Monthly Archives: February 2016

South Africa: Community Voices Muted At Alternative Mining Indaba

18 FEBRUARY 2016
GroundUp (Cape Town)

By Christopher Rutledge

By giving corporations a bigger stake, the people affected by mining are being marginalised

At the 2014 Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI), a community leader stood up and made an impassioned plea for the AMI to be opened up to more community participation and held closer to where communities are experiencing the effects of mining.

By the time the 2015 AMI came around, communities had become so frustrated at their exclusion that they initiated an impromptu protest at the indaba. The organisers were livid and could not understand why the AMI should be the target of community protest.

For the 2016 AMI, community funding support to attend had been withdrawn. Less than 10% of the delegates were community members affected by mining.

The AMI states that its first aim is “to provide a platform for communities affected and impacted by the extractive industries to reclaim their rights through the formulation of alternatives”. Foregrounding communities, and providing the space to “create meaningful decision making processes for communities” are the key objective of the AMI.

Yet looking through the 2016 programme, one is struck that out of 69 speaking slots or allocations to influence discussions, only ten slots were allocated to communities. In commission after commission, when counting the participants and doing a roll call of who was present, community participants were noticeably absent and rarely pipped the 10% level.

On the Sunday evening before the AMI was due to start, I received a call at 11pm from community members who were bitterly disappointed that the small group of them that had managed to squeeze out an invitation and support to attend the AMI, were housed in dire old army barracks with stinking toilets and poor facilities, while the organisers were all enjoying four-star luxury.

While I understand the difficulties of finding accommodation in Cape Town during this period, I do think it speaks to the lack of preference that community members enjoy.

Where community members were present in commissions, they were often faced with hostile interventions by business delegates, who often sought to limit the intensity of the debate or the radical contributions of the participants. Business delegates were disguised as free thinking hippies in one case, or often as NGOs, very seldom announcing their funders or members.

Having been invited by the organisers to facilitate a session on business and human rights, I was confronted by a situation where the organisers had asked me to co-facilitate with an NGO which upon further investigation turned out to be a proxy for Shell, Vale Mining, Total and other corporate entities. When I raised my concerns with the organisers, I was asked to accommodate their inclusion.

During my exchange with the coordinating committee of the AMI, it became clear that the incorporation of business into the life of the AMI and indeed a policy of dialogue and collaboration which excludes communities had already taken root within the funders of the indaba and its organising committee.

Collaboration and dialogue with business and capital is of course not a new phenomenon and has been the cornerstone of efforts by people such as Ban Ki Moon of the UN, who has promoted big business as a “truly transformative force” whose goodwill and resources provide a “unique opportunity” to drive sustainable development.

Others, such as Simon Zadek, a recent contributor to Ban Ki-Moon’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, whose 2008 article Global Collaborative Governance, There is No Alternative argued: “It is through collaboration, often involving the oddest bedfellows, that we vest this generation’s hope for effectively addressing the challenges of poverty, inequality, and environmental insecurity.”

The logic here is rather straight forward and through various processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the message rings consistently as Maria Hengeveld, a Fulbright fellow in human rights at Columbia University explains the message to convey; that corporations are our partners, not our enemies. We reach out to them asking for responsibility, and we don’t demand accountability. We are urged to charm them and not to scold them. And we should of course do all of this, while ignoring the long violent history of dispossession and exclusion presided over by the very corporates we are now to embrace as our partners. We are asked to ignore the long history corporations have of assimilating the liberal language of NGOs, while fastidiously bulldozing communities off their land.

In an address at the AMI by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a body representing major mining companies with which the AMI has been having private meetings, the chairperson noted how progressive their members were and how Mark Cutifani, the CEO of Anglo, was one of their most forward thinking members.

I was struck by the irony of it all. Mark Cutifani’s Anglo is currently presiding over almost a century of dispossession and the abuse of 65,000 community members human rights in Mokopane. This systemic and structural violence against the community of Mapela in Mokopane is vividly captured in a current report which I authored for ActionAid South Africa entitled Precious Metal II, A systemic Inequality.

