Solidarity: Action instituted against Anglo Platinum over forced removals at Mohlohlo

25 July 2007

Press Release

Action instituted against Anglo Platinum over forced removals at Mohlohlo

Action was instituted Tuesday 24 July 2007, in the High Court Transvaal Provincial Division, by 106 residents of Ga- Puka and Ga Sekhaolelo (the Mohlohlo Community) against, the wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo Platinum, Potgietersrust Platinum’s Ltd and nine other defendants.

Amongst other relief sought is a final prohibitory interdict against the defendant from interfering with plaintiffs’ rights in their residences and in their land.

The action is brought in circumstances where 10 000 thousand Mohlohlo residents face imminent removal from their land to a resettlement village on the farm Armoede in order to make way for Anglo Platinum open cast mining operations.

Other defendants include, the Government of the Republic of South Africa in its capacity as the titleholder of the land in question, the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, the Premier of Limpopo Province, the Mapela Tribal Authority, Chieftainess Atalia Langa of the Mapela Langa tribe and two section 21 companies that have been acting as the proxies of the mine within the community.

The plaintiffs also seek an order of setting aside the lease agreement entered into between the mine and the Lebowa Bantustan government in 1993. In terms of that agreement the mine leased 3 farms from the tribe, including 2 on which the Mohlohlo community resides, on which the PPL mine carries out its open cast mining operations, at an annual rental of R5 000 per farm per annum escalating at 10 % per annum. Other than the lease the tribe derives no contractual benefit from mining operations and the associated destruction of vast tracts of community land and has no equity in the mine. The lease stands as the high water mark of apartheid dispossession of land rights. The entrenched poverty and exclusion of the community stands in marked contrast to the tens of billions of rand in profit that the mine has generated and will continue to generate over the next decades for the shareholders of Anglo Platinum (Anglo American PLC and Chase Manhattan Bank).

The action is also for the setting aside of the “relocation agreement” entered into between the mine and the section 21 company’s in terms of which the community will be relocated in return for which every family will receive R20 000.00. R12 000.00 when the family relocates and a further R8 000.00 when the last family has relocated. It is common cause that the members and directors of the section 21 companies who were nominated in 1998 have never stood for reelection and that in terms of the statutes of the companies the community has no power to remove them and there is no formal accountability. The section 21 companies are “advised” by lawyers paid for by Anglo Platinum.

The plaintiffs are also asking for an order that a “tribal resolution” that ostensibly authorises the relocation of the community be declared not to be binding on the plaintiffs on the grounds that Anglo Platinum has not complied with the conditions set by the community.

The plaintiffs aver that PPL is engaged in a forced relocation that is taking place outside of the framework of the law and outside of any valid and binding agreement with the community or individual residents.

PPL has placed the community under huge pressure to relocate. The communities agricultural and grazing land has been destroyed or fenced off, the piped water supply has been destroyed and intolerable conditions have been created in the community as a result of opencast mining in close proximity to the residential areas, even to the extent that homes must be evacuated during regular blasting to protect against injury from collapsing structures and flying debris.

It is alleged that individual householders were compelled to sign individual agreements under duress including threats of physical harm and threats that they will be left homeless if they did not sign. It is also alleged that material facts were misrepresented to them.

It is alleged that husbands were induced to sign away the rights of their wives without their consent and vice versa. In some instances there are no individual agreements at all.

Community representatives say that litigation and mass action are the only avenues still available to the community because Anglo Platinum has consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiations with the community.

Anglo Platinum is accused by community members of using devious manipulative and dishonest tactics to subvert democratic community organization to sow division and create confusion and uncertainty. It is accused of refusing to recognize the community’s right to independent professional representation and of “buying” community leaders. In so doing the mine violates residents human rights under directly applicable principles of international law and in violation of World Bank guidelines to which Anglo Platinum and its parent company Anglo Platinum claim to subscribe.

Anglo Platinum, it is alleged, has further sought unfairly to use its monopoly over skills, knowledge and resources, as well as its disproportionate influence over government to gain an advantage over disadvantaged rural communities in order to oppress and exploit them. Inter alia Anglo Platinum has consistently misrepresented to the community and to the government that it has the right to carry out mining operations on the communities land and that therefore the community has no option but to give up its land, at no cost, and to be relocated in order to make way for mining. In truth, no mining authorisation may be granted in respect of residential land in terms of section 48 of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the only way in which Anglo Platinum could acquire rights to the land was through a negotiated agreement where the utility value of the land is a relevant consideration.

Government has consistently failed to intervene to protect the rights and interests of the community. Environmental and mining laws are violated with impunity and dangerous and unsafe conditions created by the mine have not been addressed. These include blasting operations in close proximity to the residential areas that has resulted in injury and damage to property, the seizure of cultivated lands belonging to members of the neighbouring Ga Chaba community without consultation or compensation much less agreement and the establishment of a razor wire tipped corridor through which vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the villages is channeled in violation of traffic safety legislation.

Recently the mine supported violent police action against residents who were protesting against removals by providing heavy earth moving machines to remove barricades erected to prevent removal trucks entering the villages. A number of community members were seriously injured. Sixty five year old Salome Notwane will undergo surgery next week to remove a bullet lodged in her face after she was shot during the protests. Twenty four year old Lucy Makena who was also shot during the protests is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery after sustaining a bullet wound to the inside of her thigh during the same protests. Previously dozens of women protesting the seizure of their farm land were beaten and arrested at Anglo Platinum’s behest.

In 2003 Anglo Platinum relocated 7000 residents of Ga Chaba to an unsustainable resettlement village at Sterkwater. The relocation have resulted in deepening and entrenched poverty and hardship for the community. Families who refused to relocate had all essential services discontinued to them and their infrastructure was demolished around them to punish them for their intransigence and as a lesson to those who might think of doing the same. There are no indications that the current relocations will have any different outcome.

Anglo Platinum is presently making “strategic interventions” in Ga Chaba village, co-opting elements in the community with offers of jobs in exchange for support and working to undermine and discredit the traditional leadership of the community in order to lay the ground for the removal of that community as well.

On Saturday 28 July 2007 the Peoples Poet, Mzwakhe Mbuli, will give a performance in Mohlohlo in support of the Mohlohlo community’s struggle for their land and for justice. Mohlohlo residents will be joined by representatives from many other communities around Limpopo and North West Province and some from as far afield as Pondoland, who are engaged in struggles of their own against Anglo Platinum and other mining companies. Documentary footage of the performance will be broadcast to an international audience.

This Statement is put out by Richard Spoor in his capacity as attorney for the Plaintiffs and on behalf of members of the Mohlohlo community.

For more information please contact Richard Spoor 013 7511662 or Stephen Mothoa 0823342195 or Shati Kutu 0824473722.

Dated: 25 July 2007 at White River, Mpumalanga