And we want to nationalise mines?

2010-10-09 13:18

Theft. There is no other way to describe the nationwide hijacking of mineral rights we write about this week.

 In provinces rich with diamonds, gold and platinum, rights are being stolen from under the noses of desperately poor communities.

It turns out that the story of the Sishen mine, where rights were allegedly hijacked by Imperial Crown Trading, owned in part by President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, is the tip of an iceberg.

This is a story of lost hopes and shattered dreams; of laws with good intentions that lack proper execution.

Let us start in Schmidtsdrift, dirt-poor but ­diamond rich. For 10 years the San and Griqua communities have waited and waited for the ­benefits of rights granted to various diamond miners to make their lives shine a little.

Ten years on, they are now in court fighting against opaque foreign businesses based in tax havens to make good on the mining laws which prescribe how communities must benefit.

And they are also fighting each other.

In North West, the world’s richest platinum fields, we found a place that has become the Wild West.

A member of the Bakwena ba Mogopa ­community, Phili Kungwane, was killed after he discovered that the mineral rights of his people had been improperly ceded to controversial ­soccer boss Aziz Kara.

It appears in this instance that the tribe’s ­company, MKR Bakwena, squandered the rights; thus ­revealing another story of communities torn apart by mineral rights.

Kara, in turn, is in court ­fighting a battle to mine with Bakwena Vanadium, owned in part by Cyril Ramaphosa’s Shanduka Group.

In Kimberley we found Phemelo Sehunelo, a man at the centre of several mining rights controversies, most in the Kalahari.

A kingpin of the Sishen deal, he appears to use the same business model across the Northern Cape, which is ­minerals-rich.

Sehunelo trades on insider knowledge – he was once the municipal manager of Kimberley and is now a wannabe mining baron.

The lesson in all these instances is that government has no capacity to manage the good ­intentions of the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Development Act, which seeks to ensure that ­ordinary South Africans benefit directly or indirectly from exploiting the wealth under their feet.

Mining minister Susan Shabangu knows the system is beset with corruption and she has placed a moratorium on granting rights.

She should not lift it until the system is fixed – or the only people who benefit will be lawyers and ­scumbags.

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