Nuclearisation of Africa - Conference in pictures


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This summary was compiled by the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) grounded upon its involvement as member of the various organs of state’s project steering committees, study steering committees, expert steering committees, advisory committees, task teams, forums, etc. since and prior to its inauguration in 2007.


South Africa shares the following four river passing with its neighbours:  The Limpopo, Inkomati, Pongola/Maputo and Orange Rivers.

Providing for the ecological water requirements is a legal priority.  Implementation of the Ecological Reserve is expected to result in serious deficits in some of the main river catchments.


The South African Water Caucus (SAWC)[1] recently launched its Report on the State of the Department of Water and Sanitation. The FSE is part of the network of the SAWC and contributed to the Report.

The Report exposed the dysfunction and institutional paralysis in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The report is almost entirely based on publicly accessible information including Parliamentary Questions and Answers, Portfolio Committee meeting reports, information from access to information (PAIA) requests and media articles. However, importantly, it presented it in a single document which paints a particularly bleak picture for SA’s water institutions and hence water security.

The report reveals deeply concerning institutional and governance challenges in the DWS. It lays bare a situation of institutional paralysis within the department and associated deterioration in financial management, service delivery, policy coherence and performance. In brief, the central challenges facing the department, outlined in the report, relate to the following:

o Considerable human resource and organisational challenges including the suspension of senior managers, high staff turnover and vacancy rates and intensified capacity constraints;

o Serious financial mismanagement related to over-expenditure, accruals and failure to pay contractors and corresponding escalation of debt, overdraft of the Water Trading Entity and debt owed to the Reserve Bank, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, poor revenue collection and corruption allegations;

o Considerable policy and legislative uncertainty related to inter alia the proposed Water Master Plan, proposed Water and Sanitation Bill and the proposed National Water Resources and Services and Sanitation Strategy;

o Highly worrying steps to undermine or destroy established water institutions, including plans to consolidate nine catchment management agencies into a single national agency and plans to discontinue key statutory bodies like the Water Tribunal and Water Boards;

o Failure to publish Blue Drop (water quality) and Green Drop (waste water treatment) reports since 2013. The Blue Drop-Green Drop reports are arguably the only comprehensive assessments available to the public and water service authorities on whether water and wastewater treatment plants are functioning and complying with water quality standards. The absence of such assessments has considerable implications for management, operation, risk mitigation, remedial action and refurbishment plans related to treatment plants - and hence water safety and water quality;

o Deterioration in wastewater treatment works and infrastructure due to lack of maintenance and investment, with initial findings of the 2014 Green Drop report indicating that 212 waste water treatment plants fall within a “Critical Risk” categorisation. These plants pose serious risks of completely untreated sewage entering rivers, streams and dams. This has dire impacts on water quality and human health including enhancing the spread of diseases such as e-coli, hepatitis A and diarrhoea;

o Significant deficiencies in compliance monitoring and enforcement. Notably, DWS only has 35 compliance and enforcement officials for the whole country, and has never published a specific water compliance and enforcement report. The 2016/17 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report highlights that DWS has completely failed to undertake meaningful enforcement action against offenders. In 2017/2017, of 321 facilities inspected, 76 of which were found to require enforcement action, DWS has had zero (0) convictions for criminal offences. Despite widespread non-compliance, DWS has only suspended one water use licence since 1 January 2008.


  • The impact of this plan will be delivered through action, and through the recognition that “you cannot drink paper plans”.
  • Water Resources and Water Supply:
    • Water security is a critical challenge confronting South Africa.
    • Water security presents a profound challenge to South Africa’s social wellbeing and economic growth.
    • South Africa’s water scarcity could get rapidly worse as supply contracts and demands escalates due to growth, urbanization, unsustainable use, degradation of wetlands, water losses and a decrease in rainfall due to climate change.
    • Based on current demand projections, the water deficit confronting the country could be between 2. 7 and 3.8 billion cubic meters, a gap of approximately 17% by 2030.
    • The South African water sector must take bold steps to adopt a ‘new normal’ to head off the projected water gap.
    • 56% of the over 1 150 Waste Water Treatment Works are in poor and critical state, and must be rehabilitated urgently and properly maintained thereafter.
    • 44% of 962 domestic Local Government Water Treatment Works are in a poor condition and must be urgently rehabilitated.
    • South African must restore raw water quality: deteriorating water quality is a major constraint to economic and social developments.
    • A lack of data and information resulting from weak monitoring systems poses high risks to decision making and planning and must be urgently addressed by repairing and maintaining measuring infrastructure, adopting new monitoring technologies, and improving data management and distribution.
    • Ensure that competent staff are in charge of the Waste Water Treatment Works, that monitoring is done diligently and that where there is a problem encountered, it is addressed immediately and suitably.
    • The National Development Plan and the Reconciliation Strategies for the Orange and Vaal Rivers envisioned the completion of the Lesotho Highland Water Project Phase by 2020 to address the growing deficit within the Vaal River System. It has been delayed to 2025.
    • The Reconciliation Strategy for the Integrated Vaal River System envisioned the desalination of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) by 2014/2015 to address the growing deficit within the Vaal River System. It has been delayed to 2022.
    • The key objectives of the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan are:
      • Resilient and fit for use water supply
      • Universal water and sanitation provision
      • Equitable sharing and allocation of resources
      • Effective infrastructure management operation and maintenance
      • Reduction in water demand projections.
    • Approval of mine closure should ensure financial provision of mine water management and therefore comprehensive and bankable mine water management plans.
    • The current water supply reliability is only at 65%. In the 27 priority district municipalities, the water reliability is only 42% with the worst 10 Water Services Authorities below 30% reliability.
    • Sanitation and Wastewater Treatment
      • The Green Drop assessments have not been undertaken since 2014.
    • Public water authorities are unable to attract adequate numbers of specialised technical staff required to effectively operate and maintain water schemes. The situation is exacerbated by an under-recovery of revenue which further prevents operational plans from being effectively implemented.
    • Deterioration of water resource quality is often because of failing sewer collector mains and pump- sets, and dysfunctional wastewater treatment works. Most of these failures are due to wastewater treatment facilities being operated beyond design capacity or being operated by process controllers who lack the necessary expertise.
    • Water Demand Management
      • The development of new mines in water scarce areas requires forward planning to make arrangements for the transfer of water and development of new sources.
    • Water Quality Management:
      • Approximately 83% of the country’s national monitoring sites reflect some form of water quality challenges. 
      • Deteriorating water quality has the potential to significantly limit the economic growth potential of the country. The deterioration of water quality in rivers, streams, dams, wetlands, estuaries and aquifers impacts on the economy, on human health and on the healthy functioning of aquatic ecosystems.
      • Deteriorating water quality reduces the amount of water available for use as more water must be retained to maintain the dilution capacity in our river systems. It increases the costs of doing business as many enterprises are forced to treat water before using it in their industrial processes.
      • Most of the country’s water resources are negatively impacted by:
        • Salinity
        • Radioactivity
        • Metals from mining and waste disposal
        • Excessive sediments
        • Agricultural chemicals
        • Acid atmospheric chemicals
        • Groundwater contamination
        • Urban/industrial effluent
      • Water quality management is a government wide task, to be implemented under strong leadership of the DWS with both the private sector and civil society playing a role.
      • Several mega trends have been identified, which can be expected to unfold in South Africa during the next few decades and which could lead to new or accelerated water quality challenges. These include:
      • Climate change
      • Hydraulic fracturing
      • Rural-urban migration and growth of inadequately serviced densely populated settlements
      • The adopting of new manufacturing and industrial processes
      • Water Re-use
      • Water Ecological Systems
        • The protection of the ecological infrastructure of our natural aquatic ecosystems is crucial for economic development, water and food security and the assurance of healthy and functional water resources that will support future sustainable development
        • Fifty-seven percent or river ecosystem types are threatened. 65% of main rivers are threatened including 46% critically endangered.
        • High water yield areas constitute only 4% of South Africa’s surface area and are the water factories of the country. Currently only 18% of them have any form of formal protection.
        • 65% of wetland ecosystem types are threatened making wetlands the most threatened of all ecosystems. 71% of them are not being protected at all.  Wetlands are exceptionally high value ecosystems that make up only a small fraction of the surface area of the country.
      • Policies, Legislation and Strategies
        • Grey areas in responsibility and accountability
        • Institutional arrangements are fragmented among a large number of water boards, catchment management agencies and municipalities.
        • Poor alignment of policies and strategies between various government departments and spheres of government
        • Lack of policy and legislative integration between DWS, DAFF and the Department of Mineral Resources
        • Inadequate maintenance and control of effluent from waste water treatment by Municipalities.
      • Regulation and authorisation
        • The existing regulatory framework is highly complex in that multiple stakeholders/role-players are involved and different regulatory authorities
        • The current regulatory capacity in the water sector is insufficient both in terms of the number of skilled staff to implement regulatory requirements and in the appropriate tools for regulation in the context of limited staff and financial resources.
        • The capacity to collect and collate information and report on an ongoing basis and the capacity of the regulatory authorities to interpret and respond appropriately and timeously to the information is a major challenge
      • Governance and Institutional Arrangements
        • The performance of DWS with respect to the management of national and regional water resource infrastructure has been poor
        • Poor collection of water use charges means that maintenance of water resources infrastructure is under-funded.
        • The requirement of off-take agreements prior to the construction of large infrastructure projects has led to delays in implementation that have increased water vulnerability, particularly in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng.
        • The establishment of Catchment Management Agencies has been slow. Only two were established and are functional
      • Human Resources, Skills development and Capacity
        • Three key challenges – number of vacancies in critical areas especially engineering; development of new skills for a hanging environment; and development of functional skills for incumbents in water sector institutions
        • Significant skills gaps in all water sector institutions
        • 800 vacancies
        • Experienced professionals are leaving pubic institutions to work in the private sector due partly to the inability of public sector institutions to attract and retain such staff
        • Mentoring of new entrants into the water sector has become a major challenge due to the s
        • Shortage of experienced personnel in the public sector
        • Impact assessments are hardly ever conducted
        • The ongoing retirement of a large cohort of older, experienced workers is leaving significant gaps in skills and experience in the sector
        • Resource constraints
        • New capability requirements to meet the emerging demands of climate change, environmental management, new technologies
      • International water cooperation
      • Research, Development and Innovation.


