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The industrialization of a landscape through mining can also result in an impact on the psychological well-being of rural communities. Indirect impacts may include food insecurity and climate change impacts.

South Africa’s wealthy and privileged owe a direct debt to those whose lives paid for the industry on which the South African economy was built. The detrimental environmental impacts of mining on communities are both direct and indirect. Mining can lead to the loss of natural resources on which communities rely for their livelihoods and well-being, including water resources, agricultural land and important biodiversity. Socio-economically, communities face stark poverty, increase in gender-based violence, inequality, worsening unemployment, no access to public service from healthcare to education. Furthermore, the pollution of air, soil and water caused by mining results in pernicious impacts on the health of communities and the socio-demographic changes brought by mining can lead to social conflict

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As part of our demand, we have initiated a systematic change to regulate the mining activities, social audit reports have provided tangible evidence to show the failure of mining companies to fulfil their legal obligations and commitments to develop the communities they inhabit.

Our approach is to continue to support Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) and Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) to keep the pressure on mining companies and government to regulate and actively monitor environmental impacts and mining communities’ rights.

The campaign with hosting community meetings, mobilising organisation in order to strengthen the capacity of the community to fight for the rights.

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Together we can drive a uniquely South African environmental movement. When nature rises, people rise!

Equipping women to foster corporate accountability and transparency in the mining sector– Women in mining affected communities in South Africa

ActionAid South Africa (AASA) is requesting support for a three-year programme to equip women in 5 provinces to be able to foster transparency and accountability in the mining industry. This will also ensure that women included and meaningfully participate in the decision-making process. This will be done through the social audit methodology focussing on mining companies based in South Africa.

What we plan to do

Conduct social audits which will be women led in 5 communities in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. This methodology is a community led process of verifying the reality and experiences in respective communities and verifying it against the report of what mining companies claim concluded in their social commitment. This has proven to be the best model after conducting social audits in 10 communities in seven provinces across different minerals.

This will be done in partnership with our capable partners in a form of a social movement known as Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA).

We aim to target 5 communities in Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Free State, North West and Gauteng Provinces.

The Programme Approach

A three-phase approach of this project will be done through:

1. Conducting 5 women led social audits with different minerals. The social audit methodology requires the following step:

  • Holding a mass meeting and establishing a mandate from the community.
  • Preparing and organising the participants for the audits and baseline surveys.
  • Training participants.
  • Analysing the Social Labour Plan.
  • Developing and testing the social audits questionnaire
  • Gathering evidence
  • Capturing community experiences and testimonies
  • Agreeing on the main findings and organising evidence
  • Reflecting and follow up

2. A detailed analysis of the benefits and contribution of women in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of IDP and SLP.
3. The results of the abovementioned processes will then form part of the Feminist Leadership School.



What we’ve done so far

Social audits is a programme that was implemented by ActionAid South Africa between 2016 and 2019 in 10 communities across seven provinces of Limpopo, North West, Free State, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape and Gauteng. This was the first time the methodology was carried out in mining affected communities in Africa.

The methods and principles of social auditing that have been adopted in South Africa follow the traditions established by the Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangathan (Association for the Empowerment of Workers and Peasants, or MKSS). MKSS was established in Rajasthan, India in 1990 with the objective of strengthening participatory democratic practices. It is one of the most effective social movements in India, best known for successfully achieving the enactment of the Right to Information Act. The demand for this act grew out of the struggle of workers in the Rajasthani state public works programme for a minimum wage.

The Social Audit Baseline report (2017), which was conducted in 10 mining affected communities across South Africa, as part of the ActionAid South Africa’s Social Audit Project, was conceptualised as part of our ongoing work with MACUA and WAMUA and premised on the understanding that the social, economic and political challenges faced by communities affected by mining can only fully be addressed when communities have organised themselves into active collectives who are able to hold duty bearers and other mining stakeholders to account. Our work with affected communities has highlighted the systemic manner in which the agency of individuals and collectives within communities have been eroded and how, through a systemic programme of legislative prescriptions, power within communities to decide on their wellbeing, governance and developmental paths has been stripped away.

The Social Audit methodology was particularly important for us, as it allowed communities to engage in the hard work of rebuilding activism and agency in ways that did not reduce communities to passive recipients of handouts. The project itself has maintained strict parameters in terms of accountability of all participants, both vertically and horizontally, based on the understanding that it is through our individual and collective actions that we learn how “to become”. What we do, matters, and through building accountability into our projects, we not only hold duty bearers to account, but also ourselves and the activists we work with are able to hold us and themselves to higher standards. This baseline report only includes the outcomes of the surveys from 8 communities in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Northern Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu Natal.

The findings from the report has broadly confirmed our initial hypothesis that mining affected
communities are disproportionately affected by mining, not only because of their proximity to the mines, but also because of the political, economic and social structural impediments they face in holding corporations and state parties to account. Among the structural political impediments faced by communities, are the lack of adequate legislative protection and a distinct lack of policy and legislation which fosters and encourages active participation by communities in their own governance.

