Today we are celebrating, alongside our friends and allies in South Africa, a landmark ruling in South Africa’s Constitutional Court that “will fundamentally shift the power dynamics between mining-affected communities and companies.”

Pondo People call for their right to say No to mining. Photo: ACC

Last week we had the privilege of accompanying Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee in her visit to the UK. Nonhle’s visit helped raise the profile of the growing movement, led by mining-affected communities throughout South Africa, for the Right to Say No to Mining. This recent ruling by the Constitutional Court sets an encouraging precedent for the ongoing High Court case brought forward by Nonhle’s community of Xolobeni and the movement as a whole.

The following article, originally published in the Daily Maverick on 26 October, 2018, tells the story.

Ruling ‘fundamentally changes power dynamics’ as communities win big in ConCourt

By Greg Nicolson, Daily Maverick

“A Constitutional Court ruling on Thursday has fundamentally changed the power balance between mining companies and communities. The court upheld the Lesethleng community’s land tenure rights, meaning companies will no longer simply be able to evict occupants of the land they want to mine.

Representatives of mining communities believe Thursday’s unanimous Constitutional Court ruling on mining in Lesethleng, North West will fundamentally shift the power dynamics between mining-affected communities and companies.

“The existence of a mineral right does not itself extinguish the rights of a landowner or any other occupier of the land in question,” said the judgment penned by Acting Judge Xola Petse.

Petse began the judgment by quoting Franz Fanon on the dispossession of land under colonialism and added, in his own words, “Thus, strip someone of their source of livelihood, and you strip them of their dignity too.”

The Lesethleng Community Village bought its farm in 1919 but due to racially discriminatory laws it had to be registered in the name of the native commissioner, who held it in a trust for the leader of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela.

Itereleng Bakgatla Mineral Resources (IBMR) and Pilanesberg Platinum Mines (PPM) were granted a mining licence in 2008 by the department of mineral resources and a surface lease agreement was signed with the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela traditional authority.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday overturned an eviction order that would have forced the Lesethleng community off its farming land. The community was denied leave to appeal the order in both the North West High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal.

“With eviction hovering ominously over their heads, the livelihoods of the applicants and their families is likely to be severely and adversely affected if not perpetually ruined. This matter is of great public importance, transcending the immediate interests of the litigants in this case,” said Petse.

The judgment said the companies had failed to meaningfully consult the community according to requirements in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and that the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA) must be considered… Read the full story

Cover photo: Farmstead and distant sand-dunes in Xolobeni. Credit: GroundUp.