The promotion by the AMI for certain NGO groups to participate in the corporate Mining Indaba, itself raises serious questions about the efficacy of providing legitimacy to the corporate Mining Indaba. Having a few dissenting voices in a limited number of discussions does more for the corporates than it does for the people the NGOs profess to do it for.

Maria Hengeveld captures it well when she argues: ‘Corporations have long recognized that investing in NGOs and attaching their brands to trusted activist organizations – preferably those who represent “innocent victims” such as children and women and, ideally, those who focus on the cultural and traditional practices that oppress them – is a lucrative way to protect their reputations and pacify opposition to corporate globalization. Increasingly, they rely on NGOs not just to legitimize their direct practices but also to normalize neoliberal, market-led development.”

The issue then is not so much that we must engage business and government on the impact mining has on communities, but how do we do this in a way that not only builds the agency of communities to articulate their issues to the duty bearers in government and business, but also that our engagement does not provide legitimacy to corporate and state abuses, and does not further entrench the inequality that is inherent in the current system.

It is in challenging the current inequities of the system which silences communities living in poverty that social justice NGOs have stepped into the breach to facilitate community engagement.

The danger with the current model adopted by the AMI, which excludes communities and preferences NGO elites, is that it sets up NGOs as a Sixth Estate of elites that speaks on behalf of communities and raise funds in the name of communities, while limiting and excluding communities in the very same way that state and corporate duty bearers consistently do.

Without placing communities in a position where they are empowered to drive their own change agenda, the intervention and agenda setting by NGOs are more likely to affirm existing inequalities rather than provide alternatives or a challenge to the status quo.

Finally, this brings me to the way the AMI is coordinated and run. The AMI does not have an elected governance structure and no community voices in the coordinating structure which develops its strategy and agenda. This by itself is not unusual, but it does raise concerns when the AMI appropriates the right to engage in negotiations with governments and business on behalf of communities. As I already pointed out, communities have an extremely limited role in its deliberations and absolutely no role in setting agendas.

It is ironic then that the AMI in its 2016 declaration declares that it seeks to end the exclusion and injustice against communities and seeks to give a voice to communities, when the AMI appears to be doing the very same thing it accuses government and corporates of doing.

The need to open this conversation to include communities goes to the heart of the role of NGOs in contemporary society. It is my hope that this opinion will facilitate such a discussion.

Opinions expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.


Africa: We Need a Real ‘Alternatives to Mining’ Indaba

By Farai Maguwu And Christelle Terreblanche

16th February 2016

This year’s alternative to mining conference in South Africa was a failure in many ways. It shied away from critical discussions over the intersections between the energy crises, the escalating looting of Africa’s resources, its deepening poverty and food insecurity and especially its disproportional vulnerability to global warming. Why were these burning issues not prominent on the programme?

You could be forgiven for thinking you were attending a side-event at Cape Town’s glitzy annual Mining Indaba in early February, when the opening panel of a civil society meeting repeatedly stressed how crucial mining is for Africa’s ‘development.’

The challenge, many inferred, was merely to close the tax gaps that have led to massive illicit financial outflows, secreted away to offshore banking centres by looting corporations. Another concern was to ensure that affected communities get a bit more bang for their buck.

Not justice for the dispossessed, not radical measures to head off a climate emergency driven by fossil fuel mining; not an end to systemic violence (reflecting capital-state power, society-nature exploitation and patriarchy), and certainly no word about alternatives to mining. At a time of extreme crises in the mining industry – including 90% declines in stock market values of industry leaders Anglo American, Glencore and Lonmin – this was the moment to strike the Achilles Heel of minerals capitalism.

After all, the 7th Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) speakers were talking on behalf of millions of Africans alienated from their land and livelihoods in an unprecedented scramble for Africa’s resources, mostly aided and abetted by corrupt local elites.

The outflow of non-renewable mineral wealth is said to be offset by attracting ‘much needed’ foreign direct investment, boosting national ‘growth’ (Gross Domestic Product) and creating jobs. But mining takes a massive toll on the prospects of future generations, on the environment and especially on already poor communities in the here and now.

