Residents decry lack of consultation, glaring contempt
Ikongwe village residents in the Shoshong constituency have expressed disappointment at the process surrounding the iron ore mine in their area. Speaking to The Patriot on Sunday, the residents indicated that they were never consulted when the company came to set up shop in their backyard.
Ikongwe Village Kgosi Balathamang Thajane indicated that when the Iron Ore Mine started setting up, there was no consultations with the residents including the leadership. “When all this started Ikongwe residents were overlooked. During that time I was not yet part of the Kgotla as my contract had not yet been renewed,” he said.
He said residents are up in arms because they only saw government and mine vehicles going up and down their village without any of them knowing what was happening. “When this continued I questioned whether the delay in renewal of my contract was done so that these activities will be done in my absence. Recently they called a Kgotla meeting, as they said they wanted to consult with the people of Ikongwe. However the consultation was not fruitful as the residents of Ikongwe felt left out as they were not allowed to enter the Kgotla, and instead it was the people from Shoshong and some from Serowe who had cattle posts around the mine area who were allowed to participate in the meeting…but the mine is close to Ikongwe,” he decried.
Kgosi Thajane said however during the cause of the months, the mine owners accompanied by Member of Parliament for the area, Aubrey Lesaso came to the kgotla to apologise for lack of proper consultations, saying they are going to fix their mistakes and start to follow the right procedures. “When someone comes to you to apologise, it is not easy to dismiss their apologies. But nevertheless they knew procedures very well when they started and I believe what they did was just a show of contempt to us,” said Thajane.
Ikongwe Village Development Committee (VDC) chairperson Dikeledi Gaeneleng reiterated that as the village parliament they were also not privy of the mine.“I became aware of the mine when each day I witnessed vehicles going in and out of the village and towards the mine site which forced me to call a Kgotla meeting. Since we did not have a chief at the time because his contract had not been renewed, upon asking the residents about the vehicles, they said there is a mine, and there are people who had camped there,” she said.
Gaeneleng further said when the mine was hiring manual labours, they hired them at their site instead of the kgotla which is how it was always done in the village. “We tried to talk to them to engage us when they hire manual labour, so that they can come and do the hiring at the Kgotla instead of at their site, they initially agreed, but they never honoured their promise as they continued to do the hiring at the mine site,” she said.
Otse/Kodibeleng,councillor, Lebitso Merementsi also indicated that he was also left in the dark with regards to the mine project. “I only heard that there is a mine in Ikongwe through people who had seen the activities going on in the village. It was then that I went to the area that was pointed to me, to look for the said mine and indeed I discovered mining activities,” he said.
“And it was after my visit to the mine that, during a council meeting there was a submission from Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security that he wanted to go and appreciate the mine, and we were informed we have to join him, when we got there, there was already production underway,” he added.
Member of Parliament for Shoshong Aubrey Lesaso admitted that at the beginning there was confusion but they were able to call meetings in order to clear the air with the community as the constituency and government leadership. He said he has since been able to engaged the people of Ikongwe regarding Ikongwe Iron Ore Mine. “I engaged them around three times, where we talked about developments in the constituency,” he said.
“During the first Kgotla meeting we discussed some of the projects that are ongoing in the Shoshong constituency, one of them being a Lime stone mining and the iron ore mine,” he added.
Lesaso said with regard to the iron ore mine, due to Covid 19 protocols that were in place to control the spread of the pandemic the Department of Environmental Affairs decided they could only give the miner Environmental Management Plan licence. “What Environmental Management Plan does is, it doesn’t call for a Kgotla meeting, but it identifies people who are directly affected by the project, so what they did is, they mapped the boreholes, fields, and cattle posts that were within the vicinity or inside the boundary of the mine development, and they individually engaged and interviewed those people,” he said.