Herman Mashaba, Executive Mayor – City of Johannesburg
27 November 2018
I have learnt with great shock and surprise of the comments made by the Department of Mineral Resources, yesterday, regarding the imminent threat faced by our residents as a result of illegal mining with the use of explosives near highways, Transnet bulk fuel supply and SASOL gas pipelines travelling across the City.
According to the misguided view of the Department, there is “…no immediate threat to critical infrastructure as has been claimed…”
The comments made by the Department are not only deeply misleading but illustrate national government’s inability to proactively manage this dangerous situation and protect the safety of Johannesburg residents.
As the proverb goes, “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”
Indeed, from as early as October of 2017, the urgency of the matter was raised by Transnet who wrote to me seeking the City’s assistance in arresting illegal mining activities which not only threatened infrastructure, but residents’ lives as well.
On two occasions, I had written to the Minister of Mineral Resources, Hon. Gwede Mantashe, requesting his support and intervention with regard to illegal mining with the use of explosives near highways, Transnet bulk fuel supply and SASOL gas pipelines.
The Minister chose to turn a blind eye to those requests.
I had also requested that Minister Mantashe instruct his Department to provide us with specific measures, plans and interventions to avert this pending disaster by 3 April 2018. This was again met with silence.
These efforts followed several other attempts, made in good faith, to engage the former Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, by writing to him on both 28 November 2017 and 12 February 2018. In my letter dated 28 November 2018, I requested the former Minister’s assistance in terms of instructing his Department to provide us with measures and interventions to avert a pending disaster.
This deadline came and went without any communication form the former Minister.
In the interests of inter-governmental relations, I had taken the step of also sending these letters to Minister of COGTA, Hon. Zweli Mkhize, Premier of Gauteng, Hon. David Makhura, MEC of COGTA in Gauteng, Hon. Uhuru Moiloa, and former SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Lt General Deliwe De Lange, in the hopes that they would understand the urgency of this matter and assist in ensuring necessary interventions and measures are put in place to avert this potential disaster.
Once again, dead silence.
It is greatly disappointing that not only has the City’s efforts up to date been wholly ignored but that national government is now recklessly misleading our residents by trying to downscale the magnitude of this risk.
In the interests of ensuring the public are provided with the full picture, I have chosen to attach all my letters over the past year, the letter we received from Transnet and the report compiled by the City’s Infrastructure Protection Unit to this statement.
Threats posed by illegal mining activity:
– Near pipelines carrying gas and fuel creates increased risk for neighbouring communities, puts services at risk and is an impending threat to the safety of city employees working along the pipelines and other services within the servitudes;
– Risks contamination of the City’s water supply;
– Illegal mining has resulted in tremors, which risks the structural integrity of our roads, adjacent residential communities and businesses (Illegal blasting can create a spark that can ignite a fire capable of incinerating a large radius of up to 300m2);
– Illegal mining activities has compromised the pillars that support the decommissioned mines, placing additional risk on the physical structure upon which the pipelines rests and the imminent collapse of the mine; and
– Has compromised both Transnet Pipelines and Sasol gas lines.
Of significance is the Nasrec precinct where the pipelines intersects with SASOL gas lines. Investigations have revealed that if illegal mining activity continues within these old mining shafts, the entire FNB Nasrec precinct, including the iconic FNB stadium, could go down in ruins as a result of unstable earth directly underneath the area.
The widespread use of explosives in decommissioned mines could have disastrous consequences for the residents of Johannesburg and may lead to large scale loss of life should these explosions rupture the oil and gas lines. We are informed that just last week, explosives were being used within two meters of the pipelines in Florida.
While we note the move to further investigate the matter by the Department, given national government’s record on the matter so far, the proof will be in the pudding. More so, what is needed is decisive action to resolve the problem. This is the action the department must engage in.
The time has come for national government to do the right thing, take this matter seriously and decisively act to protect our residents.