In the report we unpack how the reality of the mining legislative regime often runs counter to the constitutional imperative of active citizen participation in affairs of governance as well a distinct dissonance between the rhetoric used by government and politicians with regard to the constitutional and political imperative for communities to not only participate in their own governance but also their right to benefit from the activities on and around their land. At the very least, this report highlights the deep divide between political, legislative and constitutional prescriptions and the lived reality of communities living in constant distress and experienced as a type of structural violence against their person. Among the key findings and statistics of the baseline surveys are that:

1. 64% of the respondents surveyed were women and 36% men.
2. 62% indicated they were single and 26% married.
3. 64% had education up to a secondary level and 13% indicated a tertiary level or higher.
4. 44% of respondents indicated that their main source of income was from social grants with Phola in Mpumalanga and Somkele in KwaZulu Natal indicating a 59% and 53% reliance on social grants respectively.
5. 24% indicated they survived on petty trading or self employment.
6. Only 30% indicated some type of formal or informal employment.
7. 73% of respondents indicated that no individuals in their households were either currently employed or previously employed by the mine.
8. Of the 27% who indicated that someone in their household was employed at a mine, 41% indicated that they were casual or manual jobs.

The statistics collected in the survey indicate deep levels of unemployment with significant reliance on social grants to survive and very little opportunity to find employment opportunities at or through the mines. In the 3rd quarter of 2019, Statistics South Africa, an agency for government released statics stating that 29,1% languish in unemployment and women being the hardest hit. With regards to the social responsibility of the mines and the Department of Mineral Resources, the following picture emerged:
1. 91% of respondents did not know what a Social Labour Plan (SLP) was.
2. 85% did not know of any structures in their community who engaged with the mine on
3. 95% had never seen an SLP.

Social Labour Plans are meant to be the main drivers of corporate social responsibility programmes which are mandated by the Constitution and the Mineral Resources Development Act (MPRDA), yet the beneficiaries of the programmes appear not to be aware of the programmes and of how they are supposed to benefit from it. Three clear core themes emerged from the surveys with regards to the challenges faced by communities affected by mines.

These are:
1. Environmental issues such as air, land and water pollution which impacts on human and livestock health, soil and water quality.
2. Living in an Unsafe environment, relating to blasting close to houses and the tremors experienced as a result of blasting, as well as concern about the rising crime levels within communities.
3. The constant threat to health ranging from TB and HIV to skin rashes and infections, asthma, silicosis and chest and lung problems.
In terms of community benefit from having Mines close to or around the community the following & emerged:
1. 79% indicated that there was no benefit from the mines at all.
2. 8% felt that the mine only brought negative benefits such as sickness, dispossessions and damages.
3. 13% felt there were positive benefits such as clinics, roads and employment.

When the respondents were asked about what they would want to change in the relationship between the mine and the community, four clear themes were highlighted:
1. 39% wanted more employment, skills development and livelihood options.
2. 35% wanted more accountability, consultation and communication by the mine.
3. 20% wanted more basic services and infrastructure.
4. 6% wanted some form of compensation.

Read through the lens of agency and structural exclusion, the outcomes of this portion of the
survey suggest that the communities surveyed have consistently preferred outcomes that allow them to develop and act on their own agency through either gainful employment or through access to other livelihood options.

The significant amount of respondents who indicated that they wanted more participatory
processes such as consultation and communication also support the suggestion that community agency, even in dire situations, is preferred to being agentless recipients of philanthropy.




In terms of the gendered impacts of mining, the survey found that the women not only have to bear the severe impacts on health, and social and personal violence against their bodies, they also have to contend with structural impediments to their wellbeing. Among the key findings in this regard is:
1. 40% of women indicated that jobs are only accessible through sexual favours.
2. 14% of women indicated that some sort of payment, fee or bribe was needed in order to
secure a job.
3. 73% of women indicated that they have received no benefit from the mine.
4. 25% of the women indicated that the community experiences substantial amounts of
violence such as rape, murder, abuse and protests.
5. 85% of women linked the increase in violence to the development of the mine.


Why ActionAid South Africa is the Ideal Organisation to Deliver this Project

ActionAid South Africa is a nationally registered civil society organisation currently working in six provinces of South Africa namely Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.

ActionAid works with communities and movements of people to further human rights and to challenge the root causes of poverty and social injustices for women, children, youth and LGBTI persons. With over 15 of implementing successful women’s rights programming that empowers women to become advocates to challenge and see their rights realised.

AASA has a footprint in both urban and rural locations in six provinces across the country.

AASA played a lead role in the 01 August 2018 Women’s protest (#TheTotalShutdown) calling for government to prioritise addressing gender-based violence in South Africa. This protest led to the development of the Gender Declaration which articulated government and civil society’ commitment to working together to address this scourge. To date, the government of South Africa together with civil society have developed a National Strategic Plan which serves as a guiding document to tackle gender-based violence.

A key milestone is the commitment by government to develop an emergency plan and allocate 1,6 billion SA Rands towards tackling this crisis in the country. This is indeed a historic moment as this would have not been possible without the persistence of civil society partners and women across the country in holding the state to account.

To date, AASA continues engage in advocacy and campaigning initiatives in South Africa, more recently AASA supported young women to take part in public hearings on the Traditional Courts Bill. This Bill, if passed in its current state is likely to have far reaching negative consequences for women and girls particularly in the handling of gender-based violence in these courts.

We hold a strong track record of working with marginalised women to see them successfully realise their rights (one example from rural women and another from The Rainbow Activist Alliance)