Democratic Alliance press statement by
Veronica Van Dyk
DA Constituency Head of Namaqua
Government must explore alternative options for jobless Namakwalanders
11 July 2018
The DA is calling on government to stop ignoring the plight of illegal miners in Namaqualand, where diamonds must make up for a lack of jobs.
Years of inefficient regulation of the mining industry and in turn retrenchments and mine closures, have ultimately left a tragic legacy of unemployment in Namaqualand, causing men and women to break the law and risk their lives in order to put food on the table.
Some diggers excavate shallow pits in disused mining areas, while others take greater risks and burrow unsafe tunnels beneath the walls of old mine pits, retrieving sacks of gravel to sieve and rinse. In the case of a lucky find, they trade the rough diamonds on the black market, at a price that is significantly under market value.
This is a process that has continued unabated, despite having come under the spotlight more than six years ago, after the Bontekoe mining tragedy that killed ten people when an illicit tunnel collapsed on illegal diggers at Kleinsee.
It is shocking that the ANC government cares so little for these illegal miners that, to date, there has never been a formal government investigation into the incident.
It is worrying that the ANC government cares so little for the safety of illegal miners, and the residents whose premises border the mine fields, that the South African Police Service mostly chooses to turn a blind eye to the potential dangers, for both illegal miners and residents.
It is also disturbing that the ANC cares so little for the unemployed people of Namaqualand that it has not attempted to find a way to support artisanal mining in Namaqualand, despite the potential opportunities it offers.
What government need to realise is that people are not going to stop this illegal mining until a better opportunity presents itself.
The DA will write to Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, asking that he urgently gives the illegal miners an audience and that he arranges a sit down with all mines in the area, particularly those on whose land the illegal mining is currently taking place.
Kimberley’s illegal diamond miners recently gained access to 600 hectares of land and were issued with mining permits, transforming them from criminals into artisanal miners. Surely respective stakeholders can also come up with solution to formalize illegal mining in Namaqualand and make it economically viable. This will serve to grow the economy and reduce crime.
It is high time that South Africa works towards taking its place as the world’s mining capital, by creating a modern and investor-friendly mining sector.
This change will only come under a DA-led government that appreciates the important role that a transparent and efficient regulator can play in undoing inequality, poverty and especially unemployment in Namaqualand and across the country.
Veronica Van Dyk
DA Constituency Head Namakwa
083 236 2152