Anglo American Kumba’s Dingleton Resettlement and the IFC PS5

On Friday, 07th August 2020, Anglo American subsidiary, Kumba Iron Ore, held its Annual General Meeting (AGM). This year the meeting was virtual, and the company informed its shareholders in their Notice of Annual General Meeting that shareholders would not be allowed to vote at the meeting and that questions had to be submitted in advance to the company secretary and “that these questions will be addressed at the AGM, as well as responded to through email”.  When challenged at both the irregularity of not allowing shareholders to vote at an AGM as well as requesting questions in advance, the company backed down and allowed for real-time voting at the AGM, albeit through a convoluted method of sending ballots via email during the AGM. This is in stark contrast to the smooth virtual AGM conducted by Sibanye Stillwater which allowed for real time electronic voting. 

As to whether pre-submitted questions would be responded to at the AGM, I received the following response: “Nowhere in the notice do we indicate that we would arbitrarily chose questions which we wished to answer or preclude a shareholder from asking questions. You will note that we also indicated that we would address the questions submitted at the AGM as well as responding by email.” Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I submitted ten questions in advance. None of these were addressed at the AGM. I decided to submit what was essentially a follow-up question to one of my ten questions during the AGM. 

The question was: “In a written response to my question, received at 10h30 this morning, related to the Dingleton resettlement, you responded to say that although there are in excess of 40 unresolved cases, only three remain in Dingleton. Does Kumba not consider non-homeowners as resettlement-affected persons? Why only report on homeowners? Or is it the company’s policy to consider an empty town as a successful resettlement?” 

The company’s CEO, Mr Themba Mkhwanazi, responded that the company has been applauded internationally for how well they conducted the Dingleton resettlement and that they had followed IFC Performance Standards and UN regulations. This is an oft-repeated mantra by Kumba and Anglo American. However, when one looks closely, one finds that Anglo American and Kumba Iron Ore has been applauding themselves, primarily at international conferences, or by releasing press releases and hosting press jamborees. No independent expert has ever applauded the Dingleton resettlement. Nor any investigative journalist or academic. Even Prof. Chris de Wet, of Rhodes University, who wrote favourably about the Dingleton resettlement in a chapter in “Country Frameworks for Development Displacement and Resettlement”, published in March 2019, was a consultant on the project, and since mid-2015 had no further engagement with the community. 

So on Friday, after the CEO took the usual “brilliant resettlement project” rhetoric for a spin, he handed over to someone called George (one assumes this is Dr George Maluleke) whose response took an even more bizarre turn. When he referred to those resettlement-affected persons and households, or as Kumba refers to them, “renters”, who are unfortunate enough not to be homeowners and who are without title deeds, he said that these persons have no rights under the IFC PS5, and only have rights under the South African legislation. [South African legislation does not allow for the eviction of households without alternative secure tenure.]

You could have knocked me over with a down feather!

Dr Maluleke either has never read the IFC PS5, or he feels quite comfortable being untruthful to shareholders, or both. The households who Dr Maluleke says have no rights under the IFC PS5, the same IFC performance standards which Anglo American claims they adhere to at all times, number at least 40, most likely many more. These households are those currently living at the “Old Caravan Park” (OCP), located approximately 5km north of Dingleton, as well as a several more families who were moved out of Dingleton during March/April 2019 and settled temporarily in Kathu and other places. The move of non-owner households from Dingleton in March/April 2019 was done based on an agreement between the affected households (represented by Richard Spoor Incorporated) and Kumba.

At least 23 households, who were not owners but enjoyed tenure rights on the premises which they occupied in Dingleton, were temporarily relocated by Kumba in late 2014 to the OCP, which is essentially a holding camp and that is where they are still living today in poorly maintained temporary houses. The condition of the floors of the houses is now so dire that one older resident already had two nasty falls which resulted in serious injuries. The company is aware of these dire conditions. Running water to the houses were disconnected in March 2018, and after several months of not having any access to water at the OCP, starting in November 2018, water tankers are now dispatched to OCP and water is now available via a communal standpipe connected to a tank. Between November 2018 and March 2020, water provision remained inconsistent, often forcing people to walk several kilometres to access water.

It is important to note that most of these households (as well as those affected households not living at OCP) claim that at their original residences in Dingleton, they were not ‘tenants’ but rather ‘bywoners’, which can be roughly translated as ‘backyard dwellers’, and that very few of them paid rent and that none of them lived in fear of eviction whilst living in Dingleton. Yet, Kumba’s first order of business after relocating them to OCP was to let them pay rent at OCP, threaten them with eviction for non-payment of rent, and build, without any consultation whatsoever with the affected persons, a block of flats in Kathu where the company intended to dump these households and let them pay rent there. That is what appears to be what Anglo American considers to be ‘security of tenure’.

It is unclear why it was decided to temporary relocate these households to OCP in late 2014. This temporary relocation was not addressed in the RAP Administration Plan approved in July 2013, and this temporary relocation was done despite the presence of both external resettlement consultants (Nomad Consulting) and the external monitoring consultants (Synergy Global Consulting). Although Nomad Consulting appears to have left the project some years ago, Synergy Global Consulting is a constant presence in the many outstanding issues related to this resettlement, but not in what one would understand to be a traditional monitoring capacity role. Instead, for several years now, it appears as if Synergy Global Consulting (represented primarily by Mr Toboho Sejake) is more of an implementing agent rather than an external monitor (as they were portrayed by Kumba at an 2014 IAIA conference). 

The relocation of people to a temporary location and temporary dwellings before the final replacement housing is ready, is widely considered to be poor practice.  All international guidelines on resettlement infer that people should not be moved from their original places of residence until their final houses and all necessary infrastructure and services are in place. Whilst the IFC Guidance Note 5 (GN40) refers to the provision of temporary housing, it states clearly that this may only be done under “circumstances of unavoidable resettlement”, and yet there is no evidence that the resettlement of persons to OCP was as a result of unavoidable circumstances. The question that is pertinent here is why there was such a rush to relocate persons to OCP. The PS5 and all other best practice guidance indicates that unless there is a health and safety risk, or a natural disaster, or a war, there is no need to resettle persons temporarily. Until mid-2019, no mining-related activity had started in Dingleton.   

But perhaps the reason is because Anglo American Kumba believes, as per their response at Friday’s AGM, that households without title deeds have no rights in terms of the IFC Performance Standards. What is even more shocking is that Synergy Global Consulting should know better and advise their clients appropriately, but this does not appear to be the case. Both Anglo American Kumba and Synergy Global Consulting should know that the IFC PS5, Paragraph 17, classifies displaced persons as those (i) who have formal legal rights to the land or assets they occupy or use; (ii) who do not have formal legal rights to land or assets, but have a claim to land that is recognized or recognizable under national law; or (iii) who have no recognizable legal right or claim to the land or assets they occupy or use. Both the households at OCP as well as those who were temporarily resettled in Kathu and elsewhere in 2019 fall into categories (ii) and (iii), and as per PS5 GN48: “Physically displaced persons with no recognizable legal right or claim to the land they occupy, are entitled to adequate housing with security of tenure”.

One must assume that Anglo American Kumba does not report in their annual reports on all these households who have still not been resettled because the company views them as not important and without rights, and therefore the company only reports on the handful of households with title deeds still living in Dingleton. 

And even though the question of whether it is the company’s policy to consider an empty town as an indicator of a successful resettlement remained unanswered, I think the responses at the AGM about the Dingleton resettlement spoke volumes.