In the current legislation(s): NEMA, MPRDA and NWA mine water management is not formally defined and this may continue to hinder process of dealing with mine water management decisively. These policy principles may require legislative review or policy alignment. The existing frameworks place the government in the position of having to be reactive rather than proactive as far as mine water management is concerned.

  • Integrated Approaches to Mine Closure

The delegation of powers between different government departments at the national, provincial and municipal levels is unclear. Institutional roles and responsibilities are fragmented, overlapping or vaguely defined. There is a need to rationalise and align national legislation, even our own NWA to remove ambiguity and address mine water directly.

  • Apportionment of Liabilities

The MPRDA may play a leading role in the mining sector, but persons/companies/institutions still have to comply with other statutory duties under the NEMA and the NWA. Liability thus is based on a consistent and comprehensive application of the abovementioned (not limited to) legislations. This suggests that any person/company/institution that can be proven to fall within the ambit of Section 19 NWA, and/ or Section 28 NEMA, and/ or Section 45 MPRDA, can be held legally liable for damages and/ or negative impacts caused by mine water. The legislation needs to be strengthened, to give the DWS a strong legislative basis to impose sanctions and apportion of liabilities. The best funding models to deal with historic pollution should be identified. Abandoned mines need to be rehabilitated by DWS in cases where water security is at risk. Within the context of mine water, and given the magnitude of this challenge, it remains prudent that possible apportionment of liabilities be considered within the existing legislative frameworks. This will provide a legal basis for holding parties potentially liable for negative effects and damages of mine water related pollution and/or any other negative impacts that can be related to mine water.

  • Optimum use of Appropriate and Cost Effective Technology

The DWS recently completed a Feasibility Study to identify the best plan of action for a long term solution that uses a proven acid mine water treatment technology and produces useable water. Options for passive, biological, chemical and physical treatment were assessed. The only technologies which are proven for treatment of the expected volumes to the required standard, and which constitute the Reference Project are:

 High Density Sludge (HDS) for neutralisation and metal removal (Chemical Treatment), as per the Short Term Intervention (STI), currently being implemented in the Witwatersrand.

 Reverse Osmosis (RO) for desalination (Physical Treatment); and

 Ion Exchange (IX) for uranium removal (Physical-Chemical Treatment) if required

  • Classification and Differentiation of Mines

The current legal and policy context does not draw a clear distinction between the handling and regulation of (1) new, (2) active and (3) historic mines (including abandoned mines). The current legal and policy context does not impose special and/ or stricter measures in the case of mines with a significant adverse impact potential. Specific conditions should be imposed on mines that have an acid generation potential.

  • Promotion of Sustainable Mine Development

There is a perception that mining is often authorised, irrespective of whether the long-term “sustainability” outweighs the long-term “cost of impact”, including the costs for managing mine water. More investigation is required on the possibility to use the green approach in mining. This will involve investigations on green technologies, sustainable mining methods, etc. and the evaluation of socio-economic sustainability.

  • User Commitment to Sustainable Water Resource Protection

Apportioning liability remains problematic. The NWA has gaps with regards to “retrospective liability”. The application of retrospective liability is currently provided for under the NEMA. The impacts caused by mine water drainages e.g. AMD is often externalised by the mining sector, whether during active mining or subsequent to mine closure. Financial provision predominantly applies to surface rehabilitation.

  • Environmental Vigilance and Continuous Improvement

From a mine water management perspective, there often appears to be a mismatch between environmental planning and the actual interventions earmarked for implementation. Access to information by the general public also appears to be a major challenge limiting the overall public from participating. The DMR mandate, i.e. to promote minerals development, appears to be incompatible with DWS’s mandate, i.e. to protect and use water resources sustainably. Mining authorisations often appear to be granted for mines that are to mine in water sensitive areas. From a mining sector perspective – significant impacts due to AMD are often attended to on a case-by-case basis. From a regulatory perspective – an “Integrated Master Plan” is currently required for the regulation of future mining developments. Mining authorisations appear to be granted on an ad hoc basis without the necessary consultations amongst the relevant Government Departments (DMR, DWS and DEA). It is hoped that the recently-adopted one environmental permitting system will address this gap.

  • Institutional Arrangements on Infrastructure Management/Transfer after Mine Closure

The Mining Charter provides that mines are expected to design and plan all operations so that adequate resources are available to meet the closure requirements of all operations. Section 28(2) (c) of the MPRDA contemplates that mines should report on their compliance to the Mining Charter on annual basis. However in instances where a mine is declared insolvent and subsequently closes, the responsibility is inherited by the State who then has to ensure the continuous rehabilitation of derelict and ownerless mines. Technically, the mine escapes liability and the rehabilitation fund provided prior by the mine is often not sufficient for continuous infrastructure management and rehabilitation. As a result, mine water is left unmanaged if transfer has not taken place which then typically becomes a State liability.

  • Reuse of treated mine water, including AMD

Evidence depicts that supplying South Africa’s growing population with clean, safe drinking water is a significant challenge. Not only is the country’s water infrastructure in need of refurbishment in some places and entirely absent in many others, but access to sufficiently large quantities of potable water is increasingly becoming a challenge. Acid mine water often contains toxic heavy metals and radioactive particles, or is acidic and can be extremely harmful to the health of humans, animals and plants. Situated in the Witbank Coalfields in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa, the EMalahleni Waste Water Reclamation Plant uses reverse osmosis to desalinate underground water, and provides potable water that is used to benefit local needs. It should be noted that whilst reverse osmosis is the front runner for most treatments, there is a plethora of other treatments and technologies that can be used. This is done through partnership between Anglo American, EMalahleni Local Municipality and BHP Billiton Energy Coal South Africa (BECSA). While this is encouraging and should be supported and the responsibility is clear when mine is still in operation, however the challenge is when the mine has reached its life span (mining activities ceased), there is no appropriate mechanism to continue to take operational responsibilities to sustain AMD Management Operations.


