The role and responsibility of the democratic government together with the business community in ensuring that various sectors that are key economic drivers in the country, play a visible and impactful key-role in the development and empowerment of women, respectively black women within rural mining local communities is very important. This requires government leadership’s political will and commitment to ensure that women are liberated from the segregation and patriarchal practices of the past within local and national economic streams. Notably, women are the most important sector of the society in various contexts in South Africa

The critical and important role of women in building and bettering the nation has been proven in many cases, including even during the times of liberation struggle. Government and the Private sector carry the responsibilities to implement without hesitation and omission, all policies in place that exist to ensure that women in our country enjoy equality in terms of economic beneficiation in every sector, including within the mining industry especially in the rural local mining communities. The current epoch of democracy imperatively needs to promptly implement women economic development and empowerment strategies.

The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) statistics record that the country’s land consists of fifty three (53) different minerals which are mostly found in the rural and under-developed local communities. These minerals have attracted and continue to attract investors locally and abroad to conduct mining businesses within the local community areas.

All licensed mining companies; as part of the legislative obligations and mining license application process compliance; have to put in place Social Labour Plans (SLP) and to submit them to the DMR. The SLP outlines clearly how companies intend and are committed to ensuring that real social corporate investment and economic development and empowerment of the rural local mining communities takes place without any hindrances and exclusion of any sector of the society.

As part of the legislations compliance on mining licenses, business operations and practices, the mine companies are required to develop their policies in a way that there is legislative concurrence and consistence at all times, in terms of community development and beneficiation during the life span of the mining project.

Hence, this study aims to find the root-cause, realities, challenges, gaps and achievements in as far as the role of mining companies is concerned, in the development and empowerment of women who are steering community development and empowerment projects, women entrepreneurs, including young women aspirant entrepreneurs within rural local mining communities.

The prevailing unfavorable and non-conducive socio-economic conditions within the rural local mining communities warrant the grounds to pose very critical, investigative and objective questions on why such conditions exist. This is the only way to find out and understand the root cause of the problem of the prevailing of such socio-economic conditions.

The study is geared to find best and sustainable mechanisms and solutions to the problems confronting rural local mining communities on a daily basis. In doing so it is also very important and strategic to understand how the conditions affect and impact on the social and economic lives of various sectors of the society within rural local mining communities.

Since the advent of freedom and democracy, women to date have been a vulnerable sector of the society and victims to unfair, unjust and imbalanced business and economic practices in various industries, mining industry being amongst the key ones.

Historical facts of oppression and suppression of the past on women as a critical sector of the society still exist even today. This is confirmed by the current socio-economic struggle that women still face today. Indeed women, were and are still the most suppressed and neglected sector of the society. There is no reservation or an apologetic attitude to confirm that patriarchy and chauvinism practices are still the order of the day in many sectors’ work places. These inhumane and unjust practices transgress the very same supreme law of the democratic country.

On the contrary, the new democratic government of South Africa, as a government of the people by the people, born out of the ideals of the ‘People Shall Govern’ principle enshrined in the Freedom Charter (26 June 1956 Soweto Kilptown), had committed and dedicated itself in bringing about social and economic developmental change in the lives of the majority population of South Africa, respectively women and young people.

The reality that should be acknowledged is that the democratic government was born with a huge burden of many socio-economic challenges, which are as a result of the suppressing laws of the previous government, where the majority population of the country never had any human or constitutional rights to raise their dissatisfactions and the inhumane treatment, which also grossly transgressed their basic human and socio-economic rights.

The social and economic challenges or burdens that started to crop up immediately after the people of South Africa elected the democratic government into power, was of deep levels of poverty, economic deprivation and injustices. That became a monumental challenge for the newborn government to address to the good satisfactory level of the people on the grassroots level.

The acknowledged reality is that government alone was not going to be able to confront these challenges successfully. It needed concerted efforts to tackle these challenges, hence it has realized that joining forces with the civil society and the private sector was and became of critical importance.

The democratic government existence for over two decades, warrants no time for excuses to be brought up by government, mine companies and business sphere, as to why the socio-economic challenges still exist within the black majority population in the country, especially in the rural and under-developed local communities ;respectively the local mining communities where women are still the victims of socio-economic opportunities deprivation and injustice practices.

Due to the historical facts that created economic imbalances in the country, the democratic government designed many developmental programmes aiming to capacitate, develop and empower majority population, in order to be able to take charge of their daily life challenges and become the architects of their own future destination. To that effect, many developmental programmes were developed and implemented such as, Reconstruction Development Programme (RDP), Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (Asgisa), Joint Initiative Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa), Skills Development Programmes, Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and lately Community Work Programme (CWP). All these initiatives were aimed at developing and empowering the previously marginalized sector of the society, to enable them to liberate themselves from the dire living socio-economic conditions, shackles of poverty and ultimately for them to form part of the economic active society.

In the light of the above mentioned programmes, lie many un-answered questions in as far as their implementation is concerned. The existence of questions automatically probes the political will and commitment of the government to ensure that these programmes are fully, effectively and efficiently implemented across the spectrum, prioritizing the rural and under-developed local communities, especially local mining hosts.

This is because local mining communities have opportunities but the local people cannot access them due to lack of the required skills. Therefore, the lack and failure of government to some extent, to implement the above-mentioned programmes that would have skillfully developed and empowered rural local mining communities, have directly or indirectly deprived the herein mentioned local communities of economic development and employment opportunities.

As part of efforts in striving to find solution or map a proper way forward to address the existing challenges, the below mentioned questions would poke the mind to think differently in finding out the solutions to the problems at hand.

  • Why are the mining local communities (host communities) still suffering and living under the abject of poverty and under-development?
  • Who are the main and primary beneficiaries of the rich minerals that are extracted from their areas?
  • Why many sectors of the society in the mining local communities are not economically empowered, not given employment and business opportunities, neither capacitated to acquire the critical and scarce skills that are needed to enjoy the economic and better employment opportunities within the mining projects in their areas?
  • Do the mining local communities continue to date, to still live in dire socio-economic conditions because the democratic government did not implement the above mentioned programmes directly in the mining local communities? Perhaps, if such could have been done, host communities would have acquired the needed scarce and critical skills within the mining industry that would have enabled them to access or grab both economic, business and employment opportunities.

Nation Building, Social and Economic Transformation Agenda in the country cannot be the responsibility of government alone to achieve or realize. It requires concerted efforts of the private sector, public and civil society sectors to work together in ensuring that the ideals and strategic objectives of this agenda are achieved to the good satisfactory level of the masses on the ground. It further requires critical objective thinking and designing of ways, initiatives and mechanisms as part of concerted efforts to find solutions to augment the status quo and ensure that the dismal socio-economic trajectories within rural mining local communities are addressed.

This study by Kwetso Foundation is aimed at accumulating data from mining companies that operate within rural host communities as well as other stakeholders within the mining industry. The role of mining companies within these areas, towards the upliftment and the empowerment of women and youth-led companies is the pivot of this study. The fact that this vulnerable group of the society is still facing dire living conditions demands a probe. The aim is to find the root-cause of these circumstances and to investigate to what extent are the mining companies involved as well as gathering recommendations to improve this situation.

We urge companies and organizations who advocate for vulnerable and economically marginalized groups of the society, to join hands with Kwetso Foundation on this study. We extend our invitation to the DMR and other stakeholders as well as mining companies to come on board. This is for economic inclusion of youth and women businesses in rural host communities.