Artisanal miners in Kimberley say their plight has worsened since illegal mining activities in the city has been legalised. The miners say there has been no significant change in their living conditions at Artisanal Mining camps throughout the city.
Basic sanitation, substance abuse and access to emergency services are just some of the many struggles they face. Elisa Louw is one of the 2000 miners living at the Samaria Camp. She says access to emergency services is one of the biggest challenges she faces as a Marshall in her community.
“The police rarely give us attention here. You’ll find we call them but they ignore us. Even when we call an ambulance their response times are delayed. We even had a woman give birth here. If we could get access to a mobile clinic I think our problems would become less. We have a big problem with illness in our camps and we can’t always give patients transport because we have no money. When you do eventually have enough money to take them to the hospital you’ll find that you are too late and the person has passed away.”
Substance abuse has led to animosity towards marshals as figures of authority. Louw added that her position as a figure head in the compound gave her minimal power to enforce rules. “People who live in these compounds are abusing drugs and alcohol. We have people in the camp dealing drugs. If we as marshals had to intervene it would mean risking our lives. Men here don’t treat women with respect anymore because of sex workers. Sex workers and women in general in this camp are treated like slaves and punching bags.”
The living conditions in the artisanal mining camps are so severe that women have to be cautious when going to relieve themselves in the veld as they have no basic sanitation. Louw says she constantly has to look over her shoulder for possible attackers. “It’s very dangerous for myself especially if you have a runny tummy in the late evening. You cannot go out at that time you just have to wait for the morning. If you go to the veld and you’re a woman these men in the camp are very naughty. If they see a woman going into the veld he’ll watch you until you finish.”
Louw believes that government has overlooked their rights as citizens in the city. She says miners living in these camps are treated as sub-humans. “For us it’s like we are being treated like wild dogs. Nobody wants anything to do with us. They just pretend.”
The safety and living conditions of the miners was shocking for the DA’s John Steenhuisen who visited the camps as part of the party’s listening tour. Steenhuisen said that the party in the Northern Cape would actively liaise with government to bring some form of relieve to the community.
“It seems to me that there’s two types of people here. We’ve got the people who are living in town and the people living here. There’s different standards and different rules. You’re treated like second class citizens in the same town. When you want police, you want clinics and basic services it’s a different set of rules for you. The law is clear when it says South Africa belongs to all who live in it. It doesn’t matter if you’re working here you’re entitled to the same rights. You are not a second class citizen. It’s wrong for you to be treated as some sort of inconvenience.” Steenhuisen further committed the DA to assist the community in their plight.