Mining Affected Communities: We need more than on-paper Social and Labour Plans

(Photo: An informal settlement close to the Lonmin mine, where 34 people were killed when police opened fire on protesting mine workers)

Mining within communities is viewed as a conduit for further development of the community. It creates an expectation of an improved standard of living and gives the community a sense of hope for better and sustainable living. This hope is often hindered by the breakdown in communication with respect to the implementation and the sustainability of the perceived progression of development. Was the Marikana massacre not the perfect example of a fatal breakdown in communication between the miners, their union representatives and Lonmin?

In looking at the socio-economic situation of the clients that approach civil society on a daily basis with cries of injustice in their communities, the land beneath their feet is the wealthiest. As a result, most of the communities affected by mining are those with very little economic freedom. But, after the granting of the mining permit, there is often even less economic freedom and often dire consequences for communities.

To ascertain whether there is mineral deposit on a piece of land, an application must be made for a prospecting right. No two people can hold a prospecting right, mining right, mining permit or retention permit for the same mineral and land at the same time. Communities on land on which there is a land claim are therefore in a state of uncertainty about who owns the mineral rights. Could mine companies be capitalising on the chaos?

Let’s assume, in this instance, that all the necessary land acquisition processes and procedures have been meticulously complied with. In order to obtain a mining right in South Africa, you have to have complied with the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA). The Social and Labour Plan (SLP) is an important document that the Department of Mineral Resources has to assess to establish the benefit that will extend to the community in granting the permit.

Being a legally binding document, the SLP ought to be enforceable in a community; yet why is it that graduates in rural communities in which there is mining activity cannot complete their in-service training with such a mine? Or, the local councillor has neither a seat nor a say in the meetings held by the mining company? Is this a lack of representation in a democratic country?

The community of Mahlabathini in KwaZulu Natal is currently affected by coal mining activity and a “smokescreen” SLP. The traditional authorities of the area have isolated the local councillor for political reasons, resulting in her having no knowledge of the decisions taken that affect her community. Community members that worked at the mine and have since been retrenched have not been given any severance packages. The Municipality has cut off the water supply in the community; yet the mine has adequate water supply to remain fully operational. The trucks driving to and from the mine have run over livestock and children, with no compensation to the bereaved families.

With a mining permit being rewenable every 5 years, we must wonder why this would be renewed when the community has not benefitted from the mining activity as per the SLP – and in fact, has suffered considerably.

A report by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) in March 2017 confirms that SLP’s are a requirement that is rarely enforced by mining companies. It is important to take cognisance of the fact that enforcement and accountability will not always lie with the same office. Budget may be allocated for the social-economic development of a community; however, community members give proxy to a representative who is their voice and is responsible for ensuring the upkeep of their communities’ best interests.

One cannot point a finger at the mining company alone, or the representatives of the community, for not being accountable where necessary. However, tension is bound to rise where there is no transparency. Accountability and transparency become fundamental in the socio-economic enforcement of rights in affected communities.

A more concerted effort and vigour by all the role-players is needed to question, challenge and call to book those in positions of power when decisions are made that affect communities.

The richness of the land has moved from below the feet the community to the hands of the decision-makers.

Nokukhanya Nkatha – ­2017 Bertha Justice Fellow

The Annual Bertha Convening is supported by the Bertha Foundation. We would like to thank them for their support of the next generation of young human rights lawyers. Read more about the Bertha Foundation and Bertha Justice Fellows here: http://berthafoundation.org/

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Être avocate, et noire

(Photo  Lunga Siyo, de l’organisation Legal Resource Centre, et Mandisa Shandu, de l’organisation et clinique juridique Ndifuna Ukwazi)

Je suis une jeune femme africaine, noire, et je travaille dans le secteur de l’intérêt public. Voici ce que cela signifie:

Ça veut dire que certain-e-s d’entre nous sommes des diplômé-e-s de première génération. Nous travaillons donc avec une pression supplémentaire : celle de gagner notre vie pour subvenir aux besoins financiers de nos familles respectives.

Ça veut dire que nous ne gagnons parfois pas assez pour subvenir à nos propres besoins, ni à ceux de nos familles. Résultat ? Une part si importante d’avocat-e-s africain-e-s noir-e-s finissent par abandonner le secteur de l’intérêt public pour reprendre un travail qui ne les passionne pas, mais qui garantira une rentrée d’argent suffisante par mois pour leur permettre de tenir leurs obligations.

Ça veut dire que nous travaillons dans un secteur qui n’a pas suffisamment progressé : les organisations comptent des avocat-e-s africain-e-s noir-e-s mais ils et elles n’occupent pas des postes à haute responsabilité.

Ça veut dire qu’il est grand temps d’avoir des politiques, d’instruction notamment, pour engager la responsabilité des organisations sur leurs pratiques d’attribution des affaires, en particulier si elles n’en confient pas aux avocat-e-s noir-e-s.