Problem Statements

  • Currently effective Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) is hampered by poor co-ordination, siloed planning and conflicting approaches between the various government departments and spheres of government
  • Municipalities are a major source of waste water containing pollution
  • Non-Government support for water quality management – far too many enterprises continue to contravene legislation and pollute water resources
  • Water pollution arises from a number of sources in a catchment, whether direct discharge or diffuse pollution arising from run-off from land based activities. Water pollution affects both surface and ground water resources. Pollution is mobile moving along the length of a water resource with the potential for increased cumulative impacts from multiple sources.  It therefore requires integrated and adaptive water quality management.  Adding to the complexity of managing water quality is the fact that catchments are complex social ecological systems, subject to continual change arising from external influences and internal system changes.  Weak cooperative governance between critical government departments is compounded by the limited resources (particularly human and financial) that are available for addressing these challenges.
  • The water resource quality within South Africa is declining with assessments reflecting that some 83% of water resources having some form of implication for the fitness of use for one or other user groups. This deterioration of water quality will be one of the major threats to the country’s ability to provide sufficient water of suitable quality that can support development needs, whilst at the same time ensuring the environmental sustainability of the water use.  The most significant issue in this regard is the ability to control sources of pollution and to manage pollution when it is necessary.  Key drives are the growing population, the need to develop the social economy to support ongoing development objectives, increasing urbanisation, the introduction of new contaminants and climate change.
  • The financial resources currently available for managing water quality are insufficient for the task, and do not recognise the level of investment that is required to counteract the economic harm done by declining water quality.
  • Water quality challenges have historically been viewed as “technical”, with the result that the funding required for Integrated Water Quality Management has often been insufficient. The funding related challenges are:
    • Inadequate funding raised through the administrative and regulatory mechanisms available to the DWS due for instance to delayed implementation of the Waste Discharge Charge System and the inadequate cost of a water Use Licence Administration fee;
    • Continued culture of non-payment;
    • Lack of political will to hold major polluters accountable;
    • The lack of sustainable financial models for local government, leading to inadequate funds to maintain Waste Water Treatment Works, such as ring fencing of funds to appropriate solution;
    • Inadequate implementation of environmental provisions related to mine rehabilitation:
    • Poor co-ordination and planning across the sector, and
    • Economic Policy uncertainties and anomalies as well as the generally uncertain political climate, which have resulted in inadequate investment by private sector companies.
    • In relation to mining activities, ensuring sufficient funding for Integrated Water Quality Management after mine closure remains a significant challenges.
    • In order for the Waste Discharge Levy to be introduced, an amendment to the NWA is required to give the Minister permission to promulgate a Money Bill.
  • The burden of funding water quality management has broadly fallen to the state supported by revenue generated by water use charges or funds claimed for the rehabilitation of pollution incidents.
  • South African water quality monitoring programmes are constrained by limited financial resources, inadequate number of suitably skilled staff, uneven availability of access to accredited laboratories for testing samples and the complexity of monitoring the number and variety of pollutants entering water resources, including new and emerging pollutants.
  • Key strategic issues requiring attention related to research and development are:
    • Lack of alignment of water research objectives, thrusts and programmes with the broader national policies and strategies relating to water resources management and water use;
    • Limited participation of sector-wide stakeholders in the setting and execution of the water-related research and innovation agenda for the country;
    • Availability of skills and expertise in water research; and
    • Insufficient allocation of financial resources for water sector research and innovation.
  • Capacity Building and Training:
    • Historically, the DWS ran regular training programmes for water quality officials, resulting in a highly trained cadre of officials. However, over the past decade, these training programmes have fallen away leaving a shortfall in the opportunities for staff to develop their understanding of Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM).  This has resulted in ineffective implementation of IWQM programmes and inadequate regulation of water use. 
    • There is a shortfall in capacity across and between Government Departments.
    • There are concern that the competencies of staff within some key technical positions do not have the necessary training and qualifications to perform the functions required of them. This is particularly of concern regarding the technical skills required of municipal staff operating the Waste Water Treatment Works.


Figure 1: The study area for the Reconciliation Strategy for the Integrated Vaal River System – Phase 2


[1] The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) is network of more than 20 community-based organisations, non-government organisations and trade-unions active in promoting the wise, equitable and just use, protection and provision of water.

map 01

The document provides background information, explains the rationale for the study and requesting participation from stakeholders to assist the DWS to ensure sufficient water resource availability for the study area until 2040.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has commissioned a three-year study (2018 – 2020) for the continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study – Phase 2. The initial strategy for the Vaal River System was developed in 2009 with the main objective to reconcile the current and future water requirements with the available water by implementing appropriate interventions to increase the available water, conserve water through conservation and demand management measures as well as improve the water quality in the river systems.

The strategy developed in 2009 has been implemented, monitored and updated over the 2010-2015 period to ensure that it remains relevant under prevailing conditions. This study is part of an on-going process to ensure the relevance of management of the Integrated Vaal River System to confirm sufficient water availability. The DWS works closely with the Strategy Steering Committee (SSC) to implement the strategy, maintain its relevance and to continue to ensure efficient planning.

Study Area

The study area comprises the water resources of the Vaal River System which includes the catchments of the Upper, Middle and the Lower Vaal Water Management Areas (WMAs) – from Kuruman in the west to Ermelo in the east and Johannesburg in the north to the Lesotho border in the south. Other sub-systems that also form part of Integrated Vaal River System or are linked to the Vaal River System are indicated on the map – see page 6.

Considerable variations in climatic conditions occur over the three WMAs. The Mean Annual Precipitation (MAP) decreases from 800 mm in the Upper Vaal to 500 mm in the Middle Vaal and 100 mm in the Lower Vaal WMA. This tendency is reversed when considering potential annual evapotranspiration, which increases from 1300 mm in the Upper Vaal to 2800 mm in the Lower Vaal WMA. The land use in the Upper Vaal WMA is characterised by the sprawling urban and industrial areas in the northern and western parts of the WMA. There is also extensive coal and gold mining activities located in the Upper Vaal WMA. These activities are generating substantial return flow volumes in the form of treated effluent from the urban areas and mine dewatering that are discharged into the river system. These discharges are having significant impacts on the water quality in the main stem of the Vaal River, throughout all three the WMAs.

System Balance for Target Reconciliation Scenario (June 2015)

The Upper Vaal WMA is economically important, contributing nearly 20% of the Gross Domestic Product of South Africa, which is the second largest contribution to the national wealth amongst all of the WMAs in the country. The potential for future economic growth in this WMA remains strong. Growth will largely be attracted to the already strong urban and industrial areas in the Johannesburg-Vereeniging-Vanderbijlpark complex.

The system balance for the target reconciliation scenario form the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study (PHASE 1) is presented in Figure: 1.



Figure 2: System balance for target reconciliation scenario (June 2015)


Based on the presented results, the previous phase of the study concluded that Water Conservation and Water Demand Management (WC/WDM) (Project 15%), eradication of unlawful water use in the irrigation sector, desalination of mine water and the re-use of water (Tshwane Project) are essential interventions to limit the risk of drought restrictions until the Lesotho Highland Water Project (LHWP) Phase 2 can be implemented in the year 2024.

The risk of needing to implement drought restrictions in the Vaal River System will increase until Phase 2 of the LWHP can deliver water into Vaal Dam. Appropriate preparedness plans need to be put in place in all sectors and at all levels of the water supply chain to ensure consumption can be reduce when droughts occur as a measure to prevent complete failure in supply and before dams are depleted and empty.

Compiled by Mariette Liefferink, on behalf of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment.

