A Life Before the Mine

Posted on October 13, 2010

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May 2010 (excerpt from Financing Economic Apartheid)

“We are ready. This is not going to end 
today until our voice is heard. That is a pro
mise not a threat. It is a promise. Everybody 
has a value and everybody should have a 
say and be listened to”.

Lele Susan Moabelo is 33 years old and 
has lived in Sekuruwe all her life, now with 
husband and children. 
She is dedicated to securing the wellbeing 
of her community, but in speaking up 
against the mine’s reckless actions Lele has 
both been arrested and offered bribes.

The arrest took place on the 29th of May 2008, when she, along with five other women, was 
watching the mine’s removal of their ancestors’ graves. Susan explains that the mine wanted 
the land and that the removals were done in a brutal and careless way. The women were told 
to leave, but since they had never been consulted about the removals of family graves, they 
refused. “Let’s shoot these dogs,” the police had shouted running towards the women. But the 
women did not run, although rubber bullets were shot at them. The police paralyzed them with 
pepper spray aiming at their eyes and some were even grabbed brutally by the throat.

Forty seven people were arrested that day. They spent four days in prison away from their fami- 
lies and children, and the prison itself was a traumatizing experience, Lele reports. More people 
were nearly suffocating from the bad smell of the bacteria filled air. However, what offends her 
most is that they all were found innocent after a year of trial. There had never really been a case. 
The mine had simply bought some time and avoided any new demonstrations.

After the incident at the graves Lele suspects that the mine was afraid that she would lead 
more demonstrations and encourage people to fight for their rights. She was called several 
times from a private number being offered both a permanent job at the mine and money – but 
under the condition that she would shut up. She refused their intriguing attempt to keep her 
silent. Other community members unfortunately couldn’t resist this kind of quick money and 
now act more loyal to the mine than to the community. Lele thinks that this is a strategic way for 
the mine to create mistrust and internal conflicts within the community. The mine is just using 
people and not cooperating with them as they pretend, she claims.

In spite of the bad experiences with the mine, Lele still sees a potential in their presence.

”We appreciate that someone from another country can take the minerals out of our soil, because we don’t have the money or resources to do that ourselves. But they should acknowledge 
that the resources that they are benefiting from are coming from our land, where we live (…) you 
see, we should be like hand in glove, and we should walk hand in hand.”

She regrets that the 
mine and the community are fighting each other instead of helping each other, “but until poverty 
has left the community and we start to benefit from our own minerals, we won’t stop this 
struggle”.

She stresses that the people of Sekuruwe is not just a stubborn old community. They 
sincerely wish for development of the area, but they just want to have a say in the planning of 
their own future.

“They cant just some here and say jump and we will ask how high. Before the 
mine came here, we had a life – we were living”.

Posted in: CSR, South Africa