Ça veut dire qu’il faut encourager la création d’entités telles que le groupe Black Workers Forum (groupe militant de soutien aux travailleur-euse-s noir-e-s) pour contrôler les organisations dans la conduite du changement.

Ça veut dire qu’il existe cette idée que les jeunes avocat-e-s noir-e-s ne sont pas capables de gérer des affaires compliquées, ou des affaires relevant de domaines juridiques spécialisés.

Ça veut dire que d’autres avocat-e-s africain-e-s noir-e-s risquent de perdre leur travail en confiant des affaires à des avocat-e-s noir-e-s qui « n’ont pas d’expérience et ne savent pas s’engager sur des affaires à titre bénévole. »

Et sur le fait d’être non seulement africaine et noire, mais aussi une femme, ça veut dire que nos confrères masculins ont plus de crédibilité que nous et qu’il y a des client-e-s qui préfèrent que leur affaire soit entre les mains d’un avocat masculin.

Mais n’oublions pas la beauté que cela représente d’être des avocat-e-s africain-e-s et noir-e-s

Étant des défenseur-euse-s de l’intérêt public, la majorité de nos client-e-s sont des Africain-e-s noir-e-s, ce qui veut dire que la majeure partie du travail que nous menons est en faveur de notre propre peuple et pour l’amélioration du bien-être de celui-ci.

Nous parlons plusieurs langues et sommes ainsi capables de communiquer avec nos client-e-s dans leur propre langue. Nous comprenons leurs cultures et traditions.

Nous sommes un point de référence pour ces client-e-s. Je ne compte plus les fois où, lorsque je plaide au tribunal en tant qu’élève-avocate, les membres du public m’abordent pour me demander où se trouve telle ou telle salle du tribunal, ou comment compléter un formulaire de plainte pour violences conjugales. Notre peau noire signifie que nous comprenons mieux.

Nous, enfants africain-e-s, grandissons avec le principe que tout aîné est comme une mère, un père, ou un grand-parent. Au quotidien, pendant chaque atelier ou consultation communautaire auquel je participe, je me consacre au bien-être des plus âgé-e-s, assurant notamment qu’ils et elles peuvent se déplacer facilement. Mon travail en tant qu’avocate noire s’accompagne donc d’une dimension personnelle.

Ainsi, être avocate et noire implique en effet de nombreux obstacles. Mais malgré tout, nous accomplissons notre travail et nous comprenons et établissons une connexion avec nos client-e-s.

Sindisiwe Mfeka – Boursière Bertha Justice 2017

La Rencontre Bertha est assurée chaque année par la fondation « Bertha Foundation ». Nous tenons à remercier les équipes de la Fondation pour leur soutien à la nouvelle génération d’avocat-e-s défenseur-euse-s des droits humains. Plus d’informations (en anglais) sur la fondation « Bertha Foundation » ici : http://berthafoundation.org/  

 

Reflections on Fellowship and Contesting the Constitution

Photo: Tshepo Madlingozi 

The fast pace of legal practice and constant demand on your faculties and capacity in the public interest sector is often a distraction from gaining perspective about our growth as young social justice lawyers. The Bertha convenings serve as important periods for pausing and stretching our minds.

The first year of the fellowship is a wonderful time of terror and optimism. A time of learning the ropes and mastering the tone of the profession. During your second year you are given the opportunity to take on more responsibility in a practice, and this added freedom is an essential part of understanding your own abilities, potential ethics and limitations. As the conclusion of the fellowship approaches and we make the transition to alumni, many of us grapple with the reality of legal practice, the lure of social justice by academia and reinventing our role in the social justice arena.

As young social justice lawyers we are in a unique position to begin to experiment with hybrid careers and opportunities. There is an overwhelming sense that a new path must be forged and exciting long-lost entrepreneurial inklings must be called upon going forward to continue to effect change. The South African Bertha convenings serve as an important pool of ideas from which the fellows can draw from in order to advance new ideas about social justice and our roles within this sector.

We were particularly challenged at this year’s convening titled, “Contesting Power, Privilege and the Constitution” as it was an opportunity to hear the voices we tend to usurp or minimise in the course of litigation. The convening also galvanised fellows and alumni to question the paradigms in which we operate as public interest lawyers in the pursuit of social justice.

We work in a context where South Africa’s dehumanising history still presents itself in our thinking around development and notions of social justice. When Tshepo Madlingozi, a jurisprudence lecturer at the University of Pretoria, asked us about our use of emancipatory tools, many of us came to realise that we had accepted many imposed norms as unassailable purely because we were in the business of doing good.

