A multinational is attempting to sweep away communities in South Africa that stand in its way, but resistance is growing, writes Charlie Kimber
Phillipos Dolo travelled from South Africa to London this week to confront the giant Anglo American mining corporation at its annual general meeting.
He came with a burning anger at the way the company has treated the people in the area where he lives.
Anglo Platinum, which is 70 percent owned by Anglo American, is creating the world’s biggest open cast platinum mine near Mokopane in Limpopo province.
“The mine bosses are destroying our community, destroying our ancestral lands and turning the whole area into a rural slum,” Dolo told Socialist Worker. “It produces fortunes for them, but terrible poverty for us.
“They come to an area, remove the people and then set up mines which cause terrible environmental destruction as well as destroying farming land. And the wealth goes to the mining company.
“When people resist, they face beatings, fines, jail and constant harassment.
“My own family has suffered. We used to have land that my mother, father and two sisters worked on to grow food to survive.
“The company seized this land and gave us no compensation. They ignore the law and sweep away our rights. It is not just happening in my area but in large parts of South Africa’s northern provinces.”
Anglo Platinum claims that “community representatives” have agreed to its activities.
But these representatives are organised in what are called Section 21 companies – fake bodies that have not allowed any elections or popular consultation over the last decade.
Dolo criticised these stooges as “rats and dung beetles” – and was promptly arrested and held in custody for six days. He now faces a court hearing.
Some 17,000 people have now been relocated in the area where Dolo organises, through a mixture of bribes and violence.
In February Anglo Platinum’s cronies in two Section 21 companies in the Mapela area (near Mokopane) ensured that 25, mostly older people, were arrested in Sterkwater, and that children were arrested in Mothlohlo.
The children were celebrating the results of an independently organised local poll that rejected Anglo American’s plans.
In Ga-Pila, about 6,000 people were relocated in order to make way for a mine waste rock dump.
But 26 families defiantly refused to move. The company cut off their water and electricity, bulldozed the surrounding roads, and demolished neighbours’ houses to leave vast piles of rubble near where people live.
This community now exists in the shadow of the rock dump.
To prevent similar occurrences in the future, Anglo Platinum now pays compensation for displaced people in two lumps, one upfront and the rest when the last member of the community moves out.
Richard Spoor, Dolo’s attorney, told Socialist Worker, “To say such compensation schemes are an incitement to violence is to underestimate the damage that they cause.
“You have incredibly poor people who have money dangled in front of them – but only if the rest have given up their homes. This will encourage intimidation – and worse. It is criminally irresponsible to push through such measures.”
While the compensation schemes are encouraging intimidation, the company is using the 1982 Intimidation Act against activists.
This law was passed under the apartheid regime for use against protests and pickets.
The ANC government has backed the mining firms in their war against local communities.
The background to the company’s acts is the fantastic profitability of platinum.
The metal is a key resource for the automotive industry and 90 percent of the global reserves are in South Africa. Earlier this year Anglo American reported a 63 percent leap in full-year profits to £4.7 billion.
“We want justice for our communities and a fair sharing of the mineral wealth,” says Dolo. “We will not be intimidated away from the struggle.”