Communities left out of the plans meant to benefit them - report

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A total of 95% of surveyed members of communities in a social audit have not seen the social and labour plans of local mines that are intended to benefit them.

This is according to the Social Audit Baseline Report, released on Tuesday by NGO ActionAid South Africa, in collaboration with community movements Mining Affected Communities United in Action and Women from Mining Affected Communities United in Action, as well as the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) of Wits University.

The social audit was conducted across 10 mining-affected communities in SA, to determine their current living conditions, their challenges and the awareness of social and labour plans (SLPs) of the companies mining nearby.

The baseline report, however, only includes outcomes from eight surveyed communities, as the remaining two surveys were not completed by the time the report was compiled.

Crucial for accountability

Sifiso Dladla, who helped facilitate the social audits across the country, told Fin24 in an interview on Tuesday that it was crucial to find out if those surveyed were involved in the formulation of SLPs, so that they could hold companies accountable to their plans and truly benefit from them.

Among the key findings of the survey is that 91% of respondents did not know what a SLP is, 85% of respondents did not know of any structures in their community which engaged with mines on these plans and 95% had never seen a SLP.

Beneficiaries unaware of the benefits

"Social Labour Plans are meant to be the main drivers of corporate social responsibility programmes which are mandated by the Constitution and the Mineral Resources Development Act, yet the beneficiaries of the programmes appear not to be aware of the programmes and of how they are supposed to benefit from it," the report stated.

Other findings showed that 79% of respondents said there was no benefit to mines at all, 8% felt mines brought negative effects such as sickness, dispossessions and damages and only 13% felt there were positive effects such as clinics, roads and employment.

Robert Krause, a researcher, said that CALS focused on getting access to SLPs in order for the communities to carry out their social audits.

"That experience shows another structural impediment to communities actually participating and actually making sure they benefit," he said.

Krause said the Department of Mineral Resources required applications to be made through a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) process, in Pretoria.

Plans hard to access

Even once access is granted, the plans are not easy to access because they are not digitised and must be physically obtained from regional offices.

This shows it is difficult for communities to have any input in plans, and they are worse off if they don't have lawyers to help them.

"It is important (for communities) to get access because when a plan is being developed, they should be able to give their input. For example, if a community needs a maternity ward, it’s no good building them a general clinic.

"Once there is an SLP, then communities also need to know how to access benefits, like where to go and what is being offered."

He added that communities should be empowered to hold companies accountable to their commitments.

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