This is a net outflow of wealth accompanied by an entrenchment of the structural violence that had torn the continent’s people apart for centuries. Above all, as the local elites are pocketing millions that fall from corporate tables, governments in Africa have slowed down on productive and sustainable sectors of their economies such as agriculture, renewable energy generation and manufacturing.

In most cases, that means rural communities are forcibly removed, ill-compensated (if at all), and suffer violent repression of protests and countless mining externalities such as dust, bad air, blasting and toxic water. Displaced from access to their reproductive resources, including growing food, women often bear the brunt of the violent dislocation. They live as the bottom layer at the edges of squalid mining towns where they render unpaid and devalued care work, but swell the increasingly feminised ranks of refugees on the continent.

Cheap migrant labour, after all, had cemented South Africa’s minerals-energy complex. This structural fault line creates poverty and inequality, on behalf of profits for transnational companies who were enticed to the African Mining Indaba by, among other things, golf days and music soirée treats.

So where were the countless African communities adversely affected by mining? A few were present among the 350-strong AMI delegates, but the event was dominated by NGOs, liberal funders and the faith community. The AMI programme contained fewer than a third of speakers who were community representatives. They were mostly given five-minute speaking slots to describe complex, multiple layers of dispossession.

A few more affected voices were heard in the side-sessions. As one woman from Mokopane in South Africa’s North West province, where the community had been fighting a seven year battle said: “When a woman loses land, (the family) can’t eat, we can’t produce”.

There are plenty of reasons for wondering what happened to a potential ‘alternative’ forum to garner much-needed solidarity action and justice for marginalised groups, while exposing mining atrocities – much like the World Social Forum is to the World Economic Forum.

Beyond this year’s less-than-ambitious AMI agenda, three trends were particularly indicative of this ‘alternative’ potential gone astray.

First, the opening remarks betrayed a certain apologetic tone. Almost every official speaker indicted mining as harmful. Nevertheless, all argued that mining must continue and can be reined in: mining is good for Africa because Africa needs development and must grow.

This is despite over 60 years of imposed development schemes that had left much of the continent more export-dependent and depleted than before, structurally skewed into uneven enclaves and politically captured by transnational corporations.

Across town, the mining corporates were consolidating their growing power over the continent’s resources, striking deals for big infrastructure and off-set schemes with governments – all of which lead to further land, water and ‘green grabs’ – resources enclosed purportedly to mitigate climate change that actually lead to further devastation and enclosure.

But all this is framed as ‘development,’ even ‘green’ development. The corporate AMI counterpart even had it’s own ‘sustainability’ day for the public this year, though few mining houses comply with environmental requirements.

The mining-for-development paradigm is increasingly questioned among progressives worldwide, especially in the Global South, given the role of fossil fuel and energy-intensive mineral extraction in escalating inequality, climate change and other socio-ecological problems.

The narrative of ‘mining ourselves out of poverty’ is now banal propaganda: from government, from big corporates and sadly, from civil society – which seemed to sing the same tune in Cape Town despite mounting evidence that this is a fallacy.

It is the ‘development’-at-any-cost mindset that underpins the African Mining Vision, of which the AMI only said: let’s ‘domesticate’ the corporate vision, through engagement and better consent and transparency mechanisms.

This already alludes to the second problem: the AMI once again failed to ‘connect the dots’ from mining to climate, electricity and economy, as Patrick Bond commented after the 2015 AMI gathering.

The conference unnecessarily shied away from critical discussions over the intersections between the energy crises (from South Africa’s crunch, coal addiction and nuclear ambitions to the fact that less than half of Africans have access to electricity), the escalating looting of Africa’s resources, its deepening poverty and food insecurity and especially its disproportional vulnerability to global warming.

Why were these burning issues not prominent on the programme? Where are the ‘alternatives’ -from food sovereignty to post-extractivism to ‘zero waste’ and solidarity economy pathways? Where are the discussions about real jobs that could also ward off catastrophic warming of the continent? Why does gender remain a side issue?

