Villagers sue Letšeng Diamond

Villagers sue Letšeng Diamond

MASERU – SEVEN villagers in Mokhotlong are suing Letšeng Diamond for M1 million after the mine allegedly refused to pay them for “guarding” the dam which they were told could burst any time.
The villagers want the mine to pay each of them M2 500 per month for work done starting from November 2012.

They also want the mine to pay interest of 18.5 percent per annum calculated 14 days from the date of judgement to the date of payment.
They filed the civil summons in the High Court last Wednesday.

The seven plaintiffs are village chief Lentsoete Moahi, ’Mamoalosi Ntsiki, Sephapo Moletsane, ’Mapontšo Lematla, Ntaoleng Mporo, ’Malulang Lematla and ’Marethabile Motokoa.

They are led by the Maluti Community Development Forum, a local economic rights organisation, as the first plaintiff.
In their court papers, the villagers say in October 2012, they met the mine’s representatives at Maloraneng in the district of Mokhotlong.
During that meeting, the villagers say they were informed of a possible catastrophe at the slime dam.

The villagers were informed that the four villages of Patising, Maloraneng, Ha-Seema and Pae-la-Itlhatsoa were likely to be covered with water from the dam resulting in the possible loss of lives and property of the people in the event that the dam breaks.
The mine’s representatives, acting within the scope of their employment, handed over to the villagers some eight two-way radios or walkie-talkies and four sirens for use in the event of a disaster.
The villagers say it was orally agreed that they were going to be compensated on a monthly basis for the work that they were to do with effect from November 2012.

The mine, according to the court papers, was to determine the amount for each one of them.
They accused the mine of failing to pay them despite the villagers faithfully carrying out their mandate commissioned and entrusted on them by the mine.

The villagers say the mine’s slime dam, built in Patising up above the village, is likely to break open and flood them, their houses and livestock.
The other affected villages are Patising, Maloraneng and Ha-Seema.
Chief Moahi and the villagers asked the Maluti Community Development Forum to intervene between them and the mine but the mine has since rejected their claims.

The forum had written the mine seeking “tangible evidence as the insurance undertaking that all the communities of four villages and their properties identified by the mine as threatened by the mine’s dam, shall be compensated in the likely event that they experience such calamity”.
The villagers asked the forum to take legal action against the mine if it fails to pay them and if it does not give the communities assurance that there will be compensation should the dam burst and property is lost.

They copied their letter to the Principal Chiefs of Mokhotlong, Mathealira Seeiso, and of Malingoaneng, Qetho Sekonyela. They also copied the letter to the Mining Minister Keketso Sello.
However, in a letter of response to the forum, Letšeng Mine acting CEO, Jeff Leaver, said the mine has never commissioned any villagers to guard the dam.

“No such commission was given by Letšeng,” reads part of the CEO’s letter.
Commenting about the provision of walkie-talkies and siren alarms within the surrounding communities, Leavers said it is “part of accepted safety protocols and is practised globally”.

He said it “in no way suggests that the dams in question are at risk of failure”.
“The use of these systems clearly demonstrates the company’s commitment to upholding the highest standards of safety,” he said.

Majara Molupe

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