Of greed, selling out and collusion

2010-10-31 13:32

To a poverty-stricken community like Madadeni, coal mining in their area should translate into jobs and development.

But the story of mining in this ­village, near Komatipoort in Mpumalanga, has no sweet ending.

The community is angry after excluded from a deal between Nkomati Anthracite – a subsidiary of Sentula Mining – the Mpumalanga government and ­traditional leader Eva Mkhatshwa of the Mawewe Tribal ­Authority.

The Mpumalanga government owns a 40% stake in Nkomati ­Anthracite through its parastatal, the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency.

Said Thelma Nkosi, the secretary of the Concerned Mining Committee: “We’re not against mining as such because people need jobs.

Our concern is that the mine just landed here without the community being consulted.

“This is communal land, so we should have been consulted and a community resolution taken.

“Instead, the chief went behind our backs to form a trust that ­involves only her relatives and struck a deal without any consideration of the community’s interests and benefits.”

Nkosi said community members are not represented on the Mawewe Community Trust – only the chief and a few trustees chosen by her.

Nkosi said meetings with the agency, as well as the departments of rural ­development and land reform, co-operative governance and traditional affairs, and mineral resources had not been fruitful.

Since Nkomati Anthracite ­expanded its open-cast operations to Madadeni last year, the walls of houses have been cracking due to blasting; graves have been dug up; polluted river water ­allegedly ­poisons livestock; and unfenced furrows have been left open.

Alfred Sambo said his house has developed cracks. He has tried in vain to alert the mine’s management to the problem.

“That’s what happens when the poor are facing the rich. Your voice has no weight if you have no ­money,” Sambo said.

The committee claims Nkomati Anthracite managing director Roelof Hugo said he had paid R1?million of R2.5 million due to Mkhatshwa – and that they had no idea what the money was used for.

A letter that Hugo wrote to the committee’s lawyer, Dirk Bosman, on August 24 requests that: “The agreement entered into by our company with the chief be amended to the effect that all future payments in terms of the agreement will be made only to the Mawewe Community Trust (that is, R1.5 million in total still to be paid).”

But the letter also adds that the Mawewe Community Trust should represent the entire community.

When she was approached for comment, Mkhatshwa hung up her cellphone.

“I don’t talk to people I don’t know,” she said.

Hugo referred questions to ­Sentula Mining Limited chief ­executive Robyn Berry.

But Berry refused to answer questions about the community’s complaints or about the money ­allegedly paid to Mkhatshwa.

Berry said in an emailed ­response: “All activities at ­Nkomati are overseen by the management of Nkomati, acting under the direction of its board of ­directors.

“Sentula will continue to monitor the results of the direction given to the management of Nkomati, in this regard.”

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