Sunday 13 November 2011

Vitro must pay for all Environmental Crimes

Vaal Triangle is a home to many industries especially steel, petrol chemicals, fertilers, cement and textiles. The environmental problems arises due to this industries are water, air and waste.Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance received a complain from communities living in steelpark near a mine called Vitro. Vitro is one of many mining companies in Vaal Trianle and is operating an open cast mining in Veneering mining Clay to produce ceramic tiles .VEJA has been receiving complains from surrounding area about their emissions that come from their manufacturing plant, dust and water that is being discharge to an open pit next to steelpark community. 

VEJA found out that this company operating without Environmental Management Plan, with out water use licences and it seems as if these operations has not been monitored by the authorities. In nfour meetings of Rietspruit Water Forum VEJA questioned these mining operations that is trying its level best to run away from compliance. Vitro tried their level best to fool authoriries and community by denying all this alligations. Through the assistance of the communities VEJA manage to find an illegal discharging pipe. In the Rietspruit Forum that was held on the 8 October 2011 again the questions were about the illegal pipe was asked in front of Vitro and again it denied.
Stream that take water to the river Rietspruit River
A tip from a community member lead VEJA into to the illegal discharging pipe and took pictures to show to Department of Water affairs to investigate this mining company. We are  demanding full investigations of non compliance, Vitro must pay for all environmental crimes they have caused.
Vitro discharging water without water use licence


Saturday 12 November 2011

Getting to know ArcelorMittal better through community voices

Participatory Action Research
Participants in the absence of other two members Dudu Diphoko and
Boyson Buang..
Nthabieneng Dimema, she also part of
Bench Marks Foundation Monitoring
School, she is saying in Boitumelo she says there are somepositive
thing about Mittal because they have gaven a bursary some learners but they
do more of the good things for communities.
ArcelorMittal is a steel making company that for years communities in the Vaal Triange have been bearing the brunt of its pollution. The company has violeted human right and dignity of several isssues such as water pollution, dust blowing dirrectly in to the people's houses, responsible for making hundres of worker and community sick and been accountable to anyone. Communities living near the fenceline of ArcelorMittal took part in Community Participatory Research. The research is conducted by Bench Marks Foundation in collaboration with Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance. The aim of the research was to investigate through the community voices how much communities are impacted or affected ArcelorMittal. This what they have to say in the meeting that was held on the 12 Novermber 2011.
Maria Mack from Bphelong, says
must compensate all affectd workers,
she is victim because her father passed
way and was working for Mittal. They
did not receive any compensation. She
using her daughter grant to provide
for the family. 
Lebohang Mokoena stays in Sasolburg but share
the experience with people living close to Mittal
Pollution has no boundaries, our government must
play activive role in protecting community
human rights and Environment. In Boipatong Township
Dust from ArcelorMittal is blowing dirrectly into people's
houses but its ok because they where given milk to drink
by ArcelorMittal to mitigate the situation, how sick that is. Community
don't understand or know little about Corporate Social Responsibility.

Rosina Khantsi, stays in Bophelong
says Mittal must stop brainwashing
communities by roofing the house rather
than dealing with Emvironmental issue. Rosina's
wish is that ArcelorMittal must consult with the communties
Mittal must to painting Community Halls only but they
must invest in the community upliftement programme and
youth development programme.

Sonti Mtambo, her family stayed at Steelvalley
 where  groundwater was contimanited because of
 ArcelorMittal. She has witness young mother
 miscarrying their unborn baby, skin irritations, cancers and
many other illness  drinking
 polluted water. Her family was
removed from the area by ArcelorMittal 
promised a better life.
Today they are staying in a
squater Camp calleed Joko Tea. 
No water and Sanitation and roads are very bad. She blame
it all to ArcelorMittal by destriying their agricultureal land.
Making to move in to town ship where there no place to plant or
grow their vegetables like they used to.

Lisemelo Masibuko, she is working closely with ArcelorMittal
Ex-workers, as young as she is, she has experience the pain of this
worker who for 12 years has been fighting for their
compensation of the illenss that they believe was due to working
 for the comapny. She wishes that Mittal can admit that they have make
ex-workers sick and compensate them. Government  also
must hold the company accountable.
She is also part of Bench Marks
Monitoring School, which has empower her on computer skill
and writting community stories.