We can think of countless reasons why the climate change-mining link should have been a prominent theme of the 2016 AMI. Given AMI’s close relationship with the faith community, surely there was reason to take note of last year’s mea culpa intervention by the Pope’s ‘Encyclical’ on climate change that has quite a lot to say about mining impacts.

Then, the world watched in astonishment as the United Nation’s COP21 Paris climate talks condemned Africa to an almost certain ecocide. And we are acutely aware of the drought that is crippling farmers across southern Africa, the water crisis and the billions of dollars ‘fleeing’ the developing world as the capitalist financial crisis deepens.

As conference attendees sweltered in an unprecedented heat wave, how could the connection between extraction and climate not be centre-stage?

Lastly, the most disconcerting question: why is the AMI failing to follow through on its own resolutions? In 2014, the civil society gathering resolved to ‘name and shame’ transgressing companies. In 2015, it went further, resolving to hold a Mining Tribunal to hold companies accountable.

We are still waiting. Not that there has been lack of opportunity. It would have been easy enough to slot into a growing movement that held a Third International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature at the December 2015 Paris COP21, with mining corporations prominent among the indicted – and the event presided over by respected Cape Town lawyer Cormac Cullinan.

Indeed, it is unfortunate that no space has been created at the AMI for reflection on previous resolutions: progress, setbacks and the worsening trends in dispossession and inequality since its first meeting in 2010.

These omissions only reinforce a growing perception that the ‘alternative’ is just a space for victims of mining to blow off steam, while they are taught how to scrounge a few more crumbs from the looters’ banquet, via civilizing-society NGOs.

The mute tone at the opening session was also evident in this year’s communiqué to the main Indaba, with rather polite suggestions that governments do the things they already should be doing to reign in transnationals and protect their own people.

Sadly, the AMI’s narrative can hardly be distinguished from the official big boys’ Indaba – that Africa’s hopes of economic growth are inextricably pinned to extraction and export of raw minerals – an optimism negated by the history of mining in Africa.

There was no ‘thinking outside the box’ about what else Africa can do apart from destructive mining. No discussion on commodity price volatility, China’s economic slowdown and its effect on African economies that heavily rely on mineral extraction and export.

For instance, the price of iron ore has slumped from $150 per ton in 2013 to $65 per ton in February 2016; coal and platinum are not far behind. Several mining companies are slowing production and sending workers home to cope with the commodity prices slump. Many will be placed on care maintenance for a couple of years to come, thereby drilling holes in the minerals-for-development narrative. Vast chunks of mining land are now un-economic, to be scavenged -terribly dangerously – by gangs of desperate, informal artisanal miners.

But mentioning this harsh reality – the decisive end of the commodity super-cycle -would have dampened the optimism of believers: both those who genuinely and innocently believe mining to be a panacea to Africa’s development crises, and those NGOs paid to sanitize mining in the civil society sphere.

Africa needs alternatives to mining and fossil fuels even as basic or minimal mining would remain necessary. Even keynoters at the official Mining Indaba screamed out for ‘diversification’ thanks to the crash of commodity prices. Not every mineral in Africa must be extracted NOW. We need alternatives to development-as-ecocide. We need solidarity against both the Western imperialist and BRICS-sub imperialist New Scramble for Africa.

In short, we need a conference on ‘Alternatives to Mining’, and even more coordinated resistance and solidarity.

After all, Africa gave rise to one of the most innovative solutions to both the capitalist and climate crisis: “Leave the Oil in the Soil, the Coal in the Hole, and the Fracking Shale Gas under the Grass!” This philosophy was catalyzed by the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists by the Nigerian government at the behest of Shell Oil 20 years ago, because they organized hundreds of thousands of people to peacefully protest the oil-extractive destruction of the Niger Delta.

The concept of avoiding a Resource Curse by leaving ‘wealth’ underground, has animated activists globally. Why could it not be discussed, let alone owned, in Cape Town in 2016? The NGOs’ failure of nerve and the neglect of mining communities’ interests so that mining-as-development rhetoric can continue, are reasons why the AMI steers dangerously close to becoming a ridiculous distraction, not a space for counter-power.

