Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
On Monday I phoned Premier Sello Moloto to ask him to comment on the death of Ross Rankapole.
Rankapole, regional manager in the Limpopo department of minerals and energy, died in a car accident in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Moloto described Rankapole's death as "a tremendous loss to the province".
He said that at the time of his death, Rankapole had been involved in research to find out the desires, wants, expectations and fears of rural communities in Limpopo where mining companies were operating.
Moloto said Rankapole had indicated that he was about to complete a report on the research.
"The objective of the research is to eventually harmonise the relations between these communities and the mining companies' areas," said Moloto.
Indeed, relations between several rural communities and mining companies, such as Angloplatinum, Impala Platinum and African Rainbow Mining, operating in Limpopo do need some harmonising.
From Mokopane to Sekhukhune, communities are up in arms against these companies, accusing them of flagrant disregard for their welfare.
The communities accuse the companies of going against the spirit of the Mining Charter, which requires that companies form partnerships with communities to formulate developmental plans that will see these communities benefiting from the mining operations in their areas.
The accusations against these companies include claims of unsafe blastings, inadequate compensation, failure to fulfil their promises to employ locals and not contributing to infrastructural development in areas where they operate.
Other complaints are that the companies are creating divisions within communities by buying off individuals who then work against the communities they are supposed to represent.
The companies have disputed the allegations, claiming that the people making them are not community representatives.
That the Limpopo government has instituted research into these allegations is in itself indication that something is not right.
If, indeed, the disaffection with the companies was instigated by renegades , the Limpopo government would simply allow the law to take its course.
Someone who worked closely with Rankapole called his death "a blow to those communities. He brought hope to in their challenge against what they see as the rapaciousness of business".
One can only hope that the good work that Rankapole was doing in trying to resolve the conflict between the mining companies and the communities will continue.
Hopefully, arising from the research, the Limpopo government, together with the various stakeholders, will come up with a solution that will indeed harmonise the relations between the companies and the communities they operate in.
This can only happen if the companies are also willing to play ball and not look for loopholes in the Mining Charter to maximise their profits at the expense of the communities that they are operating in.