THE BLOG
10/04/2018 13:07 SAST | Updated 10/04/2018 13:07 SAST

Gwede Mantashe, Like His Predecessors, Won't Change Much In Mining Sector

The consistency of the arrogance of government ministers has been a hallmark of the ANC government.

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/ AFP/ Getty Images

OPINION

Gwede Mantashe's entrance into the mining portfolio has almost predictably been no different to the arrogance and superior authoritarianism that has characterised the tenure of the past four ministers in this portfolio.

The consistency of the arrogance of government ministers has been a hallmark of the ANC government and has suggested that this type of arrogance and dismissal of groups that do not bow before the majesty of the ANC and its ministers, has become a sort of "governmentality" of the ANC. Governmentality is a Foucauldian concept that refers to the organised practices (mentalities, rationalities and techniques) through which subjects are governed.

The manner in which the minister has dismissed the court order compelling the minister and the department of mineral resources (DMR) to consult mining communities in the "formulation" of the charter epitomises the very disdain and contempt with which ministers like Gwede Mantashe view the efforts by mining-affected communities to be involved in their own governance.

We expect more from this new government, and every citizen should see this attack on the rights of mining-affected communities as a precursor to the inevitable attack on their rights as well.

In the first instance, the minister has completely ignored the court order. In the second, the minister deliberately ignored correspondence initiated by mining communities through their attorneys, and in the third instance, when communities eventually cornered the minister at his press conference to demand answers, they were summarily dismissed as if they are annoying mosquitoes, for which the minister showed only contempt and annoyance.

At the heart of minister Mantashe's vapid rejection of the claims of organisations like MACUA and WAMUA to be part of the formulation of the charter, is the suggestion by the minister that such consultation will not be advanced through meetings with interest groups and social movements such as MACUA and WAMUA – and instead, the minister appears to propose that the DMR will run a roadshow in which meetings will be held in each province.

Besides the blatant disregard of the court order, there are at least three fundamental problems with this approach by the minister.

Foto24 via Getty Images
Minister Gwede Mantashe during a door-to-door campaign on April 16, 2014 in eMalahleni, South Africa. (Photo by Nicolene Olckers/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images

The first concern relates to the nature of government process and policy development. The fact that the minister has engaged with a select group of stakeholders while excluding others would suggest a process that starts out with a bias towards certain interest groups. The exclusion of both AMCU and NUMSA as organised unions in the mining sector already points to a deep bias emanating from the office of the minister towards the interests of the Chamber of Mines and NUM.

Yet while organised community groups who were affirmed by the courts as relevant and interested stakeholders who should be consulted on the formulation of the charter were excluded, the organisation of the wife of minister Radebe (SAMDA) was invited instead. It appears as if one of the criteria to be included involves the extent of one's connection to ANC politicians.

Be that as it may, the very reason government is seeking to draw together stakeholders should be based on their organisational reach and the ability to speak for and represent, albeit not fully, the interests of their respective constituencies. The practice of speaking to stakeholders in this way helps the government to narrow down issues and to bring different interests to the table, so that amicable resolutions can be found to difficult and complex problems.

In dismissing the claims by MACUA and WAMUA to be involved in the formulation of the charter, the minister deliberately disregards the many years of activism and community engagement that led to the formation of MACUA and WAMUA and eventually to the adoption of the Peoples Mining Charter in 2016. MACUA, formed by over 150 community and environmental activists in 2012, embarked on a three-year project to gather inputs and aspirations from over 150 mining-affected communities across the country.

In the lead-up to the adoption of the Peoples Mining Charter in 2015, the organisation rallied together over 19 civil-society organisations and 50 affiliated community-based organisations to draw up the foundational values of a just mining regime in the Berea Declaration.

Throughout the past five years, MACUA and WAMUA have continued to engage communities across the country through various marches, community capacity-building workshops and dialogues, and consistent submissions to the DMR, the minister and various legislative processes.

Instead of seeing the organisations of mining-affected communities as a hindrance, the minister would be well advised to view them as potential allies.

These organisations, together with MEJCON, are by far the most organised community voices in the mining sector, and there can be little doubt that their grassroots work could greatly enhance and enrich the debates around the formation of the charter. Yet the minister, in fidelity to the arrogant and dismissive governmentality that has characterised the sector, dismisses these organisations as if they have nothing of value to add to the process.

This brings us to the second concern with the minister's approach. Instead of using organised groups to inform the formulation of the charter, the minister wishes to set up meetings where the ministry is able to bus in compliant ANC members to drown out the voices of those who have over the years shown a genuine interest and who have organised a genuine constituency.

Mining activists and MACUA have extensive experience of the type of faux consultation that the minister has in mind, and should the minister insist on pursuing this path, then the chances of meeting his three-month deadline appear to be slim. He fails to understand that contrary to the 1980s and 1990s, communities are organised in ways that minister Mantshe has yet to grasp. His glib dismissal of their claims may yet come back to haunt him.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Members of the mining community at the Khomanani mine in Rustenburg May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Instead of seeing the organisations of mining-affected communities as a hindrance, the minister would be well advised to view them as potential allies that will bring a deeper grassroots calculation to the development of sustainable solutions in the sector. This can strengthen the hand of government and labour, while ensuring that all interest groups are not only represented, but taken into account.

This leads us to the third concern with the minister's approach. It would appear that the minister is dead-set on imposing a solution on communities that will be exclusively drafted by his selected partners – while excluding any critical voices and even excluding organised community groups.

Such an imposition of a policy is deeply problematic – quite apart from the mountain of jurisprudence including Constitutional Court decisions and the most recent High Court ruling, it perpetuates the colonial subjection of the vast majority of people, who are forced to live in the shadows of environmentally and socially destructive mines.

As a government of the people, we should all be deeply concerned when a government devises spurious excuses and devious methods to avoid its constitutional responsibility to include interested and affected parties in finding solutions to their struggles.

Such are the actions of a government that no longer has an interest in representing the interests of the poor and vulnerable. Tese are the actions of a government that is too self-absorbed in perpetuating government for government and the governing party's sake.

We expect more from this new government, and every citizen should see this attack on the rights of mining-affected communities as a precursor to the inevitable attack on their rights as well.