27 April 2018.



Mind the Gap consortium launched the new website featuring five strategies corporations use to avoid responsibility for human rights abuses: 1.Constructing deniability; 2. Avoiding liability through judicial strategies; 3. Distracting and obfuscating stakeholders; 4.Undermining defenders and communities;  5. Utilising state power. These harmful strategies manifest themselves in a wide array of actions by corporations that obstruct justice, distort the facts and frustrate remedy for affected communities.   The Mintails case will be part of the evidence base for this website and Lonmin’s involvement in the Marikana massacre is also included. The case studies featured on the new website highlight the wide prevalence of harmful corporate strategies in practice and amplifies the urgent need to close the governance gaps that are sustaining a global system of corporate impunity.   Subjoined hereunder is the report on Mintails. in South Africa CASE STUDY: MINTAILS’ STRATEGIES OF DISENGAGEMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA Photo: SOMO Last updated: 10th July 2020 The bankruptcy case of the South African mining company Mintails provides an example of irresponsible disengagement by investors, leaving the state of South Africa and the local communities around the mines with the burden of uncovered post-mining environmental rehabilitation costs. Mintails S.A. (Mintails), a fully-owned subsidiary of Mintails Limited (MLI), held three mining rights in South Africa – West Wits Mining, Minerals and Mining Reclamation, and Mogale Gold. In the 2010s, Mintails was granted these mining rights by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), subject to adequate provision for environmental rehabilitation liability. However, the mining rights were never fully issued, as Mintails failed to provide multiple financial and social provisions.[1] Despite the lack of a valid mining licence, Mintails was allowed to continue mining operations, amid numerous documented complaints of environmental contraventions.[2] After several statutory notices from DMR, in which the department asked Mintails to comply with environmental regulations and to provide adequate remedy for the damages it had caused, the Director General of DMR directed Mintails to provide a quarter of all the due costs in October 2014. The company was required to submit a six-month payment plan to provide the remaining sum.[3] Unable to raise this money, Mintails filed for business rescue a year later.[4] Several actions by MLI and Mintails resulted in diminished environmental liability. First, Mintails hired two consultants who provided substantially downgraded estimates of the company’s liability for the environmental harms originating from its mining activities.[5] Second, in the midst of a business rescue, MLI divested itself from Mintails by proceeding to spin-off its South African subsidiary.[6] MLI was then renamed Orminex Limited,[7] completing what looks like a manoeuvre to avoid liability for the environmental reparations owed by Mintails.[8] Eventually, Mintails filed for liquidation during the summer of 2018,[9] leaving the state of South Africa and the local communities around the mines with the financial burden to cover post-mining environmental rehabilitation costs, estimated at over R460 million (approx. 35 million US$).[10] As multiple sources argue, this turn of events could have been foreseen as Mintails had recognised that its activities could lead to bankruptcy. The company nonetheless decided not to secure the funds it owed for environmental repairs.[11] MLI’s separation from its South African subsidiary Mintails can be interpreted as a sign that the company aimed to avoid liability for the environmental damages created by its subsidiary. Despite the South African Parliament recommending prosecution and civil suits on company directors and shareholders in their personal capacities so that some of the liability owed could be recovered, the National Prosecuting Authority has been silent on the matter to date. Observers have pointed out that this is unlikely to change in South Africa’s mining-dependant environment.[12] In an attempt to achieve environmental restoration, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE) filed a lawsuit to compel relevant government departments to hold companies and directors in the Mintails group to account for the environmental restoration costs. The first hearing is expected to take place on 12 August 2020.[13] [1] South African National Assembly, “Report of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources on its oversight visit North West and Gauteng on the 13-14 September 2018, dated 07 November 2018”, Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (Cape Town: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 2018), 22-52, (accessed November 4, 2019). [2] Gauteng Regional Head Office of the Department of Water and Sanitation of the Republic of South Africa, “Compliance Inspection for Mintails Mining SA Ltd: Mogale Gold,” December 18, 2014, November 4, 2019); Mariette Lifferink and Lucien Limacher, “Presentation to the Government Task Team on Mintails’ Alleged Environmental Contraventions,” April 19, 2018, (accessed November 4, 2019). [3] South African National Assembly. [4] Lake, David, “Business Rescue Plan: Mintails Mining SA Proprietary Limited”, Mintails Gold SA Proprietary Limited and Mintails SA Randfontein Cluster Proprietary Limited (Johannesburg: Lake Strategic Solutions, 2016), 88., (accessed November 4, 2019). [5] South African National Assembly. [6] It is not completely clear which party purchased Mintails S.A and how the spin-off was eventually realised. The report by the Business Rescue Person David Lake mentions a shift of interests from Paige Limited to Mvest Capital, while the news website Businesslive mentions Paige as the sole creditor after liquidation. See point 5 and 6 in:  David Lake, “Notice in terms of sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the companies act, 2008″, Lake Strategic Solutions, Johannesburg, August 1, 2018, p. 2, (accessed November 4, 2019) and Mark Olalde, “Mintails directors may face criminal charges”, December 11, 2018, Businesslive, (accessed November 4, 2019). [7] James Thackray, “Mintails Limited: Effectuation of Deed of Company Arrangement,” HQ Advisory, June 6, 2017. (accessed November 4, 2019); Orminex Limited. “Orminex: 31 March 2018 Quarterly Report,” March 31, 2018. (accessed June 21, 2020). [8] In its email reply responding to a request to review this case study, Orminex writes: “we purchased the listed entity [MLI] as a shell company and have never had any association with the South African subsidiary [Mintails South Africa] referred to in your recent email correspondence” (email dated 5 February 2020). The research team has not been able to verify this information, although Mintails’ 2017 annual report, p.4, makes clear that MLI was recapitalised, possibly by new shareholders: [9] Lake, David, “Notice in terms of sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the companies act, 2008”. [10] Lake, David. “Notice in Terms of Sections 132(3), 141(2)(a)(i), 144(3)(a), 145(1)(a) and 146(a) of the Companies Act, 2008,” 1 August 2018. (accessed 21 June 2020). [11] Bega; Olalde and Matikinca. [12] South African National Assembly; Mark Olalde and Andiswa Matikinca, “Directors targeted for Mintails mess,” Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, December 2018, -targeted/ (accessed 4 November 2019); Sheree Bega, “Illegal miners hit Mintails mine on West Rand,” IOL News, 1 June 2019, saturday-star/watch-illegal-miners-hit-mintails-mine-on-west-rand-24637889 (accessed 4 November 2019). [13]  The federation for a sustainable environment. “FSE’s Notice of Motion and Founding Affidavit: Minitails Group,” September 6, 2019. (accessed June 21, 2020).; Bega, Sheree. “A Battle to Hold Mining Company Accountable.” IOL News, February 26, 2020. (accessed June 21, 2020).     Please visit www.mindthegap.nog  


Radon Alert - Carte Blanche

Millions of South Africans are exposed to radioactive radon gas in their homes and workplaces every day, as the naturally occurring gas escapes through cracks in the earth. The second leading cause of lung cancer in several countries, radon breaks down and when inhaled, decaying atoms emit alpha radiation that can damage the DNA. There are no safe levels of radon concentration. The United States Environmental Protection Agency emphasises any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. Carte Blanche investigates why South Africa has no regulations to protect against radon accumulation in the home and what you can do to test your home and prevent lung cancer.   Watch the video here.

WITS Economics & Finance Courses: Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage

Economics & Finance Courses at the University of the Witwatersrand. Mining for Development: The Taxation Linkage - Understand taxation for development and sustainability in mining. View the course here. Enrolment starts on the 7th of October 2019.

