Start main page content

Women of Marikana withdraw from dispute resolution process with Lonmin

- Lee-Anne Bruce

In June 2015, the women of Sikhala Sonke lodged a complaint with the Compliance Advisor / Ombudsman (CAO) concerning the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) investment in Lonmin PLC. The IFC is part of the World Bank which provides funding to the private sector in developing countries. In 2007, the IFC made a $50 million investment in Lonmin which was earmarked for Lonmin’s Local Economic Development Programme. This funding was  granted to ensure that Lonmin contributed to the development of nearby communities by providing infrastructure, basic services and poverty eradication programmes and thus complying with its social and labour plan (SLP) commitments.  

Years after receiving this funding, the living conditions of the communities living around Lonmin’s Marikana mine remain dire. Lonmin has failed to comply with its SLP commitments and the IFC’s Performance Standards and thus the purpose for which the funding was granted. The complaint lodged by Sikhala Sonke, with the assistance of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, highlights the women’s concerns with the living conditions in Nkaneng, an informal settlement near Marikana. These concerns relate to access to housing, water, and sanitation, and ensuring sound and effective environmental management, gender empowerment, education and black economic empowerment.  At the heart of the women’s complaint are issues which if resolved would substantially improve the conditions of the people living in Nkaneng.

Following the complaint, Sikhala Sonke engaged in a number of mediation and training sessions with the CAO and then began the mediation process with Lonmin. Despite Sikhala Sonke’s good faith efforts, nearly 17 months since the lodgment of the complaint with the CAO, and nearly 10 months of engagement with Lonmin resulting in three separate meetings has delivered extremely limited progress on only a few peripheral issues.

No progress has been made on the issues which form the core of the Sikhala Sonke’s complaint to the CAO: access to housing, water, and sanitation, and ensuring sound and effective environmental management, gender empowerment, education and black economic empowerment. Instead of engaging on these core issues, Lonmin suggested that the engagement first be on peripheral issues (counselling for community members, scrap metal collection by community members and Lonmin’s channels of communication with Sikhala Sonke as a stakeholder). And secondly, on issues that required greater clarification and thirdly (and lastly) on core issues.  Sikhala Sonke was concerned with this suggestion as they feared it would result in a delay in a engagement on the core issues.  

Nonetheless, Sikhala Sonke supported this approach in the hope that it would result in the resolution of the concerns raised and create a foundation for the resolution of core issues.  This process has however failed to yield a resolution in both the core issues, and the peripheral issues. 

On the three peripheral issues, Lonmin made minor and resourceless commitments.  Even on these peripheral and minor issues (i.e. counselling, scrap metal and communication channels), Lonmin failed to keep its commitments.  It became evident to Sikhala Sonke that this was an indication of Lonmin’s engagement in bad faith and the ineffectiveness of the dispute resolution process.

The dispute resolution process has both failed to address the concerns raised in the complaint and to develop a communicative relationship between the women of Sikhala Sonke and Lonmin.  As such, it has failed to ensure Lonmin’s compliance with its SLP, the IFC Performance Standards and the purpose for which funding was granted to it. In light of these failures, Sikhala Sonke has withdrawn from the dispute resolution process.

Sikhala Sonke have also requested that the CAO commence with a compliance process. It is hoped that this process will ensure a full analysis of the reasons for: (a) Lonmin’s failure to comply with its SLP commitments to the IFC (including its commitment to comply with its SLP obligations); (b) the IFC and Lonmin’s failure to comply with the IFC’s Performance Standards; and (c) the IFC’s failure to ensure that Lonmin complied with its Performance Standards.

For further inquiries, please contact:

Thumeka Magwangqana

  • Chair
  • Sikhala Sonke
  • 079 706 2295

Nomonde Nyembe

Palesa Madi