Mining bosses dared to drink toxic water

Bishop Jo Seoka: “We have brought water from various resources such as taps, rivers and streams so that they can see if … they can survive." (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)
Bishop Jo Seoka: “We have brought water from various resources such as taps, rivers and streams so that they can see if … they can survive." (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)

Cape Town – Mining companies do not take the communities they operate in seriously, Bench Marks Foundation chairperson Bishop Jo Seoka told protestors outside the Mining Indaba at the CTICC on Wednesday.

Seoka called on CEOs of mining companies to try his bottled water, which had been specially contained from rivers near mines in Mpumalanga.

No delegates obliged.

Seoka and members of the foundation were taking part in the Alternative Mining Indaba in Woodstock, where speakers such as Graça Machel were guest speakers on Wednesday.

It is a rival conference that seeks to draw attention away from the policy makers and investors at the Mining Indaba. It wants those in power to listen to the people’s concerns regarding health and socio-economic issues.

Protest bus

A protest bus left their venue with activists singing songs against President Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, with references to the Marikana tragedy, where miners were shot dead by police.

As the bus made its way through the streets of Cape Town, some bystanders looked puzzled at the spectacle, while others raised their fists in the air, yelling, “Amandla”.

“We are here to try and demonstrate to the mining bosses that the damage that they’ve caused in the communities actually kill people,” Seoka said.

On Tuesday, former British prime minister Tony Blair gave delegates a similar message, telling them that companies have to sincerely engage with communities where they wish to invest. "Try and help communities that you are investing in," he said, adding this caution: "How to make change work is a very difficult thing to achieve."

Seoka said outside the CTICC: “We have brought water from various resources such as taps, rivers and streams so that they can see if … they can survive."

“They don’t mean what they say,” he told Fin24. “They refuse to engage with communities where they are extracting these resources and, until that happens, there will never be any co-operation between the company that is mining and the communities where they are mining.”

He said there should be dialogue at the Mining Indaba to improve mining so that it is responsible, rather than simply "extraction of resources".

Fin24’s Matthew le Cordeur filed this video report from the CTICC:

"The exorbitant fees and exclusion from the programme means the Mining Indaba is purely investor driven", Seoka wrote in the below opinion piece on Sunday.

Full opinion piece: Alternative Mining Indaba calls for inclusion of communities

‘Our water is polluted’

The Bench Marks Foundation's Boledi Moraba says the water her community drinks in Emalahleni in Mpumalanga is polluted from nearby mines, but they have little choice but to drink it.

“The mines … contaminate the water,” she told Fin24.

Moraba was running an exhibition on the protest bus, with posters, news clippings and a water testing kit to demonstrate how polluted the water was.

“Sometimes our water in the taps is so dirty that no one can consume the water,” she said. “Most people who live in rural areas normally drink that water, because they don’t have facilities nearby, where they can buy bottled water.”

Watch the full interview:

Driving past the Cape Town City Hall, where former president Nelson Mandela stood 25 years ago as free man singing liberation songs, the protestors returned to full song.

Except, Mandela's songs had gone silent, replaced with “new” liberation songs formed on the rocky outcrop of Marikana, a new challenge clearly in the air.

The protestors in full swing:

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