Mining activists in SA face death threats, intimidation and harassment - report

SATURDAY STAR | 19 APRIL 2019, 7:41PM | SHEREE BEGA Picture:Yvette Descham On August 13 2013, Billy M heard gunshots at the gate of his house. He didn't know who fired the gun, and, worried that local traditional leadership might be involved, he didn't report the incident to the police. For the next five years, the community activist from Fuleni, a small rural village in KwaZulu-Natal bordering one of SA's oldest and largest wilderness areas, the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, continued to receive threats.  "We know our lives are in danger. This is part of the struggle," he says, simply. Billy M's account is contained in a new report released this week, 'We know Our  Lives Are in Danger’: Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining-Affected Communities, which documents how community activists in mining areas face harassment, intimidation and violence. The report details how in Billy M's case, mining company Ibutho Coal had applied for rights to develop a coal mine in Fuleni in 2013. The development would have required the relocation of hundreds of people from their homes and farmland and destroy graveyards. "The mine's environmental impact assessment estimated that more than 6000 people living in the Fuleni area would be impacted. Blasting vibration, dust, and floodlights, too, could harm the community," says the report."During the environmental consultation processes, Billy M led opposition that culminated in a protest by community members in April 2016."The company reportedly abandoned the project in 2016 while another firm, Imvukuzane Resources is reportedly interested in mining in the area.The 74-page report, compiled by Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthjustice, describes a system designed to "deter and penalise" mining opponents.The authors conducted interviews with more than 100 activists, community leaders, environmental groups, lawyers representing activists, police and municipal officials, describing the targeting of community rights defenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape between 2013 and 2018. They report intimidation, violence, damage to property, the use of excessive force during peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrest for their activities in highlighting the negative impacts of mining projects on their communities. "The attacks and harassment have created an atmosphere of fear for community members who mobilise to raise concerns about damage to their livelihoods from the serious environmental and health risks of mining and coal-fired power plants," write the authors."Women often play a leading role in voicing these concerns, making them potential targets for harassment and attacks."But municipalities often impose barriers to protest on organisers that have no legal basis while government officials have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse."Some mining companies resort to frivolous lawsuits and social media campaigns to further curb opposition to their projects.  The government has a Constitutional obligation to protect activists," write the authors. Picture: Shayne Robinson, Section 27 Authorities should address the environmental and health concerns related to mining "instead of harassing the activists voicing these concerns,” remarks Matome Kapa, attorney at the CER.The report starts with the high-profile murder of activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was killed at his home after receiving anonymous death threats in 2016. Rhadebe was the chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), a community-based organisation formed in 2007 to oppose mining activity in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape.  "Members of his community had been raising concerns that the titanium mine that Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd proposed to develop on South Africa’s Wild Coast would displace the community and destroy their environment, traditions, and livelihoods. More than three years later, the police have not identified any suspects in his killing."Nonhle Mbuthuma, another Xolobeni community leader and spokesperson of the ACC, has also faced harassment and death threats from unidentified individuals. "I know I am on the hit list.… If I am dying for the truth, then I am dying for a good cause. I am not turning back," she says.But other mining areas have had experiences similar to that of Xolobeni. "While Bazooka’s murder and the threats against Nonhle have received domestic and international attention, many attacks on activists have gone unreported or unnoticed both within and outside the  country."This is, in part, because of "fear of retaliation for speaking out, and because police sometimes do not investigate the attacks", the authors found.The origin of these attacks or threats are often unknown. "So are the perpetrators, but activists believe they may have been facilitated by police, government officials, private security providers, or others apparently acting on behalf of mining companies. "Threats and intimidation by other community members against activists often stem from a belief that activists are preventing or undermining an economically-beneficial mining project. In some cases, government officials or representatives of companies deliberately drive and exploit  these community divisions, seeking to isolate and stigmatize those opposing the mine."The Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 77 mining companies, including some in the research areas, responded that it “is not aware of any threats or attacks against community rights defenders where (its) members operate”.The authors state that while the mining sector and the government emphasise how mining is essential for economic development, "they fail to acknowledge that mining comes at a high environmental and social cost, and often takes place without adequate consultation with,or consent of, local communities".The absence of effective government oversight means that mining activities have harmed the rights of communities across South Africa in various ways. "Such activities have depleted water supplies, polluted the air, soil, and water, and destroyed arable land and ecosystems."Researchers also documented cases of police misconduct, arbitrary arrest, and excessive use of force during protests in mining-affected communities, "which is part of a larger pattern in South Africa".Last year, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University documented various efforts by traditional authorities to stifle opposition to mines in their communities. "In some cases, traditional authorities label those opposing mines as anti-development and troublemakers, thus alienating and stigmatising them.As a result, community members are often afraid to speak out against a mine in open consultations," CALS found.Research by the SA Human Rights Commission, too, has found that community members sometimes “are afraid to openly oppose the mine for fear of intimidation or unfavourable treatment (by the Traditional Authority)."The SAHRC says many mining-affected communities are experiencing “the creation of tension and division within communities as a result of mining operations.Sometimes, threats and intimidation against activists come from community members who have been promised economic benefit from the proposed project or are politically allied with the government or traditional authority."Local communities often do not benefit from mining activities, says the report. "Although South African law requires the development of social and labour plans (SLPs) that establish binding commitments by mining companies to benefit communities and mine workers, CALS has documented significant flaws in the development and implementation of SLPs."Despite the environmental and social costs of mining, the government is not adequately enforcing relevant environmental standards and mining regulations throughout South Africa. The SAHRC has found that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) often fails to hold mining companies accountable, "imposing few or no consequences for unlawful activities and therefore shifting the costs of pollution to local communities."Compliance with regulatory obligations, as well as monitoring and enforcement of such responsibilities, remains a crucial concern in the context of mining activities," says the SAHRC, noting how the DMR and other governmental agencies often do not respond to complaints filed against mines by community members.The report's authors describe how the lack of government action and oversight has also helped make the mining industry one of the least transparent industries in South Africa. Information that communities require to understand the impacts of mines and to hold mining companies accountable for harmful activities is often not publicly available. "Such information includes environmental authorisations, environmental management programs, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, mining rights, mining work programmes, social and labour plans, or compliance and enforcement information."The only way to access such information is through a request under South Africa’s access to information law, a procedure that the World Health Organisation has called 'seriously flawed' and which the DMR regularly flouts. In addition, mining companies and the government rarely consult meaningfully with communities during the mining approval process, resulting in uninformed and poor government and industry decisions that do not reflect community perspectives or have their support," says the report.The authors assert how the threats, attacks, and other forms of intimidation against community rights defenders and environmental groups have created an environment of fear "that prevents mining opponents from exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and undermines their ability to defend themselves from the threats of mining".In its November 2018 review of South Africa’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern about “reports of human rights defenders, particularly those working to promote and defend the rights under the Covenant in the mining and environmental sectors, being threatened and harassed". It recommended that South Africa provide a safe and favourable environment for the work of human rights defenders to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights, including by "ensuring that all reported cases of intimidation, harassment, and violence against human rights defenders are promptly and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators are brought to justice". Mining activist Mariette Liefferink, who made submissions to the UN committee, tells how it has become increasingly difficult to work as an environmental rights defender in South Africa.   "There is an overwhelming body of evidence of intimidation, whether it is by means of frontal attacks or more insidious attacks on activists."International and South African law requires South Africa to guarantee the rights of all people to life, security, freedoms of opinion, expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and the rights to health and a healthy environment, say the authors."The attacks, threats, and obstacles to peaceful protest described in this report prevent many community activists in South Africa from exercising these rights to oppose or raise concerns about mines, in violation of South Africa’s obligations." 

