+27 11 832-1743/2 info@bench-marks.org.za




Community Activist and  Monitor’s Woman’s Month Webinar, 26th Thursday 2020

This webinar was about activist who live in mining areas how they observe limited opportunities for women in the mining areas, women persevere to remain in toxic relationships. They experience a disturbing environment which squashes options teenage girls, forcing them to choose between school and survival which means surrendering to transactional relationships to provide for their families. Watch Here 


Artisenal Mining, Thursday 10th September 2020

This webinar sourced the experience of communities in Southern Africa in small scale artisenal mining. These miners can trace their ancestors to pre-colonial times and as the industrial mining goes into decline they will become evermore prominent, however our colonial legacy has meant that our mining laws and practices have been informed by the multinational corporation that dominate the industry. This has resulted in small scale mining being marginalized and criminalized by monopolies. The Bench Marks Foundation and its partners are attempting to assist artisenal miners to become formal cooperatives and that their activities are propely regulated and made safe, both for the miners and the community in which they reside. We will also have people in Southern Africa who have experience of artisenal mining from countries where Bench Marks Foundation has done work through partnerships. Watch Here


Life After Mining, Thursday 01st October 2020

This webinar focused on concrete project proposals that developed as a result of our work with communities were mines are owner-less, abandoned and derelict. Our focus here is on rehabilitating the environment and assisting with just and sustainable transition for society beyond mining. The webinar discussion was informed by the Bench Marks Foundation research work around fossil fuels, abandoned mines and community, and the potential for turning the challenges into opportunities for communities sustainable development. Watch Here


Beyond the Mine Gates: Communities Engaging Power

The theme Beyond the Mine Gates: Communities Engaging Power speaks of the legacy of mining that has since inception excluded mining communities from decision-making and a say in their lives. This conference gives these communities, faith leaders and researchers a chance to tell their stories, of their increased organization and resistance.

The Covid 19 pandemic, and subsequent hard lockdown that was imposed, exposed the reality of what type of society we really are. It revealed to those who were asleep, the gnawing inequality and the growing poverty, hunger and thirst as well as the government’s ineptitude to deal with the fundamental needs of the poorest in our midst. During this time, hunger rose shamefully from 14 million to about 30 million people whilst charities and others scrambled to provide food parcels, a Band-Aid to chronic and structural impoverishment of the poor. Corporate and government corruption is at all-time high, with little effective prosecution of the perpetrators. The stimulus packages meant to assist the poor and working people were channeled into the deep pockets of bureaucrats and the rich. Corruption has seemingly become the one sector of the Capitalist economy that has boomed during these times! This is how South African corporations mined for over 150 years. It reflects upon the unspoken legacies of marginalization and of externalization of costs onto the poor and workers, particularly women who end up bearing the brunt of the systems of greed underwritten by patriarchy. In addition, the environment has not been spared as it seems that there are too few in power that speak with or listen to the concerns of nature.  It is a story that is untenable for our democracy and must be stopped!

Furthermore, the role and function of the army and police, in enforcing the lockdown with military force instead of the persuasive and playing a supportive role with citizens. This resulted in needless deaths and injuries of our people. These repressive measures undermined the public democratic sphere as citizens rights were extremely curtailed even in the face of heinous crimes and abuses of power.

The Bench Marks Foundation and its partner organizations and the communities we work with have not remained silent. Communities are raising their voices against these abuses of power, mal-governance and ineffective regulation of corporations, particularly those in the  mining sector. This pandemic for the mining communities is really a crisis upon a crisis. The illnesses, hunger, lack of rights in particular to have a genuine say in decision making in the matters that affect their lives in institutions like the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) has resulted in accidents, illnesses and deaths of workers and those living around the mines. In doing this, the corporations (with weak government enforcement) have externalized the costs of mining to the poorest people in our society. During Covid, these institutions have left mining communities without cover. The time for inclusion of mining communities cannot wait any longer. One more death is one too many. 

In the face of this crisis, some like the Minerals Council advocate for a post-Covid economy which seems very much like the old. For them, it must be business as usual where mining communities remain unprotected from the safeguards of law and the institutions. Thus communities continue to suffer poor water and air quality and lack of legal protection for health and safety. These are the commodities of radicalized capitalism. The Minerals Council vision is, according to us, not the solution, but it is part of the fundamental problem in South Africa. Elite control over wealth is unsustainable and the struggle to democratize the economy is long overdue.

What we need is a society that puts the poor and working people at the center of human development. There can be no returning to a new normal but this starts with factoring in the impacts of inequality, climate change, hunger, thirst and the disenfranchisement of mining communities. A move is needed is to move from rhetoric to practical interventions informed by a vision of a society where caring for people is put first. 

For far too long the Minerals Council has ignored climate change.  Climate change is real.

Whilst Africa accounts for only 16 percent of the world’s population and emits about 4 percent of global co2 emissions (with South Africa the most dominant polluter), we Africans suffer the consequences of climate catastrophe (drought, plagues and more) disproportionately compared to the humans in other parts of our world. The average North American, for instance, emits 17 times more carbon than the average African.

All these crises together have been fueling disharmony and civil conflicts, xenophobia, war, migrations and increased poverty and hunger. Our struggles are interconnected and work towards ensuring greater unity of the poor and working people in the challenges they face today and in the future.

There will be no New Normal. We demand and will struggle for a bottom-up, people driven renewal process. The alternative vision is built everyday and will be won through struggle. We still have a long way to go to unraveling the apartheid era spatial and economic patterns that keep the majority in gnawing inequality, racism and humiliating poverty. The legacies of exploitation and oppression remain in our continent and it is for this reason that our renewal project must be inclusive of the sub-region and the whole of Africa.

The multiple challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in deeper recession and ongoing systemic repression of the poor and working classes. We must resist the cry for small change. We have an opportunity to bring to life the centuries of resistances to injustice so that we may become human again. We have an opportunity to let UBUNTU thrive again. Umuntu gumuntu ngabantu simply means that I am a person because you are… we have to be there for the other. It is a message of community rebuilding and solidarity.

It is for this reason that we have endorsed the need for economies that will sustain lives and livelihoods, climate justice, a universal income grant and quality public health system. This is what a post Covid response package must include: real effective interventions amongst the poorest of our society. Government must move from hollow claims to providing practical programmes that meet the urgent human needs but remains restorative of our human dignity and our history of participatory democracy.

We admit that we do not have all the answers and work with mining communities to learn together. We also work with other movements and organizations to put an end to elite control over the mineral and natural resources, the media and increasingly our politics.

To help us achieve our objectives we urge you to consider answers to the following questions.

What values and principles must guide us now and for the future society we desire?

How do we struggle to regain our lost democratic space?

How do we go about building alternative people-centered economies and communities that sustain our cultures and livelihoods?

How do we build alliances with others to achieve our objectives?

There are many other questions you may pose them in these workshops / webinars and in our everyday work together in the field.

Watch Part 1 Here

Watch Part 2 Here