Thursday 3 November 2011

Partnering with Metsi -a- Lekoa

It has become common knowledge that the poor are likely to be hit hardest by Environmental Impact. it is important to work with different stakeholders in the and outside Vaal Triangle for the benefit of protecting and preseving the Environment. Poor communities in the Vaal Triangle  must be able to understand state of the environment their living in. The kind of water they drinking, air they breath and land they grow their vegetables. Today we where honoured by the Department of Education from Sedibeng West District office and Metsi - a- Lekoa which a water utility of Emfulweni Local Municipality.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss possible partnership between Metsi- a- Lekoa, Department of Education and VEJA. We will assist each other in promoting environmental education and awareness in our schools. The aim is make sure that learners, communities and all stakeholders participate in environmental  programmes through a more informed choice for the benefit of environmental sustanability in the Vaal Triangle.

The meeting was attended by Caroline Ntaopane( VEJA), Samson Mokoena,( VEJA) Lebohang Mokoena( VEJA) , Boyson Buang( VEJA), Mojalefa Radebe( Metsi- a- Lekoa), Mamakhe Khaha( Metsi - a -Lekoa) and Jimmy Sithole Department of Education District.

We thank Ntate Jimmy Sithole and Lebohanhg Mokoena for setting up the meeting. It is up to all of us to act now on behalf of our future generations.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Workers in the frontline

The first thing that we need to acknowledge is that workers are citizen.workers are the forefront of destructive effects of hazadous on human health before they spread to the general population. Just like any citizen worker have a right to a job which is healthy and safe. Therefore struggle for health and safety begins at workplace.
Unfortunaltly for members of Vaal Community Coordinating Committee their struggle begin after they were trenched. From 1994, group of ArcelorMittal ex-employees started a campaign demanding their surpluses. Some of them they were unfairly dismiss and retrenched but to their surprise none of them receive compensation. They establish as group called Vaal Working Coordinating Committee to fight Iscor to give them their money. Little did they know that they struggle was just beginning, later they discovered that their struggle is not just about their surplus money but also they have been retrenched because some of them were too sick to work.  More than 1000 workers suspected that they are sick today because they worked for ArcelorMittal for 10, 15 and longest is 35 years. They are between the age of 40 and 60’s.

In 2009 Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, Groundwork, Benchmarks Foundation and Vaal Working Class Coordinating Committee met with ArcelorMittal management and the CEO Nku Nyembezi. In that meeting the ex-employees  demand their medical records from ArcelorMittal but they were told that a room were the files was kept got fire therefore there is no record. But workers didn't stop, they kept on asking ArcelorMittal to pay them. Then the comapny hired a Doctor to examine this workers. Testing of the workers started  on the 15 November 2010, 190 ex-employees were tested. It was agreed that attention would be given to identify predominantly the following possible occupationally-caused health impacts:

  • Noise induced hearing loss.
  • Lung functionality disease due to possible exposures to risks at AMSA plant.
  • Possible cases of heavy metal poisoning – as reflected by the presence of proteins in urine.
  • Pneumoconiosis, as detected on chest x-ray, due to occupational exposures.
  • Cases with cancer – possibly caused by exposures to carcinogenic substances at work.
Three ex-employees were too sick or incapacitated to complete the full medical evaluation. Doctor didn’t examine them but he concluded that none of these cases were related to an occupational disease. The quality of employment and exposure histories at the AMSA plant was poor, and could not be used to definitively exclude occupational causes for pathologies found.

The employees right was not respected their dignity. Just image a father working in the company being fetched from their homelands since their early ages.  Remember that is workers they were only given simple cheap masks for Protection. They didn't know dangers to which they exposed to. They were not part of any decision or partcipate in safety and health debate. Now they have to go back to their homeland sick without compensation.

VEJA believes safety at the work place cannot be left to managers. People who  are directly affected must invloved in making decisions at all levels. The role of VEJA is to facilitating the meetings between Ex-works and ArcelorMittal make sure that the process is fair and transparent. There has been number of March or protest and media campaign to highlight the pledge and show people how workers right have been infringe. We want these workers to be compensated.

The way the Ex – worker have been treated for the rest of their lives it was unjust. Some of them they don’t even have a sense of family. This workers most of tgem can't write orThey were promised better life, they were promised jobs, but how much they earned, they were just cheap labours, expose to poor working conditions and today they are bearing the brunt of medical costs.  Some of them when you ask if they giving any safe cloth (PPE) or offered safety training they don’t know what are talking about. Most of them they have high blood, sugar diabetic, feet, kidnesy, Bronchitie, Ashma, T.B, cancer and heart problem that are not regarded as occupational disease according to the company.
Some of them they went back to their homelands, they called to come for the test because ArcelorMittal refuse to find a doctor from their homeland. When they arrive they don’t have a place to stay, they are sleeping on the flows and have nothing to eat. They are staying at Kwa-masiza hostels used to be own ArcelorMittal, but after they were retrenched no services were offered to them. We have picture of waste, sanitation and water running all over around the place. The conditions that they are stating at are appealing. We still don’t if those who have passed away their families are going to be compensated.