*Farai Maguwu, a doctoral candidate in Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is also the Founding Director of Centre for Natural Resource Governance in Zimbabwe.

Christelle Terreblanche is a doctoral candidate in Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


Copyright © 2016 Fahamu. All rights reserved.


Tanzania: In Defence of the Rights of the Poor to Land, Extractives Resources

1st January 2016
By Deodatus Mfugale

In September 2015, a group comprising eight non-governmental organisations that deal with land rights and extractives resources advocacy submitted to the Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, a review of the United Republic of Tanzania for the period from 2012 to 2015.

Organisations that took part in the review were the Network of Small-scale Farmers Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA), Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (HakiArdhi), Care International in Tanzania, Journalists Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET) and MJUMITA. Others are Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), Haki Madini and ONGEA.

In their Joint Submission, the civil society organisations that have been addressing human rights of small scale producers on land and extractive resources in Tanzania based their arguments on recommendations made by the various stakeholders in the areas on land and natural resources and call for further action by the government to address issues related to their rights.

According to a statement made at the launch of the Submission last year, the CSOs noted that the information and data on which the Submission was built came from various sources, including project and programme engagements with individual organisations, CSOs joint interventions and networking with like-minded organisations within and outside the country.

“All CSOs that have been involved in preparing this Submission acknowledge the progress that Tanzania has made so far regarding upholding human rights since the 1st UPR cycle,” the statement says. The Submission has also incorporated inputs offered through joint trainings (Government instistutions and CSOs ) on UPR that began in April 2015.

Information gathered from government institutions including Comission for Human Rights and Good Governance, Attorney Generals Chamber, Law Reform Commission and ministries responsible for land, minerals and energy and argriculture are part of this Submission.

The CSOs analysed the land rights of small farmers since Tanzania is a member and has ratified a number of international and regional legal instruments that address human rights issues including land rights. Such instruments include the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1976), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the African Charter.

It is also a member to two important regional courts namely the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the East African Court of Justice (ECJ). The Submission acknowledges that under the domestic normative framework, Tanzania has a Bill of Rights enshrined in its Constitution in 1984 but land was included as among the rights under the auspices of other property.

“During this periodic review, for example, the proposed Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania has incorporated a chapter on land in which core tenure security and tenurial rights of small farmers are still not protected, rather the radical title has remained with the President,” reads part of the Submission.

There are also courts of law and peices of legislation to address land issues. The National Land Policy 1995 and Land Act and Village Land Act of 1999 assited by other pieces of legislation and regulations on tenure of land have done little to fully protect small farmers tenurial rights. Further, during the period under review, the Ministry of Land, Housing and Human Settlements Development had released a number of regulations on land matters.

They include GN 266 of 2012: The Land (Rent) Regulations, 2012; GN 264 of 2012: The Land (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012;GN 265 of 2012: The Land Survey (General) Regulations, 2012 and GN 263 of 2012: The Land Disputes Courts (District Land and Housing Tribunal) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012. Also in the list are GN 259 of 2012:

The Registration of Documents (Amendment) Rules, 2012; GN 260 of 2012: The Chattel Transfer (Amendment) Rules, 2012 and GN 261 of 2012: The Land Registration (Amendment) Rules, 2012 all of which were made under the Land Act, Cap 113, the Land Registration Act, Cap 334, the Registration of Documents Act, Cap 117, the Courts (Land Disputes Settlement) Act, Cap 216, the Chattel Transfer Act, Cap 210 and the Land Survey Act, Cap 324 but all, of which have had little direct impact on promoting the land rights of small-scale farmers.

Regarding strategies, plans, and initiatives taken by the government during the review period, two programmes aiming at commercializing and modernizing the agriculture sector are worth mentioning here: Kilimo Kwanza and Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT).

One of the areas that the Kilimo Kwanza initiative is targeting is amending the Village Land Act No. 5 of 1999 to facilitate greater access to land by investors.

