By Oscar Gwala
On the 26th January 2018, the first day of a two day workshop, 17 participants attended: 7 males and 10 females representing the 6 Somkhele villages directly affected by the Tendele coal mine, namely: Kwamyeki, Dubelenkunzi, Mahhujini, Qubuka, Emachibini and lastly Esiyembeni.
The day started off with Billy Mnqondo introducing everyone who was a visitor which included him, me, as well as Meshack Mbangula and Sifiso Dladla. Meshak spoke after Billy and briefly explained to the representatives of the villages about the Environmental management acts which include the NEMA (National Environmental Management Act) and the EIA (Environmental impact assessment) processes.
Meshak then touched on what are Social Labour Plans (SLP) and how they assist in ensuring that the service delivery promised by any corporate establishment to the community is done in an effective and ethical manner.
Sifiso spoke after Meshak and explained that a social audit is a process which enables government sectors to plan, manage and measure non-financial activities, and to monitor both internal and external consequences of the department or organisation’s social and commercial operations.
Sifiso made an example of how when a parent sends their child to the store what is the first thing that a parent does. People gave different answers such as checking the slip to make sure that the child got everything; some mentioned checking if the correct change is brought; others reflected on what is on the slip. This example was used to explain how SLPs operate.
On the second day, 27th of January 2018, additional residents joined the group and the morning began with the representatives of the 6 villages meeting together to unite and form a core group which was tasked with visiting all 6 affected villages to conduct the social audit surveys by going door-to-door to ensure that sufficient results were gathered.
After Sifiso explained how to complete the questionnaire, we then dispatched with the teams to the different geographic locations within Somkhele to start conducting the social audit surveys. This was an immensely important experience for me because I realised how important it is to ensure that public participation is involved in every planning stage so as to build a profound understanding with the directly affected and indirectly affected parties.
The rural homesteads are widely spaced apart so undertaking the door-to-door surveys involved a lot of walking in hot dry conditions but people were motivated and interested to find out what the questionnaires would reveal.
Despite the drought, one is aware of the beauty of nature which will be destroyed if the Tendele mine embarks on its objective to continue extracting the coal that lies beneath this ground. It is our responsibility to protect what is below in order to live a fruitful life above. What is underground should stay underground.