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Tsantsabane protest on hold

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The Tsantsabane protest was put on hold after mining companies from eight operations engaged in discussions with the Tsantsabane Unemployment and Business Forum on Wednesday.

Picture: Supplied

THE TSANTSABANE protest was put on hold after mining companies from eight operations engaged in discussions with the Tsantsabane Unemployment and Business Forum (TUBF) on Wednesday.

The engagement was also attended by the Department of Minerals and Energy (DMR) and the Tsantsabane Local Municipality on Wednesday morning following community protest action in Postmasburg on Tuesday.

Hundreds of trucks were brought to a standstill at at least four points in Postmasburg during the protest.

Entrance and exit roads to mines were barricaded with burning tyres and rocks in the community’s attempt to put pressure on the DMR to force the mines to start engagements with the municipality and the community.

The owners of the trucks and the small mines were accused of not adhering to legislative requirements in order to mine in the Tsantsabane municipal area and to the social labour plan (SLP).

The protest escalated into a complete shutdown for trucks and vehicles carrying minerals as the community vowed to halt production at the mines that do not comply, until they join the engagements.

On Wednesday morning hundreds of hungry, thirsty and tired truck drivers were “trapped” next to the roads after the community prevented them from entering or exiting the mines.

The drivers were interrogated by the protesters before being allowed to pass the barricades.

Only private vehicles, furniture transportation, emergency vehicles and petrol trucks were allowed to pass.

The closed roads were the Griekwastad road, which has been used as a detour route for the closed section of the R31, the road between Kuruman and Kathu, the R385 and the R31 to Lime Acres.

The only roads that were left open were those in and out of Kolomela and Beeshoek mines. The protesters said those were the only mines that recognised the local economy.

Several employees at the mines in question were also stuck at their workplaces and could not return home on time as their transport was denied access.

Traffic was only opened up at around 9pm while road users were given a stern warning that the situation would grow more intense the next day.

The community accused the mines of being “looters” that transported the minerals out of the town and left the locals unemployed.

The protesters also lashed out that the mines are damaging the local infrastructure of the Postmasburg municipal area and nothing is being ploughed back into the community.

They further complained that locals continue to be denied small business opportunities.

TUBF member and leader of the Save Tsantsabane Coalition (STC) Forum, Michael Mabilo said it is unacceptable that so many small mines are generating millions of rand in Tsantsabane and giving nothing back to the community.

He said the community’s pleas for intervention have been falling on deaf ears.

According to Mabilo, the pleas have been ignored because there are politicians at regional and provincial level who benefit from the mines in question and are shareholders.

He said some of the mines in the surroundings do not qualify to be in the category of small miners due to the high number of operations they have.

He said the community does not benefit from anything except for food parcels and blankets on Mandela Day.

He said the mines recruit people from outside while the local people continue to be unemployed.

Tsantsabane Local Municipality spokesperson Joseph Kekgopilwe said the municipality appreciated the pressure put on the DMR “to come to the party”.

Kekgopilwe said that the municipality has made several attempts to communicate with the mines regarding compliance but the mines kept on ignoring them.

The protest was suspended later on Wednesday and the community now plans to go to the mines that were not part of the engagements and demand their participation.

They gave the mines until May 1 to respond to their memorandum of demands.

“We are also frustrated but we could not do anything because DMR was ignoring us as our small town was falling apart. Postmasburg currently has more than 4,000 shacks which are mostly occupied by workers from these mines. They tend to march to the municipality and demand services while the companies do not even bother to contribute to the economy. We don’t even know how many small mines we have in the surroundings because DMR has not been transparent,” said Kekgopilwe.

He said the list of demands presented during the engagements pertained to local employment, procurement, skills development, women empowerment and transparency in the employment of workers.

The parties agreed that a “mining summit” should be held on a date yet to be confirmed.

“All the small mines will be present at the summit and present the opportunities they can offer.”

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