Changing the narrative: The women who inspired the City Press team

City Press Reporters | 2019-08-09 05:00 Image source: Stock/Gallo images   As part of our jobs, journalists meet all sorts of people, from celebrities to politicians. Often, we walk away feeling dejected and despondent. But sometimes, the people we interview leave us feeling invigorated and inspired. These are some of them: Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, small business minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni at her swearing in as an MP by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Picture: Cebile Ntuli Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South Africa’s small business minister, once tried to persuade Nelson Mandela to get the ANC to negotiate that 16 be the voting age. She was 14 at the time. It was the 1990s, during the heady days of the Convention for a Democratic SA. President Cyril Ramaphosa was present during the interaction. The interaction with Madiba planted the seeds of “focus and determination” in Ntshavheni, who says these are the same character traits that, years later, defined the role she played as municipal manager of Ba-Phalaborwa Local Municipality in Limpopo – in particular, the lesson that “age, gender and race have no bearing on my ability to achieve my set targets despite the obstacles”. At age 42, Ntshavheni is one of the youngest ministers in the new Cabinet. One of her most pressing tasks is to ask Parliament to amend the Small Business Act to better deal with current issues facing the sector. This will entail updating the act to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access funding from state agencies and the banking sector, and to ensure that small businesses are paid within the prescribed 21 days. She says big business, too, ought to assist in creating access to markets for small traders and, as a measure of last resort, “if we need to set quotas, it should be so”. Ntshavheni believes that if small businesses are able to survive the first five years of being established and could grow to medium-sized businesses, job creation would boom. “To achieve this, we need to remove the red tape, improve their cash flow through paying them on time, help them access markets for their products, and upskill them for proper financial management.” Sufficient groundwork has been done, she says, and now it is time for implementation. – Setumo Stone Read: New minister knows all about small business Barbara Creecy, minister of forestry, fisheries and environmental affairs Barbara Creecy. Picture: The Daily Sun Barbara Creecy is the first to admit that she inherited a department that is in good shape. But she is in no doubt of the importance of her new job. SA’s latest minister of environment, forestry and fisheries took over the old environmental affairs department earlier this year, with two new entities having been added to its functions: forestry and fisheries. These previously fell under the department of agriculture. Creecy says: “Some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, fall under this portfolio. President Cyril Ramaphosa is committed to creating jobs and fighting poverty, and this portfolio will play a big role as it is responsible for the sustainability, conservation and management of our natural resources.” Creecy reiterates her intention to gain a deeper understanding of the departments in her ministry. “There has been a lot of focus on the ocean economy. This is not just to do with fishing but also with the fact that South Africa has a 2 500km coastline, which calls into question what our role is with regard to shipping.” She says forestry is a big commercial activity that can contribute immensely to economic growth and jobs, particularly in the neighbouring province of Mpumalanga and elsewhere in the country. She says that while she is trying to learn fast so she can hit the ground running, she is also “fortunate, because even if I have never been at national government before, I have served at executive level in the provincial government for 15 years”. “I have had three diverse portfolios – in sports, education and finance. What that has taught me to do is ask: ‘How do I enter into a leadership space and quickly understand what the issues are, and how do I then look at starting to add value?’” – Setumo Stone Read: Barbara Creecy will build on work of predecessors as she inherits department in ‘good shape’ Pemmy Majodina, chief whip ANC new Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina. Picture: Misheck Makora ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina has made a name for herself among fashion watchers with her love of sheer, loud-coloured fabrics and big, brim-feathered hats. But her presence was impressive enough for the ANC’s national executive committee, which resolved that she would take up the top job of chief whip. Majodina grew up as an orphan, is a “ruralitarian” from Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, a preacher in the Methodist church, and mother to a young man named Mkhonto weSizwe, a name born out of a need to preserve history and also an ode to the “glorious army” she served in. In her first address to the media alongside ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, Majodina boldly proclaimed that the new parliamentary caucus would not be “lame ducks”. The chief whip said she was making reference to the need for the ANC to revisit its understanding of its role of oversight in Parliament. “As members of the ANC we must understand that we have a judiciary with a clear mandate, we have an executive with a clear mandate and a legislature with a clear mandate. If you can internalise that then you will know your role as the legislature. “In the previous terms the ANC has been accused of asking darling questions and that we don’t hold the executive to account, and so on. The Constitution is very clear: there is a separation of powers. We as the legislature have a mandate to play an oversight role over the executive.” The fifth Parliament was a tumultuous one, with it standing accused of failing in holding to account former president Jacob Zuma. While emphasising the need for natural justice to be observed, Majodina is adamant that ANC members who serve in the executive and are found to be involved in wrongdoing will find no refuge in Parliament. “If a matter comes to Parliament it must come. There is no one higher than the law. If we swear in a member today and tomorrow there is a damning report that finds the member guilty, we are not going to be defending an individual. We are here to preserve the values of the ANC. Whoever is found to be on the wrong side of the law must face the music.” The chief whip will be making a comeback to Parliament, having served in the National Council of Provinces from 1999 to 2004 before making her way to the Eastern Cape government, where she was deployed in five different departments. She argues that this makes her no newcomer to the legislature. “My vision is to make ANC members in Parliament accountable to their constituencies first. We are going to play an oversight role by ensuring that every item committed to in the manifesto is implemented. “And if there is anything that cannot be done, it must be explained, because as we worked across the country, people were saying that when things change they are not informed.” – S’thembile Cele Read: New chief whip Pemmy Majodina plans to sebenza all the way Nompendulo Mkhatshwha, ANC member of Parliament Nompendulo Mkhatshwa pictured in 2016 when she was Wits SRC president. Picture: Thapelo Maphakel Well known for the iconic image showing her in an ANC doek, her fist in the air, which was shot at the height of the #FeesMustFall movement, activist Nompendulo Mkhatshwa (25) is now one of the 230 ANC MPs representing the party. Mkhatshwa rose to prominence in 2015, while studying for her BSc degree at Wits University. She was leader of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). She has also worked part-time as a researcher at Luthuli House. Mkhatshwa was short-listed at number 101 on the ANC’s national list of individuals to head to Parliament. She represents the future of the ANC in all respects – a young woman and a gender activist who is driven by the plight of the youth and women. Mkhatshwa has risen through the ranks of the ruling party, however, she has clearly not forgotten her roots. In her maiden speech in Parliament in June, she highlighted the struggles of incarcerated #FeesMustFall activists. Using her platform as an MP, Mkhatshwa reminded society that a nation could not be built while others are left behind academically and economically. Mkhatshwa said while the protests by students in 2015 and 2016 have resulted in great strides in the higher education space, it was concerning that some activists were still behind bars for fighting for free tertiary education. – Juniour Khumalo Read: Who’s getting the House in order? Youngsters and oldies will share the benches in Parliament Naledi Chirwa, EFF MP Naledi Chirwa (EFF). Picture: Jaco Marais Student activist Naledi Chirwa (24) has rising in the ranks from serving as deputy president of the student representative council at Tshwane North College and fighting tirelessly to expose the debilitating circumstances of black people, black students and black women in the tertiary education space to now being counted among the EFF’s growing contingent in the National Assembly. Introduced to student politics in 2010, Chirwa rose to serve as the media and communications officer for the EFF Students Command. And has also been tireless in elevating the plight of jailed or student leaders facing criminal charges in to public discourse. In her maiden speech at the National Assembly in June, Chirwa further entrench her optimistic ideology that young people are not prepared to sit on the sidelines while decisions are being made about them. So powerful was Chirwa’s speech that even veteran parliamentarian Yunus Carrim asked: “What is this youth fundamentalism?” With youthful female leaders like Chirwa there is no doubt that young people, like generations before them, are making their mark for all to see.   – Juniour Khumalo Read: Who’s getting the House in order? Youngsters and oldies will share the benches in Parliament Yugen Blakrok, hip-hop musician Yugen Blakrok who is feature on the Black Panther soundtrack that was released two weeks ago. Picture: Supplied Yugen Blakrok hails from the Queenstown, Eastern Cape but her work has propelled her to France, from where she spoke to #Trending earlier this year. Last year her star elevated to the heights of Hollywood when she appeared on the acclaimed Black Panther soundtrack. She featured on a track called Opps with US rapper and west coast representative Vince Staples, as well as Kendrick Lamar, who produced the album. The experience for her was something she could not have imagined before. “By featuring on a release that big and completely foreign to me, I learnt many valuable lessons. Vince is a funny dude and a great artist, live as well. I thoroughly enjoyed performing with him when he was in South Africa.” The two shared a stage at Zone 6 Venue in Soweto when Vince toured here last year. The streets had mixed reactions to the performance as the sound was perhaps not at the level it should’ve been. Opps is a street term referring to opponents or opposition and features Kendrick Lamar doing his usual nonsense on the hook. Thankfully he makes way for the two emcees. She is adamant that locally produced art can thrive internationally and she hopes that would motivate the local industry to treat our artists better and increase the chances of lucrative gains. She is inspired by artists who have managed to shape their own lane in the arts, those who go against the grain, much like she does. “I’m not one of those rappers that started at an early age. