased the farms in 1926, with the first forcible removals occurred in the late 1960`s. By the time South Africa became a new democracy in the mid 1990`s, Anglo was preparing to intensify its extraction of platinum from the area. By 2002 it had opened a second pit and by 2007 a third.
The aggressive expansion by Anglo, which saw about 1000 families - more than more than 7000 people relocated between 2006 and 2015- happened alongside the introduction of a new mining regime initiated by a democratic government governed by some of the most progressive human rights standards in the world.
However, from its earliest conception as a White Paper, the new mining regime which was later to become the Mineral Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA)of 2002, paid scant attention the bearers of mining`s negative impacts, the host communities. The fight by mining affected communities and civil society to bring the rights of communities to the centre of mining legislation has been mostly marked by small gains and many reversals.
The last version of the MPRDA, which was approved by the National Assembly in 2014, and rushed through the Council of provinces with no consultations with communities, further, seeks to limit the scope of community involvement and to render community voices in regulating mining impotent.
It was at the insistence and threat of a constitutional challenge by the national network of mining affected communities – MACUA– that the President of the country was compelled to send the Bill back to the National Assembly for broader community consultation. This Bill has still not been processed through the houses of parliament and the country and the mining regime remains in limbo while communities, as shown in this report, face increasing food insecurity among a host of human rights violations.
The disproportionate impact that mining operations have had on women, youth and children should be of major concern to all who cherish the ideals of our constitution, while the ongoing and increasing anger of the youth should serve as warning to Duty Bearers both within the state, business and the constitutionally mandated human rights institutions, of the unsustainable nature of unencumbered violations of mining affected communities` human rights.
These warnings and uprisings are often either ignored or grossly misinterpreted. Anglo American reports in its Anglo American Platinum Limited Sustainable Development Report of 2014 that “Amplats makes a real difference to the people whose lives we touch. We mine a mineral that makes aspects of modern life possible, in a safe, smart and responsible way”.
This claim is increasingly open to questioning given the recent findings of the Wits University`s Society Work and Development Institute (SWOP) research report commissioned by ActionAid South Africa. The report`s findings and the claims made by Anglo seem to diverge in many critical areas.
In AASA`s Precious Metals II, A Systemic Inequality Report, which draws from the SWOP research, we look at the claims made by Anglo in its 2014 report and also contrast these against the findings of the SWOP 2015 report and the recommendations made to Anglo Plat by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2008/2009.
We find that the not only has Anglo failed to implement the recommendations of the SAHRC, but that it fails to meet the basic goals of the South African legislation that governs its operations and that the claims it makes in its report to stakeholders and investors are nothing more than words on a glossy paper that hides the ongoing violations of human rights of the community of Mapela.
In its 2008/2009 investigations and report, sparked by the AASA report entitled Precious Metals, the SAHRC made a number of specific recommendations to AngloPlat. These include the following:
1. Water: “PPL(Anglo) and the Mogalakwena Municipality to ensure the continued access to water for all communities both those that have relocated and those who are resisting relocation”.
The 2015 SWOP report indicates that access to water remains a major human rights violation within the Mapela communities. The SWOP report provides a picture of a community who historically had ample access to water and who now face limited access and regular shortages of water. By Anglo`s own admission in its 2010 Social Labour Plans (SLP), Anglo acknowledges that the provision of water to Mapela is problematic an undertakes to “identify areas with a dire need for water provision”. However Anglo uses a figure of 7000 residents without providing its source, while SWOP identifies 65 000 residents based on StatsSA 2011 Census as the basis for its claim.
Furthermore Anglo only identifies a limited amount of interventions and allocates only 7.4% of its total SLP budget over 5 years to providing sanitation and water provision at 3 clinics, 4 ECD centres per annum and 4 schools per annum. The SWOP report indicates that this limited intervention has little or no impact on the rights of the community to water.
One elder respondent reported to SWOP: “There was a spring called Madingwaneng where we got our water. We used to clean the spring as a community and then wait for water to seep through from the ground and collect. But it has run dry. I don’t know. It just dried up when mining operations started. We now rely on a borehole installed down the village, near the royal house. Lately we have community taps. But the supply is only restricted to certain times of the day. Let’s say the water is running during the day and is switched off at 4pm. You would then need someone to draw and store that water if you have work engagements at that time. Ever since the mining began, natural springs have disappeared and we are reliant on piped water.”
On the question of agricultural land and food security the SAHRC 2008 report calls for the “provision of compensation and the determination of the impact on food security of the affected communities given the traditional and partial reliance on subsistence farming and limited access to commercial food sources”.
The SWOP 2015 report finds that subsistence farming was more than a partial source of food security and that up to 70% of households sampled in the study have lost access to agricultural and grazing land and has resulted in reduced food security across the affected communities. SWOP states that “evidence presented by the ethnographic material suggests that people in Mapela have lost access to land and other natural resources as a result of the expansion of the mine. Loss of land seems to affect food security, because most of our respondents have lost ploughing fields and grazing land. Historically, people raised various crops and animals to survive. Life history interviews suggest that even when people had been involved in wage labour, they mainly used their income to cover other household expenses. Most of their food came from the land. Land dispossession also connects to loss of access to other natural resources like wild fruits, trees, natural herbs and firewood.”
Mining related land dispossessions have undermined the food security of households in these localities. Villagers repeatedly argued that they relied on their land to produce food that would sustain them from month to month throughout the year. Consequently, the once-off cash payments from the mine were not commensurate to the benefits previously derived from owning and utilizing their arable land. The rallying cry amongst the villagers has overwhelmingly been about Kgwedi ka Kagwedi. Kgwedi kagwedi meaning that reproduction and consumption needs are requirements they deal with on a daily basis. Since produce obtained from ploughing fields, for instance, constituted a huge component of household reproduction and consumption requirements, a once off payment in the form of compensation for loss of land is seen as highly inadequate and unjust.
The far reaching claims, made by Anglo, some of which have been highlighted above, paint a picture of a corporate entity that is either wholly out of touch with the true impacts of its operations or is in denial about its impacts on host communities. From its vantage of privilege and preferential treatment from the local laws, from the local, provincial and national duty bearers and from Human Rights institutions which consistently seeks to accommodate their violations rather than end them, Anglo displays all the attributes of an abusive partner who uses their financial and legal muscle to keep the community of Mapela subjected to harsh human rights abuses.
Christopher Rutledge is the Mining and Extractives Coordinator at ActionAid South Africa. Follow ActionAid South Africa on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. AASA is member of ActionAid International, a global movement of people working together to further human rights and eradicate poverty
 MACUA- Mining Affected Communities United in Action formed in 2012 and representing over 100 communities across the country.