The truth about Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd is that it is operating illegally. The thick application that will be heard on 24 August 2018, at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, documents numerous instances of flagrant disregard of laws and regulations governing the environment in SA. The parties bringing the application are adamant that our country’s law applies to all, including the Tendele mining company that operates in an environmentally sensitive area bordering on KZN’s flagship Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, with the largest concentration of rhino in the world. Tendele mine should also be held accountable for negative impacts on thousands of Mpukunyoni residents whose lives and livelihoods have been disrupted since 2004, and those who continue to be displaced to make way for the mine.
As the court date approaches and support grows for the Global Environmental Trust (GET) and for the 3000 members of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) who are bringing the application, Tendele’s management is engaging in increasingly desperate behaviour.
A recent example is the article, Mine thrown a lifeline that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Tribune’s KZN Business Report supplement, on 5 August 2018. Clearly Tendele mine realises it is sinking and is desperately looking for ways to salvage its operations. This is confirmed by internal communications that refer to impending cuts and no bonuses, and in the article where Jarmi Steyn, the chief operating officer, refers to a shutdown if the new pits cannot be opened. In recent months, Mpukunyoni residents are becoming increasingly united in their resistance to being relocated because of the injustices and poverty associated with being moved off land they have occupied for generations and that will support their families for generations to come.
The upbeat opening sentence of the article: “Tendele coal mine is to expand soon” is wishful thinking. The impression created is that this expansion is on the cards, however, the subheading makes it clear this is merely the mine’s “plan” that would be good news for workers but bad news for activists who oppose the mine and for the 124 households earmarked to be moved. In total at least 1240 people will be left without land, jobless and poorer than ever before.
Tendele has only recently started engaging with the two communities, Mlalazini and Ophondweni, where the new pits will supposedly open and it is facing strong opposition.
The Mlalazini community immediately called a community meeting and invited two women who are MCEJO members to explain about the organisation because members of the community wanted to join MCEJO. Following the meeting, the women were summoned to a traditional court hearing, because the induna wanted them castigated for calling an illegal community meeting. Instead, the Ndunankulu (Chief of the iziNduna) told the Mlalazini induna that he was the one in the wrong and criticised him for bringing a matter to the tribal court that should have been dealt with at community level. He warned iziNduna not to interfere with community meetings, specifically those called to discuss concerns and issues related to Tendele mine.
As a consequence of this recent hearing, Mpukunyoni traditional leaders have been made aware that they are subject to the Constitution and are no longer laws unto themselves but that the law applies to all.
In a pointless attempt to underplay the seriousness of High Court case against the Tendele mine, reference is made to the mine breaching “environmental by-laws”. On the contrary, the mine has been found to be operating without any Environmental Authorisations, a requirement of the National Environmental Management Act!
And, as for the article referring to the court finding that the company was “not at fault”, this was the view of the regulator, namely the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), not the court. Given that DMR is also one of the respondents in the High Court hearing on 24 August, it is hardly in a position to pass judgement on this matter before it has been heard in court.
The 20% shareholding “benefit” for the community and employees, mentioned in the article is actually a loan taken out by the holding company, Petmin. Should Tendele go into debt, which is likely at this stage, the community and employees will be liable for repaying the loan.
It is amazing how the number of jobs increases every time Tendele is quoted. Suddenly 1000 jobs has become 1200. No mention is ever made of the countless jobs and livelihoods that Tendele has cost self-employed residents. In the article, Jarmi Steyn, makes it clear that the expansion will not result in more jobs. Good luck to Goodwill Mkhwanazi, Mpukunyoni Traditional Council member, responsible for mining, who plans to “work hard to help create job opportunities for the 200 000-plus community”. Instead of a lifeline, maybe a few magic wands would be in order.