Security guards have shot and injured residents and police as the people of Mononono continue to be failed by organs of state in a battle against a mining company that seeks to forcefully pillage the land owned by the community writes Phyllia Ngoatje
IT is terrible to imagine that the mechanisms we rely on to enforce the compliance of court orders and general measures of lawfulness are so ineffectual.
When the police sit down, fold their arms and watch while private security thugs harass and threaten the lives of community members this sorely points to something very dysfunctional in our society.
The unfortunate truth is that this is not something the community of Mononono, in the North West, has to imagine. This is their lived reality and struggle. On countless occasions, the Mononono community has been forced to approach the courts in an ongoing battle against Ikwezi Vandadium (Pty) Ltd.
Ikwezi Vanadium is a mining company that seeks to pillage the land owned by the community – forcefully and relentlessly mining on Harkdoornfontein 12 JQ farm. The matter between the Mononono Community and Ikwezi Vanadium has been heard in court on various occasions.
The most significant for the Mononono community was first heard on 3 October 2019 at the North West High Court, then on 4 September 2020 and again on 15 December 2020.
The case continues with Ikwezi having initiated appeal proceedings in January 2021, effectively suspending the interim interdict granted by the North West High Court on 15 December 2020 and allowing them to continue prospecting and bulk sampling.
Ikwezi Vanadium’s prospecting and bulk sampling licence will expire in March 2021 and in the meanwhile, the company refuses to heed any judgments made by the High Court, continuing activities that are considered unlawful by the community of Mononono.
The Mononono community has been organizing and protesting against these gross violations of their rights to justice. Their peaceful protest actions have been met by warped and brute force of a National Strike Intervention Unit (NSIU) that acts as Ikwezi Vanadium’s private security.
The NSIU has unjustifiably and sanctimoniously proceeded to rain hellfire against protesting community members, wounding 15 community members and two police officers in December 2020.
The events happening in Mononono are reminiscent of 2012 when lethal force was used by security forces to cull the legitimate concerns of workers in Marikana. On 8 January 2021, Ikwezi Vanadium returned to the farm to resume operations after having being removed in December by a sheriff of the court.
This time making sure that their private security does not hesitate to cripple community members.
As this article is being written the official count of those injured is now more than 20 and there is no end in sight to the violence Ikwezi Vanadium is willing to inflict.
Members of the community immediately approached Mogwase Police Services to intervene and put a halt to the violence, but the police service has done nothing to assist the community.
The extent to which the police service has failed to vindicate the legitimate rights of the community in Mononono is simply odious. The police are not only failing in their duty to serve and protect but are deliberately defeating the ends of justice, arresting five of the private security personnel and releasing them on the same day while failing to open cases for countless other injured community members, one of whom is currently in a coma, is questionable.
The pitiful response from the Mogwase police station commander is that community members “cannot expect the police to stop the legal process and engage themselves in issues that are not on their mandate” all the while the community continue to be terrorized by rubber bullets, tearing into their bodies, mouths and genitals without reprieve.
Who can the Mononono community rely on to ensure that justice is served when there is a wilful reluctance on state mechanisms to enforce issues under their purview? Where do we get justice as mining affected communities when we are continually brutalised and everyone stands by idly as the gun fire rains down on us?
The Mogwase Police Station has a responsibility to arrest Bonani Ndlovu and his thugs that think they can flout orders of the court and effectively our Constitution which guarantees the protections of our rights as South African citizens. If not the South African Police Services, then DMRE needs to step in immediately to revoke the prospecting and bulk sampling licences of companies like Ikwezi Vanadium who continuously think and act as if they are above the law.
If the blind eye police services have turned towards the Mononono community was not enough, that of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) is proof that no one is watching out for mining affected communities.
DMRE has failed to act despite being joined to the case in the High Court and being contacted by MACUA (Mining Affected Communities United in Action) and WAMUA (Women Affected by Mining United in Action) for urgent intervention.
The silence of the DMRE speaks volumes and it says, loud and clear, that DMRE only interacts with mining companies to the extent of issuing them their mining and prospecting rights, regardless of the manner in which those activities are later undertaken.
DMRE has failed to show that they pay attention to the grievances of communities such as Mononono, which can be seen through the refusal of the department to furnish the community with the prospecting right application and environmental impact assessment documentation it requested in November 2020. And they continue to fail us while claiming to be regulatory bodies.
The shortfall of our legislative framework that does not allow for meaningful consultation with mining affected communities falls at the crux of the issue. According to the DMRE Ikwezi Vanadium consulted with traditional leaders, but the community and the people who currently occupy residences on the farm were completely unaware of these processes – if and when they were happening.
This is the reason MACUA and WAMUA advocate for free prior and informed consent (FPIC). To ensure that communities are intimately involved in processes that affect their ability to self determine and consent to the destruction and excavation of minerals on their land. Another pressing shortfall is that there are currently no oversight mechanisms, which ensure that DMRE makes regular site visits. DMRE readily accepts annual compliance reports from the large quantity of mines in South Africa without verifying the truth of those documents’ content. This is deeply concerning because we look to offices such as the DMRE to regulate and ensure compliance with national laws. Responsive and truly democratic state apparatus is urgently required in order to ensure communities like Mononono are able to claim their rights.
*Phyllia Ngoatje is an activist with the movements WAMUA and MACUA with an LLB from Wits University.