Women affected by mining call for inclusive Indaba

Community members say they are not heard at the event

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Photo of protesters
About 50 people picketed outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre during the Mining Indaba to protest about a lack of inclusivity at the event. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Poor sanitation, abandoned mines, and a disregard towards communities affected by mining were among the concerns raised by protesters outside the Mining Indaba on Tuesday.

About 50 supporters of Women from Mining Affected Communities United in Action (WAMUA) from across the country chanted at the busy intersection of Lower Long and Walter Sisulu roads outside the Cape Town Convention Centre.

WAMUA members held up posters that read: “Stop mining our farm lands” and “Mine companies, stop polluting our land and water.”

The Investing in African Mining Indaba is underway at the CTICC. This three-day conference hosts 6,000 participants from mining companies, investors and government delegations from around the world. Protesting WAMUA members say the Indaba does not offer a platform for mining communities to voice their concerns.

Zodwa Mabaso, 45, lives in Silobela, a small community surrounded by several small mines in Carolina, Mpumalanga. “Growing up, we grew veggies and other things in our yards, but nothing can grow there now. Our walls are cracked because of blasting; the air is polluted; we can’t drink the water anymore; the sewage overflows all the time and we have so many health problems,” she said.

Mabaso said despite complaints raised with the municipality, little had been done to resolve their concerns. “We are here to protest so they can listen to us.”

Lorraine Kakaza, a community monitor in Carolina, said unemployment was high in the area.

“People from rural areas flock into Carolina with the hopes of employment at the mines. We often have protests, because people believe that the municipality doesn’t follow the mandate given by the community,” she said.

WAMUA member, Francina Nkosi of Lephalale in Limpopo, said the organisation would discuss vital issues during an alternative indaba being held in Cape Town on Wednesday.

“We will be talking about discrimination in the workplace … Women are forced to give sexual favours in order to get a job at the mines. We know of instances where communities have complained so many times, but nothing is done about it.”

The Alternative Mining Indaba, supported by the Economic Justice Network, faith-based organisations, environmental and civil advocacy groups, has run concurrently to the mining Indaba for the past eight years.

It currently has about 400 participants who discuss concerns they believe are not addressed at the Indaba, such as the environmental impact of mining and the lack of jobs. The theme for this year’s event is ‘Making Natural Resources Work For the People: Domestication of the African Mining Vision, from Vision to Reality.”

“We are sick and tired of suffering. We want to be heard,” said Nkosi.

President of the Black Business Council Danisa Baloyi, who is attending the Indaba, acknowledged that the event needed to be accessible to affected residents. Baloyi said, “Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s not. I think that’s where this anger is being fuelled.”

In response to the WAMUA protest, Indaba spokesperson Pam McLean said: “It’s a pity they did not seek to engage with someone from Mining Indaba in advance of their arrival. If they had, then representatives would have made every effort to engage with them.”

McLean added that organisers were expected to meet with members of the Alternative Mining Indaba after their march to the convention centre tomorrow. “The organisers have gone to great lengths to engage with numerous NGOs, and have included a number of NGO representatives as speakers,” she said.

McLean said Thursday’s programme would be dedicated to sustainable development with panel discussions on issues such as corporate governance, environmental legislation, and engagement with civil society.

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TOPICS:  Environment Mining

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