Madlingozi’s argument was that human rights and, necessarily, social justice are concepts rooted in ‘coloniality of being’. That is, “South Africa’s contemporary social justice sector’s ahistorical and colour-blind fetishisation of human rights, as part and parcel of the economy of recognition – incorporation – distribution, both conceals and entrenches this teleological whiteness.”[1]

This begs the question for us public interest lawyers, operating under the banner of social justice, of whether we are truly effecting change in a post-apartheid South Africa, or whether we unwittingly perpetuate the notion of dehumanising “othering”. In essence, what the convening required of us was to recognise the real struggle of those we purport to represent. It asked us to understand what it was to be poor, black, female identifying, LGBTIQ+, migrant, marginalised, landless, silenced and forgotten.

In as much as Madlingozi encouraged a shift toward the recognition and appropriation of a liberation project, our claim on the advancement of human rights is still framed by a colonial understanding of humanity and law. Thus, if we remain impervious to the paucity of human rights “speak”, we may lose legitimacy in the eyes of those who continue to suffer “dehumanisation and social death”[2]

What about the Constitution? As mentioned above, the theme of the convening envisioned contesting the Constitution. One of the issues that we grapple with in the South African context debate, is our unquestioning defence of the Constitution. On the ground, the lofty ideals in the Constitution scarcely equates to the rectification of injustice. The protection of ill-gotten gains (property) daily reminds the dispossessed, our clients, of their social deaths and social injustice.

What’s more is that civil society in South Africa, of which we are part of and partner with, has been venerated beyond reproach – thus the “liberation project”, as Madlingozi puts it, cannot take form in the face of ahistorical disarming discourse that it deems social justice. As we graduate from the fellowship we will continue to debate and challenge social justice which constitutes temporary relief for those with insecure title and “developing the normative an remedial apparatus for imposing duties on organs of State.”[3] We will also continue to question whether we, as public interest lawyers, can attain the humanising project within the framework of our Constitution.

Mpho Raboeane and Christine Grobler – ­2017 Bertha Justice Fellows

The Annual Bertha Convening is supported by the Bertha Foundation. We would like to thank them for their support of the next generation of young human rights lawyers. Read more about the Bertha Foundation and Bertha Justice Fellows here: http://berthafoundation.org/

[1] T Madlingozi “Social Justice and Neo-Apartheid Constitutionalism”(2017) 28 Stell LR 137.

[2] Ibid at 139.

[3] S Liebenberg “Socio-economic rights beyond the public private law divide” in M Langford, J Dugard, B Cousins and T Madlingozi (eds) Socio-economic Rights in South Africa: Symbols or Substance?(2014) 63 64 as in T Madlingnozi “Social Justice and Neo-Apartheid Constitutionalism” 145.

Lawyering whilst Black

(featured photo of Lunga Siyo, LRC, and Mandisa Shandu, Ndifuna Ukwazi)

I am black-African, young and female, and working in the public interest sector. This is what it means to me:

It means that some of us are first generation graduates; we work with the added pressure of making money in order to financially support our families.

It means that sometimes we do not earn enough to sustain ourselves and our families and so many young, black-African lawyers end up leaving the public interest sector for jobs that they do not necessarily love, but that will make sure that they fulfil their obligations each month.

It means that we work in a sector that is not transformed enough: we see black-African lawyers within our organisations but they are not occupying senior positions.

It means that there has to be policies put in place, such as briefing policies, in order to hold organisations “accountable” for who they brief, or their failure to brief black counsel.

It means forming institutions such as the Black Workers Forum to “police” organisations when it comes to transformation….. 33 years after Democracy.

It means that there is a belief that young black lawyers are incapable of competently handling complicated matters or matters seen as falling within specialised areas of law.

It means that other black-African lawyers are afraid of putting their jobs on the line by briefing other black-African counsel because black-African counsel are “inexperienced and can’t take on matters probono”.

And on the burden of being both black-African and female: it means that your male counterparts are taken more seriously than you and that some clients will be more comfortable with their matters being handled by your male colleague.

But let us not forget the beauty of being a black-African lawyer:

As public interest organisations, the majority of our clients are black-Africans. This means that the majority of the work that we do is for our own people and for the betterment of our own people.

We are multi-lingual; we are able to communicate with our clients in a language that is their own. We understand the cultures and traditions of our clients.

We are a point of reference for clients. I have lost count of how many times I have been at court – going about my duties as a Candidate Attorney – and have been approached by members of the public, querying how to find a particular section of the court or how to fill in a domestic violence form. Our black skin means that we will understand better.

As a black-African child, we are taught that every elder is your mother/father or grandparent. For me this has meant that at every workshop or community consultations, I run to the aid of elderly people, making sure that they can get around with ease. My work as a black lawyer comes with a personal touch.

Lawyering whilst black…means that we have challenges; but we do our work anyway and we can understand the plight of our clients in a way that connects us to them.

Sindisiwe Mfeka – 2017 Bertha Justice Fellow

The Annual Bertha Convening is supported by the Bertha Foundation. We would like to thank them for their support of the next generation of young human rights lawyers. Read more about the Bertha Foundation and Bertha Fellows here: http://berthafoundation.org/