Blog Entry

Mokopane Residents Picket Canadian High Commission in South Africa to Protest Ivanhoe Mines

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Members of the Mokopane community in Limpopo province, where Ivanhoe Mines subsidiary Ivanplats is building the Platreef platinum mine, today protested inside and outside the Pretoria office of the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA)  as well as picketing the Canadian High Commission. 

Aubrey Langa, spokesperson of the Mokopane Community Committee, organised under the Elections Coordination Structure, says the demonstrators accuse SAHRA of failing to take the community’s complaints seriously when they complained about the violation of graves by Ivanhoe last year.

According to protest organiser Hussein Kopole, SAHRA personel did meet the protestors and undertook to investigate the community's complaints this coming Tuesday. Should the allegations be founded, a Cease Work Order will be instituted against the mining company.

The protestors also picketed the Canadian High Commission to pressure the Canadian government to take responsibility for Ivanhoe, and address their complaints about the destruction of graves as well as their claim that the company has failed to comply with a requirement to provide a 10% “free-rider” equity share to the community -- a requirement they allege the South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (SARDLR) is now withdrawing in collusion with the company, based on the retroactive application of a recent policy change. A Canadian official came outside to meet them, and as Aubrey Langa reports, promised that the community members would get a meeting with the Canadian High Commissioner within the next few weeks.

Langa stated that the community was appealing to the South African and Canadian publics to assist them against what they see as Ivanhoe’s abuse of international and national laws, with the "collusion amd connivance" of South African authorities. The community specifically aims to raise awareness amongst Ivanhoe’s shareholders, who will be gathering for the company’s annual general meeting tomorrow, May 21, in Vancouver.

Below, the full statement of the Mokopane Community Committee.

A. General Violations

  • Collusion between Ivanplats and government officials to perpetrate violation of our human rights and constitutionally guaranteed informal land rights concerning the commercial mine development that Ivanplats is conducting on our communal and state land.
  • Ivanplats is refusing to talk appropriately with us and this is combined with the government’s refusal to listen to us regarding these violations.

We have therefore decided to crawl from our villages to Canada hoping to be heard and listened to.

B. Specific Violations

Relating to Graves: Immoral collusion and conniving regarding violation of our ancestral graves and burial grounds in that:

  • Ivanplats has before and after the granting of mining right refused to consult appropriately and ethnographically with the community regarding impact of the development on ancestral graves and burial grounds, as provided for by legal frameworks that regulate the development;
  • Since April 2014 SAHRA (South African Heritage Resource Agency) refused to listen to us and consequently failed to take action against the violations, including specifically to heed to our request that SAHRA investigate allegations that Ivanplats is sinking a shaft of top of two graves of the Makgetha family that are located within the box-cut [mine portal];
  • When the SAPS (South African Police Services) eventually agreed to open a criminal case in this regard, the local prosecutor refused to prosecute and failed to provide cogent reasons for the refusal. The case is now referred to the Office of the DDP (Deputy Director of Prosecution) for review;
  • The DMR (Department of Mineral Resources) has under the persuasion of the Office of the Public Protector instituted investigation proceedings and found that indeed Ivanplats has contravened provisions of relevant laws in this regard, but the DMR subsequently refused to apply appropriate sanctions including suspension of operations until corrective measure and/or remedial steps are taken;
  • The Minister of DMR, Adv Ngoako Ramatlhodi, also refused in terms of internal appeal processes to suspend operations despite conceding that there are grave violations of human rights in this regard, stating that the suspension “will result in irreparable financial loss” to Ivanplats. This means he is comfortable with selling his soul for the Canadian dollar.

Relating to Empowerment

  • Ivanplats is imposing itself as the preferred financiers of the 20% BBBEE stake allocated to the community in terms of mining policy, whilst on the other hand disregarding the community call to accommodate a minimum 10% free-rider equity the traditional community is entitled to in terms of land policy;
  • After the DRDLR (Department of Rural Development and Land Reform), which is the custodian of the 10% free-rider equity, was pressurised by community-based activists resulting eventually in the December 2014 issuing of a letter by the Office of the DDG (Deputy-Director General) imposing allocation of the free-rider equity, the provincial office of the DRDLR is now conniving and colluding with Ivanplats to reverse this gain. From a week ago the two are now saying that because the operation of the free-rider policy is suspended with immediate effect from April this year (2015), the gain is retrospectively reversed notwithstanding that in principle the BBBEE transaction was closed in December 2014;
  • In respond to this immoral coalition, we woke up at dawn in Limpopo Province to come to Gauteng Province and tell the Canadian government and the whole world about this unholy pact, which is calculated to make more poor the poorest, more vulnerable the most vulnerable, and impact negatively the environment of the most affected and hapless traditional community;
  • In line with the strategy of indirect rule of oppression, disentitlement and disenfranchisement, the officials of provincial DRDLR are conniving and colluding with the imperialist mining company to choose who represents and speaks for the community, in order to silent dissenting voice and to muzzle freedom of expression in asserting constitutional rights. This is despite that the community-based activists fought for establishment by the Office of the DG of an official ECS (Elections Coordination Structure) manned by democratically elected community representatives and charged with the responsibility of organising consultations meetings. The provincial officials of the DRDLR gave a conniving and colluding nod to a programme of consultation meetings that is unilaterally formulated, developed and implemented by Ivanplats, in utter disregard of the ECS.