‘TRC are merchants of chaos’

‘TRC are merchants of chaos’

MASERU – STORM Mountain Diamond (SMD), owners of Kao Mine, says its patience with Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) is wearing thin and might soon resort to the courts if the lobby group does not stop spreading false information and instigating communities against the company.
SMD is in the throes of community unrest at Kao Mine that started a few months ago.

The community accuses the mine of reneging on its promises to employ locals, repair roads, build toilets and compensate the villagers for their fields and grazing lands.
The mine however says it has met its end of the bargain and remains committed to doing more. It says some of the issues like the roads is the responsibility of the government even though the company is still maintaining some roads.

But it says all its good work in the community is being frustrated by the TRC’s involvement which has “done more harm than good to the interests of the community”.
Mohale Ralikariki, SMS’s corporate chief executive, has been at the forefront of efforts to engage the community, the TRC and government stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the dispute which he says has hit the mine’s operations hard.

This week Ralikariki spoke to thepost in response allegations by the TRC. We started by asking him why SMD believes the TRC is no longer part of the solution to the mine’s dispute with the community.

It has become clear that TRC is not working in the best interests of the community. They have their own agenda which is way out of sync with the interests and aspirations of the community.
They are sowing divisions in the community instead of building rapport. Although the TRC has been working with the community in the past. We noticed a sudden change in tactics in August last year when it helped organise the election of the new community liaison committee.
It is that new committee that is now working with the TRC to create problems for the mine. Since then, we have had demonstrations and relations between the community and the mine have been fractured.

And this is not because the community does not want to work with the mine but simply because any effort to have proper dialogue is being sabotaged by the TRC and the new committee.
Since August we have not had any meaningful discussions with TRC because they have become extremely unruly.
They have stopped behaving like a civic organisation. They are now instigating violence as we saw during the illegal demonstration that left one person dead and two seriously injured earlier this year.

It is a fact that TRC was at the forefront of organising that illegal demonstration.
Now instead of going to back to the community to apologise for their part in that illegal protest, the TRC is blaming the mine and making libellous allegations that have no basis or foundation.

Have you tried to have discussions with the TRC?
Yes, we even went to the extent of organising a civic forum at which we met TRC, CCJP (Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace) and Seinoli Legal Centre.
We were discussing community issues but after the meeting, TRC went to the community to misrepresent the information. After every discussion the TRC would go out and spread false information about the meeting. But the TRC has not stopped there.

As we speak, they have been trying to force the company to recognise a union they formed without following procedure. They want the mine to recognise the union against the labour laws and regulations of the country.
We have simply insisted that they follow the proper procedure but the TRC is refusing to do that. Now the TRC is creating problems from both angles. Outside they are working with the committee and inside they are working with the union which is not even recognised.

It is clear to us that the TRC has its own agenda. During those meetings you could see that the CCJP was working for peace while the TRC was working for chaos.
The CCJP wants an arrangement that benefits both the community and the company. The TRC is only interested in trouble. They have moved from being a civic organisation to being unruly activists who thrive on lies and criminal activity.

What misrepresentations has the TRC made to the community?
The allegations are varied but the most serious one is that the mine does not comply with the environmental laws of the country.
They make this false allegation despite the fact that they are aware that the mine has a valid environmental licence from the government.
We have an approved Environmental Impact Assessment report. Our Environmental Management Plan has been approved by the government and we continue to be assessed on its implementation.

The department of environment has routine checks at the mine and nothing has been found to be out of order. We also have our own experts who ensure that we are doing the right thing.
It is in our interest as a mine to take care of the environment. But to the TRC all these are not enough because they have their own agenda.

But they are saying sewerage has spilled into water sources.
Again, that is a lie they have peddled for months. It’s simply not true and they have never produced any evidence to support that allegation. We have asked them to show us the evidence but they are not bringing it.

It’s the same with the allegations that a mudslide from the mine affected four families. That is simply not true. Again, they have no evidence to support that allegation. You may ask why then we are relocating the families if we didn’t cause the problem.
The answer is simply that we are playing our role of helping the community. Those houses were built in a swampy area that is prone to floods. Here I mean natural floods and not any mud from the mine.

