Hundreds of artisanal miners embarked on a protest, demanding the right to mine legitimately and without fear of harassment. Picture: Danie Van der Lith
Kimberley – Hundreds of artisanal miners embarked on a mass action protest on Wednesday, marching through the city streets demanding the right to mine legitimately and without fear of harassment from law enforcement and mining companies.

Members of Black First Land First (BLF), Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua) and Kimberley Artisanal Mine Workers (KAMW) participated in the march, which first saw protesters appeal to the police for protection and assistance in criminal investigations before a memorandum of demands was handed over at the provincial Department of Mineral Resources’ offices in Phakamile Mabija Road.

The miners’ demands included recognition over the floors, land of their own, to be granted legitimate permits by the DMR and for the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to be revisited in order to accommodate the interests of the artisanal miners and zama zamas across the country.

After assembling at the informal settlement along Samaria Road, the protesters marched on the provincial offices of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), where the leadership of the various organisations met with the SAPS Deputy Provincial Commissioner for Crime Prevention, Major-General Koliswa Otola, to discuss matters pertaining to the relationship between the artisanal miners and law enforcement.

At this meeting, the chairperson of KAMW, Lucky Seekoei, attempted to open a criminal case against Ekapa Minerals (Pty) Ltd, Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEMJV), Super Stone Mining (Pty) Ltd and Crown Resources (Pty) Ltd, accusing them of mining without permits at various sites in and around Kimberley. These included Kenilworth, Samaria, Greenpoint and Greenside.

“If Ekapa does not need a permit to mine the tailing mineral resources (TMRs) we should be allowed to mine them too,” said Seekoei.

The KAMW chairperson also questioned whether the mining companies had unsavoury influence over the investigations conducted by the Hawks, with the KAMW demanding a speedy finalisation to a criminal case opened by Seekoei and five other miners, regarding the alleged theft of mining equipment by the same companies that they are accusing of illegal mining.

Otola assured the miners that police would be willing to serve and protect them as long as they operated within the confines of the law.

She further encouraged them to lodge official complaints if they did not receive cooperation from members of the SAPS and said that she would enquire about the progress of the investigation into the alleged theft of their equipment in September last year.

From the Hawks’ offices, the march proceeded to the DMR offices where a memorandum of demands was handed over.

“Our struggle is against racialised, colonised mining as well as the right to land and housing,” stated the document.

The memorandum further condemned the eviction orders and interdicts taken out against the artisanal miners, accusing the mining houses of operating like a “criminal gang”.

Neither the DMR nor the BLF responded to media enquiries at the time of going to print.

“This morning’s march was a major breakthrough for us,” said Seekoei at lunchtime on Wednesday. “Due to time constraints we were unable to open a criminal case during our meeting with SAPS but I will be returning to do so this afternoon.”

“However, we were able to submit our memorandum to the DMR and were able to express our concerns over the influence the mining houses have over law enforcement, to the police. This is what we were hoping to achieve as an investigation needs to be launched into who holds mining permits.”

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