Africa fails its people

Felix Ngosa
Felix Ngosa

Cape Town - Mining companies across Africa have continued to pursue profits at all costs and communities have not been protected because the good laws that are in place are not being enforced by the continent’s governments.

This is according to the chairperson of the steering committee of the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), Felix Ngosa.

He was talking to City Press on the sidelines of the AMI 2018 event in Cape Town.

Ngosa said governments’ law enforcement agencies were not coming to the rescue of communities despite blatant disregard by mining companies.

He said the laws in most African countries were actually very good and the biggest challenge was the will to enforce them.

“If the laws were implemented to the letter, if they were enforced, we would not be where we are,” he said.

“The biggest issue is when their lives are disrupted by the mining activities – they can’t grow food, they can’t fish because the river is polluted and they can’t feed themselves,” Ngosa said.

He added that the AMI wanted to make governments aware of their obligations to the population.

“Our hope is that governments realise that their obligation is to the people. They need to safeguard the interests of the people and not the investors. They need to check on how the lives of the people can be better because of the mine,” he said.

He pointed out an example in Zambia, where a company wanted to get rid of a game reserve that generated a lot of income for that country’s tourism sector, to make way for a mine.

“In that case there has to be a comparison because tourism is big. It’s about weighing the options, the cost benefit analysis, because we know there are countries that thrive on tourism and are better off than those with natural resources. It’s better than government just ordering that there be a mine and everything must move to make way for it,” he said.

Ngosa said there are a few mining companies, and even chambers of mines, that have open-door policies towards the mine-hosting communities.

He said the human rights violations by mines are another issue that needs to be prioritised, as UN treaties are regularly violated by signatory countries and not much is done by governments.

“It’s the same with all of them because some will comply on a certain issue and be terrible on other issues. They are all the same and sometimes a government will come into power and after the election the new government is horrible.”

He mentioned that the inconsistency is the same with the relationship between the communities and governments.

Among the developments Ngosa said his organisation was excited about and saw as progressive were the Swaziland king’s decision to order a review of the mining legislation of that country; Zambia setting up a quarterly stakeholders forum to meet with the ministry of mines; Zimbabwe’s facilitation of the rehabilitation of the mining pits in Marange and Zvishavane communities by the Chinese; and Tanzania’s newly enacted laws, such as the Natural Wealth and Resources Contract Act 2017.

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