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do after I finished school.” She first appeared on a mixtape in 2004 and only after that did the idea that she could do this professionally dawn on her. “Before then, I was just playing with words.” – Phumlani S Langa Read: Get to know Yugen Blakrok, empress of the underground Mokgadi Mabela, honey producer Mokgadi Mabela, founder of Native Nosi. (Image supplied) Within African traditional medicine, honey has been used since time immemorial for its physical healing abilities, as well as for its symbolic and spiritual significance. However, not all honey runs rich with the aforementioned therapeutic properties. Approximately 60% of the honey on South African supermarket shelves is imported and irradiated to a point where nutritional benefits are negligible. Mokgadi Mabela, a third-generation beekeeper, harvests and sells pure, raw honey from environmentally sustainable hives placed on farms and in rural communities across Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Last year, she sold almost two tons of her multiaward-winning local honey brand Native Nosi – most of it via her online shop. She attributes her success to the fact that “customers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it has been produced”. “I place the hives, inspect the hives and harvest the honey. I can guarantee that my honey hasn’t been tampered with and our bees were not fed artificial nutrients. I can tell you exactly where the honey in every pot I produce comes from, as well as the conditions in that particular place.” When it comes to honey, local really is lekker. Mokgadi explains that “the closer the honey was produced to the location of your specific home, the more antibodies that pertain to your specific circumstances it will contain. The bees will have fed on the flowers in your environment and those are the ones from which the pollen allergens that affect you come.” Native Nosi honey is not only healthy, it is also delicious and diverse. Mokgadi says “Nosi is the Sotho word for honey bee. To me, Native Nosi represents pure, natural unadulterated honey products produced locally and in harmony, and it also represents continuity with my past and present. My grandfather and my father were beekeepers before me, and I hope that Native Nosi reflects a respect for their skills and wisdom, and reveals a love connection in everything we do. “Historically, bees have been associated with ancestral communication and, in my case, that connection is very direct. I hope my grandfather would be pleased that, even though I didn’t meet him, he was sowing the seed for what I do. Generations along the line, he would recognise my passion and commitment. I only know my grandfather through the stories that others tell, but all of those show him to be a man worthy of respect. It pleases me to honour that image. I want to respect his legacy. I want to make him proud.” – Anna Trapido Read: How Mokgadi Mabela built award-winning local honey brand Native Nosi Mariette Liefferink, mining activist Activist Mariette Liefferink Johannesburg’s mines have contaminated virtually everything in the city – from the water, to the air, to the ground. While some communities live on radioactive land, others struggle with water laden with heavy metals. And nobody knows this more than environmental activist Mariette Liefferink, who features in the documentary Jozi Gold directed by South African writer, award-winning journalist, playwright and film maker Sylvia Vollenhoven and award-winning Swedish director and journalist Fredrik Gertten. Liefferink is the kind of subject film makers dream of. The documentary’s opening shot sees her traipsing around an excavated field in sky-high heels, dressed to a tee in black tights, an orange blazer and plenty of jewellery. A soft-spoken tannie with a clipped Afrikaans accent and coiffed blonde hair, she tells us later that she used to be a Jehovah’s Witness, so she’s used to be being “severely disliked”. And dislike is a feeling she must drum up, as she chases down the CEOs of mining companies and holds the government department officials to account for exposing people to hazardous mining pollution. Liefferink says she sees herself as a marathon runner instead of a sprinter, because her work requires a great deal of stamina. In one scene, we watch her patiently phone a government department to lay a complaint about the discharge of untreated mine water into a river system. It’s the 10th time she’s phoning, and she’s again sent from pillar to post. She hangs up cordially, then blinks away tears. But hounding the government officials – too often unsuccessfully – is not her primary work. Liefferink believes that environmental and social justice are inextricably linked, and she works with communities to hold mining companies to account. In one case, she laid a criminal complaint at the local police against the former owner of the Blyvoor mine, for numerous environmental infractions committed between 2008 and this year. She didn’t think anything would come of it, but to her surprise, the state decided to prosecute the mining directors responsible. It’s a huge victory for the Blyvoor community, which has been dealing with the effects of mining pollution for years. A third of all the gold in human history was mined in Johannesburg, and it was what gave birth to the city. But now we’re dealing with an environmental crisis that few of us even know the extent of. – Grethe Kemp Read: Jozi Gold reveals shocking truths about mining pollution Justa Frans, tracker Justa Frans Making the choice to keep her Kwhe family traditions alive, 25-year-old Justa Frans went on a journey to learn the art of wildlife tracking. Now she’s the first formally accredited female tracker in the Karoo. The settlement of Platfontein, about 22km from Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, is home to the Kwhe and !Xun descendants of the San Namibian trackers. In the 60s they were first deployed by t he Portuguese Angolan military forces in Angola, and later in the 70s by the former SA Defence Force in the Namibian struggle for independence. After that war ended many chose to relocate to South Africa. Frans’ family was one such. This 25-year-old was determined to keep alive her Kwhe family traditions so she made a choice. She rejected the modern hip-hop culture burgeoning in Platfontein and is threatening the old folklore, storytelling, traditional music and healing dances. “I didn’t want to lose my culture,” she says. “I chose tracking.” Frans now works at the Karoo Lodge in the award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve located on 28 000 hectares of wilderness in the middle of the Eastern Cape. Last year she graduated from the Sact Tracker Academy, a training division of the SA College for Tourism in Tswalu, South Africa’s largest private game reserve in the Northern Cape. It’s a fully accredited training programme with the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority and is the first tracker training school in South Africa to achieve this distinction. Frans graduated with a Level 3 tracking qualification that requires a 90% score. “I was taken into the bush. I thought it was just a classroom day. But it turned out to be the exam.” She is now working as an intern at Samara Reserve that also has a tracker academy on site, and hopes to be appointed to a permanent position. She is thrilled that Samara has recently become home to the first elephants and lions in the region for more than 170 years. “I can now track the Big Five.” She laughs as she says that guests are usually very surprised to have a woman tracker on their guided game drives and bush walks. “I love to see their faces!” Her ambition now is to get her driver’s licence and to teach other students, especially women, tracking skills. “Tracking is in my blood,” says Frans firmly. “I know that in the past it was only the men who did the tracking but now a woman can too.” She adds shyly: “Sometimes now the men are a bit jealous.” – Kate Turkington Read: Meet Justa Frans, the Karoo’s first formally accredited female tracker Portia Mavhungu, social innovator Portia Muvhungu Portia Mavhungu invented a device that allows those in wheelchairs to use the toilet without having to be lifted from their chair. Thirty-year-old Mavhungu, a Pretoria-based social entrepreneur, called her invention the Para Tube. She came up with the idea after being confined to a wheelchair for a while after an accident. “In 2011, I had an accident where I broke my pelvis. I was in the hospital for several weeks and in a wheelchair for the rest of the year. I fell into a depression over the loss of my independence. I needed my mother to lift me every time I needed to use the toilet. “I was in this situation for only a short time and thought about how hard it would be for those who experience this their whole lives.” With the Para Tube, the user pulls the centre part of the seat forward with a handle, and the middle seat flips up in the shape of a toilet. The user then defecates or urinates into a biodegradable bag in the opening. The bag locks in any smell and can then be disposed of in a similar way to a nappy. This invention is the first of its kind. Its efficiency and use of material offer greater comfort and ease than anything else available on the market. “The commode, which is our competitor, uses a bucket system. The commode seat is hard and people start sweating and develop sores, and their backs are hurt,” says Mavhungu. “With us, the seating is breathable material. It has PVC in the centre, so you’re able to wipe it. The seat is waterproof and the height of the seat protects the user’s lumbar spine.” The device will also be a great help in hospitals. “We have a shortage of nurses in South Africa,” says Mavhungu. “When you’re in a hospital, you have to wait for a nurse to lift you and place a steel bedpan underneath you. “I remember being in hospital with a broken pelvis and being taken off morphine. The nurses would put a bedpan underneath me and leave me, and I would just be shaking and in pain and waiting for the nurse to come back to take me off the bedpan.” Mavhungu says she didn’t decide to become an inventor, but always knew she wanted to help people. Her mother died from cancer in 2017, and she left her job to focus on developing the Para Tube. “What drives me is the passion. I know I’ve succeeded when someone has used the device and it’s helped them,” she says. – Grethe Kemp Read: This SA-invented device helps the disabled use the toilet Bongiwe Msomi, netball player  Netball Proteas captain playing for her home team Umgungundlovu during day four of the of the SPAR National Netball Championships at the University of Johannesburg sports grounds on Thursday. Picture: Palesa Dlamini/City Press Bongiwe Msomi (31) is the captain of the applause-deserving South African Netball Proteas team that reached the playoffs at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool for the first time in 24 years. Having started playing netball at the tender age of 16 Msomi said she could never have imagined herself playing for the national squad let alone leading the team. “Being selected to play for the national team has been the highlight of the 15 years I have been plaing netball. I have played overseas, in countries including Australia and England but the best thing for me, I can never take away the moment I was announced as a South African national player,” she said. Msomi said she never purposefully got in to the sport which now holds a special place not just in her heart but in her life. “Where I grew up soccer and netball were the major sports. Even when I tried things like athletics I realised I was nowhere close to being good. So I went to watch some neighbourhood friends in one of their netball training sessions one day and they were one player short and that is how I got into netball,” she said. The Proteas captain said she is glad that she took up the sport because it has a lot to offer young girls. She has been captain for more than three years and said she could not be prouder. “I am part of this amazing team and representing my country is humbling,” Msomi excitedly said. South Africa is set to host the next edition of the Netball World Cup, in Cape Town in 2023. – Palesa Dlamini


