by Veronica Van Dyk – DA Northern Cape Constituency Head of Namaqualand
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Date: 14 August 2018
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape is calling on Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, to provide an update on the Alexkor mine investigation, given the ongoing suffering of at least three small-scale marine diamond miner divers, who lost their mining contracts late last year after they helped lift the lid on corruption within the state-owned mining company.
In May this year, Gordhan publicly announced that he would appoint forensic investigators to probe operations at the diamond company.
From as far back as 2006, the miner divers have been outspoken about a lack of transparency by Alexkor in the sales process of shallow water mining production, as well as poor prices paid for production and lack of competition. Their submissions have since been incorporated into exposẻs about collusion in the industry, even linking Alexkor to the Guptas through Scarlet Sky Investment 60, which is the marketing agent of the Alexkor Richtersveld Mining Company Pooling and Sharing Joint Venture (Alexkor RMC PSJV).
On 24 October last year, one of the miner divers, Mr Gavin Craythorne, relayed his concerns to former Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown. On 29 October, she responded in writing, stating that she had asked the PSJV Board to investigate his allegations. Exactly a month later, on 29 November 2017, Mr Craythorne received a letter informing him that the Board of the Alexkor/RMC Joint Venture had decided that his contract would not be renewed and that arrangements would be made for him to vacate the area. No explanation accompanied his dismissal.
In would thus appear that seasoned diver miner, Craythorne, and his fellow diamond divers were punished for attempting to blow the whistle on corruption.
In April this year, Craythorne, who since turned to Gordhan, who subsequently replaced disgraced former Minister Brown, for assistance, received a response in writing from the new Minister indicating that he had instructed his department to investigate allegations made by Craythorne, including the lawfulness of the decisions made by the Alexkor Richtersveld Mining Company Pooling and Sharing Joint Venture (Alexkor RMC PSJV).
To date, however, findings of Gorhan’s investigation have not been publicised and no interventions into Alexkor have been instituted by his department. Instead, operations are continuing unabated and the specialised miner divers, who have spent most of their lives investing in equipment to mine the shallow seabed off the west coast, remain without mining rights to practise their trade. In effect, they remain unemployed and destitute.
The DA will write to Gordhan asking for urgent feedback on the status of the investigation. We will also request that his department wastes no more time in assisting the miner divers, whose livelihoods were snatched from them, to resume their trade.
The DA cannot tolerate a situation whereby whistle blowers are punished for standing up against corruption.
Only change under a DA-led government will ensure that the state diamond company is transformed into an institution that will directly grow the Richtervseld economy and improve the lives of all the people who live and work in Alexander Bay and its surrounds, and not just enrich the connected few who currently benefit from the contorted profits of the state diamond mining industry.