Community dissatisfaction in rural mining areas of SA is rife yet again, violent of nature and merciless. Destruction of whatever is the closest seems to be the order of the day. Demands are for jobs, shareholding in mines, shareholding in suppliers businesses – but who should hold the shareholding? How is it determined exactly with whom it should be shared? For example, in the Steelpoort area (to please the community), at least 7 different communities exist, adding dissident groups and self-appointed interest groups.
The level of militancy is so high that comments such as: “we will bring the mine and their suppliers to a standstill irrespective of if we are influenced” are uttered in public forums. Business is under very real threat. It is clear that there are more objectives than only community development – there seems to be the personal interests of business leader’s under the auspices of community interest, but there also seems to be a criminal element involved in the actual execution of the community unrest activities. In the Steelpoort area the recycling of chrome dumps on mine property (almost illegal mining) is becoming rife whilst cable theft is executed by groups of between 8 –10 members; The same type of groups that one finds next to the road, stoning vehicles.
In recent weeks it has also become evident that in many an area there is mass dissatisfaction with the government’s traditional leaders system. In the area of Smokey Hills near Burgersfort in the Limpopo Province, dissatisfaction with the traditional leaders system saw a youth element protesting against the structures that were created to negotiate with the Phokathaba Mine – where the violence is aimed at disrupting mine activities in order to get recognition from the mine and perpetuating fear. Fear is definitely being created amongst mine employees and vehicles are being escorted from the area through the community residential areas. In the latest incident the community cut water supply to the mine, directly influencing the Plant operation. Earlier in the week a SA Breweries truck was stoned and many cases of beer destroyed, while the rest was stolen. In a nearby mine (Dilokong Mine) a Coca Cola truck from ABI was “hijacked” and in 19 minutes the truck was cleared of every last case of cold drink.
A newly appointed, so called “Task Group” dealing with the Steelpoort mines, replaced what is supposed to a be a traditional leaders forum for the area – unfortunately self-interest within the group overwhelms what would have been the traditional leaders care for the communities. Are these new structures the rise of new political ideas in rural areas? What would the impact of local elections in 2016 be on the structures in communities and the mood of communities?
Most businesses in the mining areas have the desire to invest in the communities, but the question is: “With whom? How do we please everybody?”