Fears of long term damage to SA's water supply as eutrophication strangles rivers and dams | IOL

Toxic green algae in the Vaal River is caused by eutrophication, which harms water quality and impacts river life. Supplied Article by Sheree Bega The black, sewage-contaminated water that flows from the Rietspruit into the Loch Vaal is so polluted that even algae struggles to grow in its polluted depths. “All we get is black sewage sludge in areas where there’s less current,” explains Mike Gaade, who lives on the banks of the Rietspruit in Vanderbijlpark. But sightings of cyanobacteria blooms of toxic blue-green algae in the main Vaal River, caused by sewage, are becoming more frequent, particularly in summer, he says. That the Vaal is becoming eutrophic is a real concern, says water scientist Professor Anthony Turton. Eutrophication causes an overgrowth of algae that harms water quality, reduces oxygen, produces toxins, impacts river and marine life and affects food and human health. “Once a water body becomes eutrophic and cyanobacteria becomes established, no known method in SA has ever been able to reverse that process,” Turton explains. SA’s most eutrophic water is in Hartbeespoort Dam - the most studied of all systems. “Despite the very best scientists being unleashed on the problem, we have been unable to restore the system to its previous trophic status. With our current available knowledge, it’s safe to believe the Vaal is now becoming eutrophic and this is going to persist as the the new normal.” Eutrophication is the “logical outcome” of discharging high levels of phosphates and nitrates into river systems - natural nutrients that drive the production of plant biomass. “Biomass typically takes two forms in SA - the familiar problem of water hyacinth at Hartbeestpoort Dam and the cyanobacteria blooms of blue-green algae that the Vaal is now succumbing to.” The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has now released its draft inception report for its National Eutrophication Strategy. The strategy, with its 10-year horizon, seeks to provide guidance to the DWS and water sector at large “on strategies to avoid, reduce, mitigate and manage the effects of eutrophication on SA’s water resources”. It notes that the project was initially started in 2002 and “never completed” but was reinstated last year. “The issue of eutrophication had not received adequate attention, previously, which could have been one of the reasons the situation exacerbated even more,” reads the report. The Integrated Water Quality Management (IWQM) Policies and Strategies for SA in 2016 and 2017 "emphasised eutrophication as one of the country’s pressing water-quality challenges, along with salinisation, acid mine drainage, urban pollution and sedimentation”, it states. Eutrophication, says Turton, is an old problem that has now reached “catastrophic proportions” due mostly to the failure of the DWS in its role as national regulator. “DWS has allowed the Blue and Green Drop Reporting Standard to fall into dysfunction. This has allowed municipalities to act with impunity knowing they will never be sanctioned for non-compliance. The biggest culprit is the 824 wastewater treatment works (sewage plants) we have in every municipality. About 60% of them are now dysfunctional, so they collectively discharge over 5billion litres of sewage into our rivers daily. We draw our drinking water from those same rivers.” No bulk water provider in the country that takes water from a river and produces potable water uses technology capable of removing the toxic by-product of eutrophic water: microcystin. “This is a potent molecule that is released when the cyanobacteria is distressed. The molecule becomes parts of the water and cannot be filtered out from the water. “This means that South African citizens will increasingly be exposed to microcystin as long as our wastewater plants continue to fail. “Eutrophication is a slow onset disaster that will plague SA for the next generation. The manifestation will increasingly be in the form of low dose but long-term exposure to microcystin. The coronavirus has merely added a new complication, because of the potential for faecal-oral transmission through contaminated rivers.” Satellite work by the CSIR has already revealed that 60% of the country’s dams are eutrophic. Sightings of blue-green algae, caused by sewage, is becoming more frequent, especially in summer. Supplied In his 2015 paper, “Living with Eutrophication in SA: A review of realities and challenges”, scientist William Harding noted how the socio-economic well-being of SA is largely dependent on reservoir lakes, with between 41% and 76% of total storage eutrophic or hypertrophic. “This is in stark contrast to a claimed 5% made by the DWS. Data and information on the incidence and toxicity of cyanobacterial blooms are sparse, yet severe problems exist The most seriously impacted reservoirs are located in the economic heartland of SA, which has an extant regional water-quality crisis.” Many of SA’s rivers, reservoirs, and coastal lakes “no longer have the resilience to assimilate nutrients or sequestrate toxicants”, the paper found. “The responsible agency (DWS) urgently needs to establish a reservoir management programme that embraces remaining individual and institutional memory, integrates all available knowledge and scientific findings, prioritises needs and acquires those skills and resources necessary to meet what is likely to become a crippling legacy of inaction.” Eutrophication is a “big challenge and the situation is worsening”, says CSIR senior researcher Dr Melusi Thwala, who studies emerging environmental pollutants and water quality. “However, it is mostly dams/large impoundments that have historically faced such a challenge because they act as reservoirs in which pollutants such as nutrients can accumulate over time. “For instance, in excess of 40% of approximately 500 large impoundments are eutrophic and others exhibit a character of non-natural nutrient enrichment. “For river systems more and more cases are being observed but in smaller systems the rainy season can provide a dilution relief effect, but not so much in large systems such as the Vaal and Olifants rivers.” Their hard-working nature means that large river systems receive continuous and large nutrient inputs from various anthropogenic (human-caused) activities, with “municipal wastewater treatment works being a priority input source due to their declining capacity to treat wastewater”. “Simply put, the more human settlements, the more sewage waste is produced, sometimes exceeding the volumes that wastewater treatment works can handle. Agricultural and industrial activities also contribute nutrients into rivers,” Thwala says. Mariette Liefferink, the chief executive of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, says the most important drivers of eutrophication are dysfunctional waste water treatment works, dense informal settlements without proper sanitation, vandalism of sewage reticulation systems and sewage spills over many years into receiving streams. “The tipping point has already been reached, beyond which, our ecosystems can no longer absorb and process the nutrients and other pollutants being passed on to it.” The actions proposed by the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan is to by 2020, “identify and prosecute big polluters across the country (including municipalities), with a national communication campaign to accompany the action inclusive of reviving the Blue Scorpions”. “The above-mentioned actions must be implemented concurrently with the development of the National Eutrophication Strategy," she says. "Failure to prosecute municipalities and other polluters will render the objectives of the strategy impotent.” Eutrophication is a core priority of the Integrated National Water Resource Strategy and was identified as an issue of concern by the DWS in 2009. It was highlighted in the Continuation of the Integrated Vaal River System Reconciliation Strategy Study (Phase 2) in March last year as an "unaddressed issue of concern". Tackling it is entirely reliant on activities performed within the DWS, catchment management agencies (CMAs), together with other institutions within the water sector, Liefferink says. “However, the lethargy in completing the roll-out and delegations to CMAs is a major issue of concern. The development of the strategy is at risk to be aborted unless CMAs become functional.” Eutrophication is a "crisis of unprecedented proportions", says Turton made all the more problematic because few people outside of the aquatic sciences and environmental health community "are aware that such a problem even exists”.

Vaal sewage spills into parts of Vereeniging as residents complain about it getting into their homes | IOL

Sewage continues to spill into the Vaal River, on to the streets of Vereeniging ...