“We are greatly concerned that more village land which small farmers entirely depend on for their socio-economic livelihood is falling to be the victim of the initiative and forceful evictions cannot be avoided,” reads part of the submission. It adds that the SAGCOT initiative is also framed in a manner that provides for little participation of small farmers.

The two initiatives will see small farmers failing to benefit from the initiative and impede food security strategies the government had agreed to create during the previous review cycle.

“In this regard we are likely to witness violation of land rights and acute food shortage,” says the submission. The submission recognizes the fact that the government of Tanzania had pledged to address the question of land rights and avoid forceful eviction during the 1st review cycle.

However, the government has not taken firm actions to address land conflicts in the country. The long standing land-based conflicts, mostly between small farmers and investors, between small farmers themselves, and small farmers with agro pastoralists and pastoralists have yet to be fully resolved. Serious violent conflicts continue to be witnessed in Mvomero, Ulanga, Kilombero, Morogoro Rural, Bagamoyo, Mbarali, Loliondo, Babati, Kilosa, and Kiteto districts, among others.

A recent report by Special Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the Sources of Land Conflicts among different land Users of 2014/15 and that of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance of Tanzania (CHRAGG) highlight similar issues of land conflicts and show great concern over the escalation of violation of land rights, forceful evictions and improper administration of the land.

Lack of transparency in large land deals, inadequate and unfair compensation for individual land that has been taken by government or investors are among issues that violate the land rights of small farmers. In the eyes of the public, government is seen as having failed to put in place a proper mechanism that would initiate prompt action and amicably solve land conflicts in the country.

“Our general observation is that there are serious concerns that the land tenure of smallholder farmers will continue to be undermined through land grabbing and since they cannot afford some of the suggested fees, their land rights will remain insecure and possibly under constant threat,” says the Submission.

The civil society organisations strongly recommend the government to honour its commitments and address land rights issues in the next UPR cycle and revisits all recommendations concerning land rights violations of small producers that are being brought to their attention within the period under review via an established mechanism and its report and status be made public and become part of Government report for next UPR cycle.

“We further urge the government to honour its commitments under the Maputo Declaration particularly the allocation of 10 per cent of its national budget for agriculture, so that it can create an enabling environment for small-scale farmers to produce more for their families, meet the market demand and significantly contribute to the country’s food security.

This would also make small-scale farmers to become part of policy and legal formulations on land and argricultural initiatives. They are indispensable stakeholders in the country’s decision making process.

Regarding small-scale miners, the civil society organisations acknowledge that the country is endowed with substantial reserves of mineral resources, including metals, minerals and gemstones.

However the country’s legal regime including the Mining Act of 1998 tend to lean more towards encouraging foreign investment than promoting and safeguarding rights and interests of the wider Tanzanian population particularly small scale miners and communities around mining areas. There are concerns over the harmful impacts of the industry on the environment.

Moreover, the issue of livelihoods of those who have been moved from their homes and farms to give way to mining activities remain unresolved. They remain landless and are paid unfair compensation.

There is little or no evidence to show that the increase in mining activities in the country has actually contributed to a reduction in the level of poverty. “There is still no mechanism to protect the rights of communities who have been affected by large mining projects.

They are in no way involved in the mining projects and lack the power to intervene when things don’t go well on their part. This has resulted in the government carrying out forced eviction of small scale miners from their areas of operation,” says the Submission.

The CSOs cite a case in Chunya District of Mbeya Region whereby the rightful licence owners were barred from conducting mining activities in the area commonly known as Mount Elizabeth and instead that right was granted again to BAFEX Gold Mine in 2014.

The fate of 14 rightful holders of mining licence from that particular area and their families is unknown. “We recommend that the Government of Tanzania should avoid arbitrary eviction of small-scale miners and those who lose their mining rights should get prompt and fair compensations,” reads part of the submission.

There is also need for government to exercise good governance when dealing with small-scale miners, with due attention given to their rights and interests.

The CSOs also recommend that legal and policy reforms should be undertaken that would lead to poverty reduction among communities living around or adjacent to mining sites operated by investors.

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