Pixley Ka Izaka Seme, the founder of the African National Congress, explained the purpose of the first conference of what was to become the ANC, in these words:
“Chiefs of royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme which my colleagues and I have decided to place before you. We have discovered that in the land of their birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The white people of this country have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa - a union in which we have no voice in the making of laws and no part in their administration. We have called you, therefore, to this conference, so that we can together devise ways and means of forming our national union for the purpose of creating national unity and defending our rights and privileges.”
It is an irony then, that Wednesday 11th September 2013, marks the beginnings of the Parliamentary hearings in which the continuation of this exclusion of the people from having a say in the laws that govern their lives and which has historically contributed to their poverty and status as “hewers of wood and drawers of water”
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendments Bill hearings have appearing before it over four days, a range of well resourced and well connected Corporations, such as ExxonMobile, Standard Bank, Shell, Sasol, PetroSA,IDC, Chamber of Mines, some nondescript business entities such as Anadarko South Africa (Pty) Ltd, Impact Oil and Gas Limited , CNR International South Africa (Limited) , and Barrisford Brent Petersen Law Inc., as well as a few environmental and civil society organisations such as Legal Resources Centre and the Centre for Environmental Rights among others.
On the surface this appears like a good parliamentary system at work. The irony unfortunately is that there are no community voices at these hearings, despite repeated calls on the Portfolio Committee to include communities. The Portfolio Committee has not even had the decency to respond to repeated requests by the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) and other organisations such as the LRC and MEJCON, to include communities.
Just like a century ago, in 1912, when Pixley Seme first articulated the exclusion of Africans from the making of laws, Africans today are faced with an unchanged reality.
Section23 (2A) of the Amendment Bill, which gives the Minister of Mineral Resources the power to impose conditions to promote the rights and interests of communities in the event of an application (Granting and Duration of Mining Right) that affects their land, now proposes the deletion of the specific mandate [including conditions requiring the participation of the community] from the existing clause.
The Amendments further aims to exclude social partners from the Regional Mining Development and Environmental Committee. Section 56A provides for representation from labour and business, but the amendment excludes representation from communities and other social formations.
Communities, who have long been calling for their inclusion and for proper consultation with communities affected by mining, are now being even further alienated from the process of mining and excluded from participating in this core demand, made by Pixel Seme at the formation of the ANC in 1912.
The irony is then that it is this self same ANC that one century later sits at the head of a government that has systematically excluded their own constituency, and the people whom they claim to represent, from the very core fundamental demand of being able to participate in the process of making laws that directly affect them.
Our Parliamentary system should not fail in its mandate to represent the interests of the people of South Africa. Our Parliament should not only serve the interests of Big Business, and theirs should not be the only voice heard by the Portfolio Committee. The Portfolio Committee would have failed in its core responsibility of “providing a national forum for the public consideration of issues” and would have failed to “facilitate the involvement of the public in the processes of Parliament”.
Business Corporations are not the public and the Portfolio Committee has failed in its task of consulting with the people most affected by mining, and has not lived up to the founding ideal of Pixele Seme, but instead, through its lack of consultation with communities, continues the historical exclusion of African communities.
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