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Kao mine pledges support for demo victims

Bereng Mpaki

KAO Diamond Mine in Butha-Buthe has offered to employ the pregnant widow of Terene Pitae who was shot and killed by police during a demonstration by the local community against the mine in February this year.

The government has 25 percent shareholding in the mine with 75 percent shares in the hands of South African company, Namakwa Diamonds.

The mine has occasionally found itself in conflict with villagers since operations commenced in 2010. The villagers feel the mine does not prioritise their interests including in recruitment and in the provision of services such as decent roads.

Mr Pitae died while two other locals were critically injured on 8 February 2018 at Kao Mine after violent clashes broke out between the police and villagers who were protesting against the alleged failure by the mine to honour its promises to compensate and relocate them from the areas affected by mining operations.

Speaking during a recent public gathering that was organised by the Ministry of Mining, the mine’s Corporate Chief Executive Officer, Mohale Ralikariki, expressed regret over the February incident and said they were eager to repair relations with the host community.

He said they were aware that Mr Pitae was the breadwinner and his family might be struggling since his death hence their decision to hire his widow once she had given birth.

“We believe this will go a long way towards healing the family as well as community,” Mr Ralikariki said of the decision to hire Ms Pitae.

“We remain committed to righting all the wrongs we have committed against the community.”

He further said they had resolved to permanently relocate the affected households from Sekeketeng village to a destination that will be chosen in consultation with the villagers.

Meanwhile, ‘Manalane Molefi, a member of the villagers’ liaison committee with the mine, said the host community harbours deep resentment towards the mine due to its failure to deliver on its promises.

“We have a deep resentment for the mine because it continues to undermine us by failing to fulfil its promises to us. We have been patient long enough since 2010,” Ms Molefi said.

Hlalele Hlalele from the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), a civic organisation which campaigns for the rights of mining communities, said the mine could not afford to continue paying lip service to the locals’ grievances.

He said the mine was always ready to engage in talks with the community only to disappoint through the failure to deliver on its promises.

“We do not see any life-improving interventions by the mine except for the temporary jobs which are not sustainable and decent,” Mr Hlalele said.

For his part, the Mining Minister Keketso Sello, called on the mine to urgently address the locals’ concerns.

“Such gatherings should be to discuss the record positive progress that has been made,” Mr Sello said.

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