The protesters voiced their anger at the mine, demanding to benefit from the mining activities taking place on their doorstep.
By Steven Makhanya
HUNDREDS of Mpukunyoni community members at kwaSomkhele staged a protest march to the Tendele Coal Mine on Monday to present a memorandum of grievances to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
Lead by the Chairperson of the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MCPA), Bongani Pearce, the protesters voiced their anger at the mine, demanding to benefit from the mining activities taking place on their doorstep.
‘We want economic freedom in our lifetime, and if there are no tangible benefits, then there will be no mine,’ Pearce said.
Toy-toying at the mine plant entrance, the members constantly shouted #TendeleCoalMineMustClose.
Reading out the list of demands from the memorandum, Pearce said the Mpukunyoni community want to emphasise their personal ties to the area. For this reason they want to take a stand against Tendele exploiting the vulnerable and poor community members who cannot stand up for themselves.
‘We condemn in the strongest terms the exploitation of community resources for the benefit of a few.’
Among the demands were job opportunities for the local people, reemployment of all those dismissed without proper hearing procedures and that ‘capital goods, consumables and services had to be procured from local suppliers.
Compensation was also demanded for cracked houses, lost grazing land and livestock dying inside the mine, water usage and illness to people as a result of coal dust problems.
Mine sets record straight
In response, the mine’s Human Resource Manager Davie Coetzee wrote, ‘On 4 July the MCPA organised an unprotected march to the Somkhele Mine gate, where they proceeded to hand a memorandum to a DMR representative in the presence of 100 to 120 people, of which many were bused in from areas not close to the mine.
The mine is making an enormous difference in the community, and will continue to do so. Our doors remain open to engage with all interested and affected parties.’
‘The unions representing more than 900 mine employees are also not in favour of the MCPA’s objectives to close the mine, as this infringes their constitutional rights, bearing in mind 80% of the mine’s workforce are local Mpukunyoni residents.
‘Somkhele mine has been operating in the area since 2007 and directly employs in excess of 900 people. Since inception we have invested directly and indirectly R933-million into the community in salaries to employees from the local community (R580-million), infrastructure and relocation (R90-million), procurement from local entrepreneurs only (R208-million) and SLP projects (R55-million).
The community gave the DMR 14 days to respond to their demands while the mine closes all operations, failing which they will apply to the High Court for the withdrawal of all mining permits.
This article was published in the Zululand Observer on July 4, 2016