Home News Court orders Siyathemba Municipality to pay protesters’ court costs

Court orders Siyathemba Municipality to pay protesters’ court costs

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The municipality and angry protesters have been at logger-heads for the past three weeks after protesters highlighted their unhappiness with the planned mining operations by Orion Minerals.

File picture: Pexels

THE SIYATHEMBA Municipality in Prieska will have to foot the bill of the 34 respondents who were interdicted by municipality following protest action in the town the last few weeks.

The Northern Cape High Court on Friday, May 14, 2021 ruled in favour of the respondents and scrapped all charges laid against them by the municipality.

The court instructed the municipality to pay the costs incurred by protesters after the interdict was brought against them.

The municipality and angry protesters have been at logger-heads for the past three weeks after protesters highlighted their unhappiness with the planned mining operations by Orion Minerals.

Protesters had accused Orion Minerals of disregarding the economic empowerment of local residents and businesses.

Protest action erupted in the town after protesters and the Siyathemba Business Community Chamber raised concern regarding a 5% shareholding of the community in the mining project.

In a memorandum handed over to the municipality prior to the protests, the community members demanded that Orion Minerals instruct its Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM) contractor to spend 40% on the construction of the mine, that 50% of Orion Minerals must belong to local residents and that all local businesses in Prieska need to be used for all goods and services.

Protest action erupted after the demands of the locals were not met and after the municipality failed to call-off a planned site-visit.

The Siyathemba Municipality, in an urgent application, requested the court to prohibit the respondents from the date the court would grant the order, from entering the municipal offices to purchase electricity or for paying service fees.

The application requested the court to bar the respondents for a period of six months.

The application further requested the court to prohibit the respondents for a period of six months from acting in any manner which may disrupt or even interrupt the administrative duties of the municipality, that the respondents be interdicted from denying municipal employees and contractors access to the premises as well prohibit them from vandalising the property of the municipality and that of its employees.

The municipality in its application stated it has been unable to conduct municipal services due to protest action.

“As a result of the actions of the respondents and other unidentified persons, the applicant’s (Siyathemba Municipality) employees could not enter the premises to attend to urgent matters such as the procurement of chlorine to allow the continued supply of water which is safe for human consumption for the residents of Prieska. The chlorine levels are critically low and if it is not purchased, then there will be no water available for residents. The applicant was also not able to procure any fuel to carry out mandated services such as refuse removal, maintenance of infrastructure and sewage treatment. Payment to creditors who deliver crucial services to the applicant was also disrupted,” the application stated.

The chairman of the local Business Chamber, Wayne Lube said he was elated that the court ruled in their favour.

“We have been fighting for the rights of our people. It is however sad that taxpayers would have to fit the bill of the municipality. We had to urgently get in two senior attorneys to represent us in this matter. In our past engagements with Orion Minerals, we pursued an agreement to formalise its commitment towards local-doorstep enterprises, as well as the training and employment of locals. That is, ring-fencing work package opportunities for local businesses and proactively implementing a training and development strategy to ensure that the local-doorstep communities would be qualified to participate more in employment opportunities.

“In those engagements it became clear that Orion Minerals has no intention to firm up their professed commitment to the community in which they resolved to mine. It is also our well-considered view that the current memorandum of understanding (MOU), seems to have been signed without proper consultation with stakeholders in our community. This led us to engage the Siyathemba Municipal Council, to review all MOU’s and to ‘break new ground’ on current and future investments in the local municipality,” said Lubbe.

He said a consensus was reached that protest action would be halted while they are again negotiating with the municipality.

“We are negotiating on good terms with the council. We have agreed to give them time to again consider our demands. All protest action is on hold for now pending the feedback we receive from council,” he said.

He said although Orion Minerals also interdicted them, they are not afraid of taking on that fight.

“We will also win that case just like we did this one. The fact of the matter is straight-forward. Orion Minerals is using their interdict as an intimidating tactic. We will face them in court on June 4, 2021,” he said.

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