They were going to flood, with or without the mine’s activities. We have to be clear that just because you are assisting someone doesn’t mean you caused the problem. Sadly, even the efforts to relocate the families have been frustrated.
The TRC will never tell you that the company has been paying rent for those affected. They will never tell you that there is a clear plan to relocate the family.
They will never tell you that we have already designed the models for their houses. They will never tell you about the good things we are doing for the community because the agenda is to cause problems.

If they were a fair and objective organisation they would acknowledge the initiatives we have in the community.
We have built classrooms, employed locals, maintained roads, supplied water to villages and started a chicken project for the community. We assist schools and the sick.
How about roads and toilets?
Well, the TRC is aware that SMD is maintaining the Kao to Tlaeeng road. They have always known that but they would rather create the impression that we are responsible for the Kao to Ha Lejone road.

They also know that Liqhobong Mine had agreed to maintain Kao to Ha Lejone Road as and when there is need. They will never tell the people that there is a clear agreement in whose making they participated.  It is shocking that the TRC continues to tell the people that we are responsible for that road. The TRC is also aware that there was a contractor hired by the government to repair that road but they will not tell this to the people.

As a civic organisation they also know that it is the responsibility of a government to build and maintain roads yet they continue to peddle this lie that SMD is responsible.
The list of lies from the TRC is endless. The issue about toilets was never supposed to be a problem.
The mine had already agreed to build a toilet for each household. We asked the committee to make a list of the households that should get the toilets.
But thanks to the TRC’s involvement that process was delayed. The list never came until the chief of the area made a list of her own. The committee rejected that list and said it wanted to make another one.

We agreed but then we waited for several more months for that list. It was only after months that the Rural Water Supply was able to get the list to help us with the designs and the costing.
In the meantime, the TRC and the committee were misleading the people that we wanted to build communal toilets.
When we started building the committee said the toilets were too big. When we reduced the size they said the toilets were too small. All this happened because the TRC is influencing the committee to frustrate the mine’s efforts to help the community.
The TRC thrives on chaos.

The TRC says your compensation scales are unfair.
People are being compensated fairly for their grazing lands and fields. We have regular meetings with the owners of the land and they agree that the process is fair.
The TRC has never brought a model that they think is fairer than what we have.
Our own analysis shows that we have one of the fairest compensation systems among the mines in similar situations. A simple comparison will attest to this fact.

Do you believe that the TRC can help resolve the dispute?
Absolutely not. They have shown that they have no appetite for peace and solutions. Now they have a habit of insisting on being in meetings between the mine and line ministries.
We have always wondered where the TRC gets the mandate to come into meetings between mines and the regulating ministries. They are even bringing the community committee into those meetings.

There is everything wrong with a system in which a civic organisation wants to play the role of the regulator. The ministries are the regulators but the TRC thinks they should be reporting to them.
The chaos in the mining sector is brought by the TRC. The TRC seems to have taken charge of the meetings and the processes that are supposed to be managed by the regulators. Instead of being participants in the meetings they have hijacked the processes.

They should not be playing the leading role in these matters. We have told the ministries about this anomaly.
It’s no longer clear whether the TRC wants to be an arbitrator, an instigator or regulator. We don’t have a problem with them participating but they should know their role and their agenda should be clear.

Their official, Hlalele Hlalele, is so misdirected that he accuses the Ministry of Mines of meeting us without the TRC.
At one meeting he came with a poster accusing the mine of violating human rights and environmental regulations.
What he is not saying is that the TRC organised the illegal demonstration that led to the death of an innocent villager. He is not accepting that he went beyond their mandate. It is the TRC that pushed the protesters to cut the mine’s water supply.

They were leading this criminal behaviour but they are now shifting the blame on the mine.
The trouble is that in the media the TRC says it was the police that is to blame for the incident and but to the community they say it’s the mine to blame.

How are you going to respond to the TRC?
The company will continue to stand for the truth and work with the villagers to improve their lives. But we should warn the TRC against continuing with these malicious allegations.
They have to be careful because we are getting to a point where we might have to take legal action against them. This option is under serious consideration because the TRC cannot be allowed to defame other organisations with lies.

It cannot continue to brew trouble for the mine using outright lies.
It cannot continue to support criminal activities that endanger innocent people in the community.
It should not be allowed to support rogue elements that are sabotaging mine operations.
Our employees and communities cannot be used as pawns in a political game.
We are clear that we have improved the lives of the communities around the mine. We continue to treat the communities as partners.

Staff Reporter

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