There untlod thruth about this company that used be own by our state. This workers they hold their meetings on every Wednesday and Sunday to discuss one thing over and over again and asking themselves when are they going to get their money. This should it is a listen to those who are still in the company, four month two young worker who were not students pastway because of ihaling gas. What did ArcelorMittal do, apologising sounds like a good thing to do,yes that is exactly what the comapny did.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Citizens Assembly on Water Quality

The Citizens Assembly is a project of the Mvula Trust, in co-operation with Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, the Northwest University, the wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa as well as number of other organisations. It is funded by France Liberties of the Danielle Mitterrand Foundation.
The Assembly will take place on the 25-27 October 2011, in Vanderbiljpark, Gauteng.
b The Citizens Assembly aims is to:
  •  Bring together citizens who are actively involved in struggles for water quality.
  • Create an atmosphere of solidarity, so that citizens groups can work together
  • Understand current water quality issues and make resources available to encourage such understanding
  • Understand what support is available to active citizens in the water quality arena.
  • Create an opportunity for citizens and their organisations to design campaigns and working in Solidarity.
  • Create space for citizens energy in catchment management.
  • Deal, as citizens, with water quality issues.
Veja is proud to be part of the Citizens assembly, in the Vaal Triangle we faced with serious challenges of water pollution. Our river are already contaminated because of the failure of sewage treatment plants and mining companies discharging their untreated effluent in our rivers.  Veja want to increase awareness of the negative impacts and the harmful effects of contaminated water. Communities must be to empower to be able to monitor water quality in their different areas.

On the 25th October 2011, there will be tour to the water hot spot areas. Delegate outside Vaal Triangle will observe how water is contaminated and communities will share their experiences on water quality related struggles.

Monday 3 October 2011

Water Catchment Forum and VEJA

The South African constitution guaranties water as a human right and the bill of rights is a cornerstone of our democracy in South Africa it enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom

Water related provisions in the South African constitution,  chapter 2 of the constitution, has relevant provisions that relate to the right to water, Sections 7(2), the state must respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights in the bill of rights. Section 9: Equality, Section 24: Environment, Section 26:  Health Care, Food, Water and Social Security, Section 39: Interpretation Clause, when interpreting the bill of rights, a court, tribunal or forum must promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, and must consider international low and may consider foreign low, all of these clause in the bill of rights are related to the right to water, and other human right have a connection with right to water, housing, food, life and environment.

South African government has passed legislations that are meant to meet these human right and these are: The National Water Act of1998 the state must used these Acts to Promote equality, Health, Food Security and other fundamental human rights, these act also call for the South African government to decentralized water so that the previously disadvantaged citizens can participate in water allocations in a new democratic state, these Act also gives the citizens the opportunity to be part of the decisions on water governance and also they can  asked the Minister of Water affairs   to established the Water  Catchment Management Agencies these bodies are important as they are mind  to manage and decide on water allocations in a particular Catchment Area, also the citizens can nominate who must be part of these Water Management Agencies.

South Africa has being divided in 19 Catchment Management Area and the was supposed to be 19 Water Management Agencies, the current discussions is that the will be only 9 Water Management Agencies, and these need the amendments to the Water Act the important pillar of any democracy is accountability to the citizens, public participations and openness these are values that shape any society, and the establishment of Water Catchment Forums in 1996 has  given south African citizens a space to participate in water governance is South Africa and many of these forums have played important part especially in monitoring and reporting as much a the are challenges on Water Forums  they continues to play important part.

Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance has been participating in the Water Catchment Forums since 2006, focusing at Rietspruit Forum in Sebokeng, Leeu-Taai Forum, Sasolburg and surrounding area.  In 2008 VEJA was elected to chair Rietspruit which was for the first time civil society organization chaired these forums. We also participate in the Upper Vaal Area catchment Forums in Vilge Forum, Blesbok Forum and Ngwathe Form, by establishing CMA at the Upper Vaal it will be an important thing as these area are under threat by mining, indusrial pollution and sewer networks.  VEJA is capacitating communities to be part this forums.         

