Mining Indaba 2014 – Saturday 1 February 2014

Its now 22:24 and I have been in Cape Town International Airport for seven hours, making calls and sending e-mails for the Indaba in the week ahead.  I am here to film a series of interviews with stakeholders in the Western Limb region about the future of the region.

londonburg mandela

These are some of the questions that we will be covering:

  • Is long-term provision for a sustainable legacy currently being considered by relevant stakeholders in the region?
  • What are community perceptions and expectations for a future sustainable legacy of the wider region?
  • How is the notion of social legacy perceived and encouraged by domestic policy and legislation, good practice industry guidelines, and corporate policies of companies operating within the region?
  • Are financial and regulatory responsibilities related to closure and post-closure care, by both industry and government, provided for?
  • How to foster and engage in effective multi-stakeholder dialogue regarding issues related to the sustainable legacy of mining?

But to get there you have to start with the logistics.  With so many people around, you need to give those you speak to something to remember you by.  So a lot of the week leading up to the Indaba our busy little team spent working on a business card and a brochure that tells people what we are (something we are still defining ourselves, and will take a big step in that direction with our first vision mission and strategy session held in person in Cape Town and by conference line on three continents).   These things take up a lot of time and its a good job we have someone on the team who is an amazing graphic designer and a fanastic branding and marketing person.  While not a perfect product, armed with something that we have done on our lunch breaks to tell the world what we are concerned about, I feel that we look the part.

I love airplane flights, you get to sit there and be fed a diet of entertainment to suit almost every taste, and its hard to get any work done really.  I found a few things that made me think of the Western Limb and the Indaba.

  • I watched the film the History Boys (based on the Alan Bennett play) on the inflight entertainment system.  The plot centres on a group of bright mostly working class Yorkshire lads, who are sitting examinations to get into Oxford.  One of the key themes is the ongoing tussle between their eccentric old teacher Hector, who has a meandering teaching style that covers everything under the sun, includes long poetry readings,  where the boys do as much acting as they do study, and there seems to be no structure at all, and Mr Irwin, the new teacher hired to help them get into Oxford.  Irwin is a strategist.  A chameleon.  He is prepared to say the right thing (or the wrong thing, the controversial thing) if it gets the right result. Bennet beautifully contrasts the demands of our modern results-driven culture, where being top of the pile is the most important this, and the love of learning and poetry and the joy of knowledge for its own sake and to satisfy our natural curiosity.  It got me thinking about the Western Limb and the generation that will be educated there.  Despite the very pressing real world problems that these children will face, of jobs, of making ends meet, and starting a family, I think it possible that the best strategy in the world, the most scientific system of learning will not work if it doesn’t touch young people deeply and move them.  It left me wondering how we inspire the children of the Western Limb, while equipping them to deal with an economic landscape that, one way or another, will be unrecognisable in twenty year’s time and will call for a tough-mindedness, resiliance and versatility.
  • I read an article in the Sawubona, South African Airways inflight magazine by David Carter, a life coach, looking at what people who ‘dreamed the impossible dream’ and got there despite being told no over and over and over again.  Sylvester Stallone, Winston Churchill, Sydeny Poitier, JK Rowling.  His takeaway: getting what you want takes persistence.  It takes focus and rising above your fears.  So often in the past my fears and a lack of persistence have killed projects and ideas I was enthused about.  The best of these was a project to advise Joburg inner city entrepreneurs and help make their dreams a reality, with trainees from top Joburg auditing and accounting firms.  I took on running this programme for the law firm I was a trainee with.  I was inspired by the programme.  I knew it could be huge.  But a lack of persistence, and being unwilling to face failure and not seeing all the negative self-talk I was indulging in, strangled the life out of it and I abandoned my plan.  That was 2004.  Ten years later, I am taking Carter’s medicine. Fail. Fail Better. Succeed.
  • I saw a T-shirt in the queue to immigration at OR Tambo that read “Africa is not for Sissies”.  It annoyed me.  It might as well say “Africa is not for people who expect a decent standard of public health and education for everyone irrespective of their race or income”.  I look forward to the day when shirts like that would need to be explained to youngsters.  Right now its a joke, the wry laughter of hardy resignation, but its really not funny.
  • I had an All Day Breakfast at the Wimpy and while waiting one of the waitresses started singing and the rest of the kitchen staff sang quietly along with her.  I had no idea what they were singing, but I did feel how it instantly transformed the environment.  It softened, it relaxed, it lightened.

Let’s hope they are piping in some Wimpy waitress kitchen signing into the halls of the Cape Town International Conference Centre.

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