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The SAHRC: Facilitating Inequality : Part 5

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - 09:38

In the SAHRC`s 2008 Report, then Chairperson of the SAHRC, Jody Kollapen points out that “a number of issues raised by the affected communities, or observed by the SAHRC during this investigation are symptomatic of systemic inequalities in addition to possible institutional problems in the relocation processes undertaken.”  He however cautions that the “impact of business can therefore not always be determined at one point in time like a snapshot, but is often more accurately reflected over a period of time.”

We believe that with the baseline of the first 2008 report and the findings of the second 2015 report, we are now able to draw a much clearer panorama of the “systemic inequalities” that continue to plague the community of Mokopane and the complicity or otherwise of the role players and stakeholders in Mapela villages of Mokopane.

The report thus brings into sharp focus the efficacy of the strategies of all stakeholders, including the SAHRC`s 2008 recommendations and commitments, and by implication the current strategy of the SAHRC in 2015.

In ActionAid South Africa`s Precious Metals II, A Systemic Inequality report, we outline our concerns which lists the recommendations of the SAHRC Report contrasted against the findings of the SWOP 2015 report and which in our opinion indicates a prima facie failure to bring about an improvement in the human rights condition of the Mapela community.

 Re-affirming inequality

This then brings us to our concerns on the current engagement by the SAHRC following the protests over 10 days in September 2015 which effectively shut down the AngloPlats Mogalakwena Mine.

Our concerns relate to the following key areas:

1.            The continuation of a strategy that has not worked in past.

2.            The denial of community agency.

3.            Mistrust between community groups and the SAHRC.

4.            Perceptions of collusion between Anglo and the SAHRC.

During meetings with the community, the Mapela Executive Committee (an organic community organisation), the committee raised concerns, insights and allegations which have significant bearing on the current processes undertaken by the SAHRC.

The Mapela executive claim, that they are a representative community forum established in May 2015 by 32 communities from the greater Mapela/Langa area, to address various community grievances. They further claim that they were the leaders of the protest movement which resulted in the intervention of the SAHRC and that following the SAHRC`s intervention that they were side-lined as community representatives in favour of the establishment of a “Task Team” at the insistence of the SAHRC. The committee further makes the following claims about the current process:

•             That they have no faith in the SAHRC to resolve their longstanding dispute with Anglo as they have previously intervened in 2008/2009 and again in 2012 where promises were made but no resolution was found.

•             That the SAHRC Limpopo manager refused to allow the community to include legal representatives or advisors thus condemning them to bystanders of their own processes.

•             That, as with previous “Task Teams”, this Task team were offered stipends and possible roles and positions in a new R5million Anglo project under Project Alchemy and that this serves to alienate the Task Team from the community rendering the Task team moot and compromised.

•             It was for this reason that the Mapela/Langa executive committee refused to participate in the Task team with the bulk of their leadership outside of the Task team Process.

•             That a “leadership training” workshop, organised by the SAHRC in Tzaneen during November 2015 and funded by Anglo, did not have any leadership training component but was instead used to influence the Task Team, as Anglo, The Department of Mineral Resources, the Mayor, Mapela/Langa Tribal Authority and CoGTA addressed the Task Team members making various (disputed) claims about the community and their rights.

•             The Mapela/Langa Executive further claim that the intention of the Task Team was never to engage in Leadership training but to negotiate around community demands and that this in itself is a violation of their trust.

•             The committee further suggests that the initial agreement to form the Task Team has been violated and that the SAHRC has failed to agree on the Terms of Reference of the negotiations between Anglo and the community as was set out in the initial agreement. The Terms of Reference was specifically identified as the first task of the new Task Team. To date the Terms of Reference have not been finalised.

•             The Mapela executive furthermore strongly pointed out that the initial agreement was entered into with Anglo to suspend protests and not to end them and vowed to take up protests again.

•             The Mapela executive also bemoaned the fact that no priority was given to the fact that the initial protests were peaceful until police started shooting at residents and that protestors who were arrested and still face charges (96 in total) must be part of the Terms of Reference.

The view from the Mapela executive and the findings of the 2015 SWOP report contrasted against the SAHRC 2008/9 reports thus inform our concerns regarding the current SAHRC strategy. These are:

1.            The continuation of a strategy that has not worked in the past. Based on the comparisons we have drawn between the 2008/2009 SAHRC recommendations and reports and the findings of the SWOP 2015 report, we believe that the role of the SAHRC as mediator in this process has not only produced very little by way of improving the human rights conditions of the Mapela/Langa community but also compromises the integrity and standing of the SAHRC as a Chapter 9 institution tasked with the protection and promotion of human rights.

2.            The denial of community agency. The concerns expressed by the Mapela executive suggests that the SAHRC was instrumental in denying the community agency after they had organised themselves into a representative forum, despite the historical and lingering divisions within the community, by insisting on the formation of a new Task Team. This is especially significant given that the SAHRC should be aware, based on its own report in 2009 in which it specifically raised the issue of “factionalism and distrust”  and noted that these stemmed from “the fact that …representatives were being paid a stipend for their services, which led other community leaders feeling marginalised.”. During the meeting between Anglo and the SAHRC in 2009, it was specifically recorded that “(t)here was therefore a need to get the right representatives from communities and NGO`s on the committee…and time for a new body…that will not be paid stipends”.  It is certainly curious that a new task team, who will receive stipends, is the first thing suggested by the SAHRC Limpopo Manager.

3.            Mistrust between community groups and the SAHRC.  The manner in which the SAHRC Limpopo manager is perceived to be both a referee and a player, by promoting his preference for who should serve on the Task Team,  promising the Task Team members that he is negotiating stipends on their behalf, and offering roles in multi million rand projects, while ignoring the central issues of the protesting community members and acting as facilitator, is both unhealthy for any conciliation process but also fails to build confidence and trust within the broader community about the possibility of resolving the long standing demands of the community. The community leadership have indicated to us their willingness to resume protests should the SAHRC process continue unhindered. It is our view that in this instance, the integrity and the standing of the SAHRC is in serious jeopardy

4.            Perceptions of collusion between Anglo and the SAHRC.  The perceptions of an apparent cosy relationship between the SAHRC and Anglo, the failure of the SAHRC`s 2008 investigation and 2012 intervention, to yield any tangible changes in the lives of a vulnerable community and the railroading of a continuation of a failed process all serve to bolster a growing perception among, certainly the leadership of Mapela, that the SAHRC has no intention of resolving their demands or in protecting their human rights.

We have raised our concerns with the SAHRC but have to date not received any response to our concerns. Their silence and continuing interventions, despite evidence of its lack of efficacy raises serious questions about this particular Chapter 9 institution and its ability to add value to the constitutional imperative of driving transformation in communities that continue to suffer the worst injustices of the past and manifested in the present. 

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