Following the Minister of Mineral Resources public commitment to informal miners in Kimberly in 2015 that he would instruct the Department of Mineral Resources to assist the miners to obtain mining permits, no progress has been made in resolving the urgent livelihood crises faced by thousands of miners and their families.
After miners marched and embarked on a public campaign to force the DMR to keep their promises, the DMR eventually conceded to holding a range of meetings with the miners but these have not borne any solutions and instead the DMR has opted to work with De Beers/Anglo, Ekapa Minerals, and the Hawks to evict and prosecute the miners without offering alternative solutions to the unemployment, poverty and hunger that are the hallmarks of the lived reality of the informal miners.
Eventually the Premier of the Northern Cape, after further public pressure and marches to her office, offered to meet with the Informal Miners and ActionAid South Africa (AASA) to find solutions and opportunities to regulate and assist the informal miners to obtain the necessary permits.
After a number of meetings, the Premiers office, together with the DMR and Ekapa, offered to facilitate a permit application for the miners on a plot of land identified by the DMR. The agreement was presented as follows by the Premiers legal representative:
“Kimberley Ekapa Mining JV (KEM-JV) agreed to provide financial assistance to the informal mineworkers to apply for mining rights however this is subject to the area to be mined being viable and profitable for prospecting; furthermore Office of the Premier to write a submission to the Premier/ Director-General for possible financial assistance in this regard.”
It was thus with great surprise that we learnt of the mass evictions which were secretly prepared and carried out by the security forces of Ekapa and the SAPS on the sites occupied by the informal miners.
The evictions are illegal according to the miner`s legal representative Johan Lorenzen of Richard Spoor Attorneys. “Our client’s right to be on the land is in dispute before the Constitutional Court. As a matter of law, an application for leave to appeal suspends an order of the court” he said at the time of the first effort to evict the informal miners.
Given that the Premiers Office, the DMR and Ekapa were negotiating with us and the informal miners in what we believed to be good faith, we find that this sudden turn to illegal and violent actions to deny citizens their right to work and feed their families, raises serious questions about the integrity of these duty bearers.
The informal miners who have been working on these sites for many years, and who have consistently been the ones asking the Minister, the DMR and the Premier to assist them in regularising and legalising their efforts to feed their families now find themselves not only without options to feed their families, but also betrayed by the very institutions which should not only uphold the law but also be the bastions of integrity and protection of rights.
In the process the Police have targeted and arrested two of the group’s leaders for incitement and trespassing.
We lament this turn to force and coercion to resolve the socio economic problems of our country and we are compelled to warn our government that this short-sighted and authoritarian approach to dealing with unemployment, poverty and inequality can only lead to an escalation of tensions between the have and the have-nots.
It is regrettable that the offices of the state would use violence in collusion with the historical vehicles of inequality and greed such as De Beers/ Anglo, than work with the hungry and destitute citizens who they are constitutionally mandated to protect.
We call for the immediate release of the arrested informal miners, for a return to the status quo before the violent evictions and for an urgent resumption of negotiations to find long term sustainable solutions.
Issued by ActionAid South Africa