We hope that the Department of Water Affairs’ will legislate Water Catchments Forums during the review of the IWRS and fastrack the establishments of Catchments Management Agencies so that we can transformed the water sector and make sure that those who were previously disadvantaged on the basis of their gender, race and class a fully involved in the water governance in South Africa and the government can use the Act to fight poverty and inequalities in our Society and build just society 

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Air Quality Management in the Vaal Triangle

Air Quality

Sasolburg, Vanderbiljpark, Vereeniging and Meyerton are situated a number of kilometers to the north and the southeast of the of the most pollution sources such as  mining, coal power stations, steel company , coal burning from the households and oil refineries. Vaal Triangle air quality is generally considered to be poor as a result of the multitude of industrial pollution sources and dust from cultivated agricultural land.

In winter local air quality is likely to be affected by stable climatic conditions that hamper pollution dispersion and dry conditions that promote dust formation. Dust from agricultural lands is likely to be worst in August-November when farmers till the soil prior to planting.Additionally, it’s believed that the area needs some kind of specific action in order to ameliorate the problem.

As of now, Vaal Triangle has been  identified as one of the national air pollution hot spots according to the National Environment Management Air Quality Act 2004 (Act No. 39 of 2004) (AQA). In effect, the area’s called the “Vaal Triangle Air shed Priority Area”. In response, the National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) are now implementing a variety of different interventions for the improvement of the air quality within the area of Vaal Triangle. Some of the interventions involve the creation of a Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). The plans development relates to the provisions as specified by the AQA.

A priority area refers to an area believed as having poor air quality or a situation believed as potentially causing problems in the future. In addition, it may relate to something that exists within the area, either currently found causing or could cause a negative impact to occur on the air quality within the area. Additionally, it’s believed that the area needs some kind of specific action in order to ameliorate the problem.
One of the major reasons regarding the Vaal Triangle selection as an area of priority has to do with air quality considered extremely poor. In essence, people living within the area cannot breathe air that has harmful effects on the well-being and health. Additionally, people suffer from a high amount of respiratory problems. Some of the problems consist of wheezing, asthma, as well as early morning coughing. Further studies have identified the need for Vaal Air Shed Area to start establishing a relation between our poor Air Quality Management to the health of the individuals who live within the area.
Ultimately, Air Quality Management implementation Plan was developed as a monitoring tool for the improvement of the air quality. In addition to that a multi-stakeholder forum consisting with community based organisation, government and business established to make sure the process is effective and achievable.

Most importantly the plan aims at the reduction of number of human and environmental health risks, while reducing the amount of emissions in a cost effective manner. In addition, they aim to empower the local municipalities, along with other national and government agencies to help them with meeting the outlined materials within the Air Quality Act.
We as Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance we are calling for government and industries to be transparent, communicate and inform us in any decision making process.
Article written by Lebohang Mokoena, me,member of Air quality and Climate Change Team

Friday 26 August 2011

What is Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

Its an environmental Justice Alliance established in 2004.  Formally launched in Sebokeng on the 10th October 2006. Has 13 affiliates organizations  from surrounding areas such as Sebokeng, Bophelong, Sasolburg, Evaton, Boipatong and sharpeville. Our office is based in Vanderbiljpark 

The Objectives of VEJA
  • To promote a culture of environmental awareness and sustainable development
  • To provide a local network of support and assistance to community based organizations, non-governmental organizations, trade-unions, religious groupings, woman's groupings and youth 
  •  To perform an educational role in promoting and understanding of the inter-related nature of social, political, environmental and economic factors limiting or enabling the achievement of a sustainable, equitable and just society and to promote the wise use and conservation of natural resources.
  •   To engage with other role players including but not limited to the local authority, provincial government, industry and commerce in order to promote a healthy, safe and sustainable environment 
VEJA established task Teams to focuse on the following issues:
  •   Air quality, climate change and energy
  •  Water Quality
  •  Waste
  •  Environmental health
We focusing on monitoring the following Polluters:
Arcelor Mittal
Petrochemical industry ( Sasol Chemical Industry)
Local government as a polluter

VEJA will negotiate and fight for lean air, clean water an clean environment.

· The end to pollution in the Vaal Triangle
· The repair of pollution damage to the environment
· Compensation for pollution damage to people’s health & livelihoods
· Government must implement sustainable interventions, suitable to community not Basa nje ngomagogo
· Consultation and inclusion