Last week, Southern Africa and the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power hosted a two-day #RightToSayNo national workshop attended by over 70 activists from mining communities across the country. They discussed a number of issues under the theme: Building the Just Transition from Below through advancing the Right to Say No!
Maxine Bezuidenhout, Dismantle Corporate Power Campaign Programme Officer and the co-organiser of the workshop said, the annual Right to Say No workshop was an important moment to unite different communities in their resistance to extractivism and to renew energy in the spirit of Comrade Bazooka Radebe towards advancing the Right to Say No.
Brian Ashley from Southern Africa and the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power spoke about the difference between Just “Energy” Transition and Just Transition and where does this idea come from?
On day two, Matthews Hlabane, National organiser for the Right to Say No Campaign opened with a discussion on ‘Building a Just Transition from Below’. According to Hlabane, just transition is about us participating in the process but if we are excluded then it’s not just.
Sophia Sideras-Haddad, candidate attorney from Richard Spoor Attorneys explained to the activists about consultation and consent under the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA) and how it gives informal landowners a voice.
On Monday, participants went on a community exchange visit to the Sigidi village in the Amadiba area. Nonhle Mbuthuma, Amadiba Crisis Committee spokesperson took them on a hike to see the site where SANRAL wants to build the Mtentu mega bridge. The Mtentu Bridge forms part of the N2 Wild Coast Road (N2WCR) project, which is SANRAL’s flagship project in the Eastern Cape.
The Amadiba communities have been opposing titanium mining in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape since 2015 and have also legally challenged SANRAL’s plans to relocate some families in order to make way for the Mtentu Bridge.
Mbuthuma also spoke about the challenges and advancing the Right to Say No in rural communities. “Lawyers are part of our strategy, they are not here to solve our problems. Lawyers will be strong if communities are strong”, she said.
Activists have raised concerns about the Department of Mineral Resources (DMRE), which is responsible for overseeing the mining industry of South Africa and accused the department’s officials of being corrupt.
One participant from the North West province said the DMRE has failed to take action against Tharisa Minerals after the community lodged a complaint about the distress caused by the noise and dust of the explosions caused by mine-blasting at the Tharisa mine. He said the mining company is using its financial muscle to capture state officials.
Shereen Fortuin from the Northern Cape said the DMRE gives mining licences without communities giving permission so they are standing up and fighting against these mining companies to not allow them to continue with mining activities in their area where they haven’t consulted the citizens.
Denia Makhanda*, a community activist from rural KwaZulu-Natal said in her community, mining companies don’t consult affected communities directly but they speak to traditional authorities instead and they are scared to say no to mining because those who already received bribes from the mining companies target anti-mining activists and harass them, sometimes even kill in the name of ‘development’.
On Human Rights day, Amadiba Crisis Committee hosted a rally to commemorate the life of Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, Chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee who was assassinated on 22 March 2016 for leading those opposing titanium mining in Xolobeni.
This is what Alexandria Hotz, South African Lead Organiser at WoMin had to say about the visit to Xolobeni, “we want to take with us like we take every year the spirit of the community of Xolobeni that says to all of us that we have the power to resist and that we have the power to decide the life and the ways in which we want to live as communities and big companies like Shell, MRC, Anglo American and others have no business telling us what to do on our land.”
According to Maxine Bezuidenhout, communities present collectively developed and committed to a campaign strategy and programme of action that seeks to advance the Right to Say No Campaign and strengthen local organising and build a strong force to counter rampant extractivism.
*Not her real name