SA’s Mines Can Leave a Legacy, Thokozani Dlongolo and Tiyani Majoko
Johannesburg has never been a pretty place. For decades yellow mine dumps, swelling like cysts on the veld, have been the physical blight that reflected a gold mining industry unhealthy at its core. For African men, the black pits of the “Egoli” mines meant deep and dangerous jobs, but the only way to feed their families. There was no prospect of wealth. Profits went to investors, many of whom had never set foot in South Africa.
In recent years the mine dumps have disappeared, re-mined for gold that earlier generations overlooked. And democratic South Africa, more confident and wise and, in no small measure angry, is demanding the overhaul of how the nation’s mineral heritage is shared.
It is at this juncture in the city’s history that attorneys Thokozani Dlongolo and Tiyani Majoko, friends from their time at the University of Pretoria’s law school, find themselves. Recognising that the remapping of South Africa’s Mining Charter (currently underway) holds opportunities, and that they are well positioned to be part of this journey, they founded Lawgistics Legal, a new generation legal services company.
Majoko’s father, Vonani, an attorney with a practice in Zimbabwe, is a partner in Lawgistics and a guiding hand. Her mother, Patricia, was also an attorney until her untimely death in 2001. The women’s decision to step out of South Africa’s established law firm structure is an acknowledgement that potential clients, from a younger and highly entrepreneurial generation, need a different approach and more accessible service. It is this insight into Africa’s double world – one bound by the rules and regulations of Western law and finance and the other filled with the enthusiasm and vibrancy of an emerging economy – that drives them.
While the government and stakeholders hammer out a new way forward in mining, the lawyers are building their practice to include a full suite of services that include navigating environmental regulations, developing labour contracts and applying commercial law.
Majoko has a background in mining regulatory law and is anticipating a deep transformation of South African society and the economy with changes to how mining is approached.
“We have participated in various discussions, made submissions regarding the proposed Mining Charter and are waiting for the new Mining Charter. From there we will be able to determine where the need lies and how we will move forward.”
In February this year a High Court decision classified community groups in South Africa as core stakeholders in mining. It was a pivotal moment for the industry. The women recognised that ensuring communities have their say and can access their rights will need lawyers able to navigate a developing world scenario – where there is no trust – as well as a hostile boardroom.
For Dlongolo finding ways to stop mining towns from dying once mining stops must be part of transformation in the sector.
“In so many places communities are left in poverty as towns are abandoned. Mining must leave a sustainable legacy so that people can fend for themselves once the big employer ends its operation. This means that the employers have to implement sustainable social and labour plans for communities, who in turn must be able to assert themselves and know that they have choices and a say in their future,” she says.
In her day-to-day work Dlongolo works on all aspects of regulatory and environmental law including ancillary issues like land affairs, BBBEE and commercial transactions. She is inspired by entrepreneurs and is a guiding hand that offers advice on taking a business to the next level.
“There is an incredible spirit of entrepreneurship in Africa and so many good ideas. The challenge is that many entrepreneurs don’t move into the formal economy because they see too many bureaucratic hurdles ahead,” she says.
As democratic South Africa shifts to find a comfortable place in Africa, the two lawyers have been building links beyond the borders. Greg Mpiima, a lawyer from Uganda who they studied with at university, is a consultant within Lawgistics and provides insight and context on mining, construction, oil and gas issues in East Africa. It is a relationship all three want to build on as a growing number of those seeking out their expertise are from beyond South Africa’s borders.
In another arm of their business the women have found a need to help African lawyers, who have studied law in South Africa, with training on immigration matters and how to convert their degrees to the legal systems in their home countries.
“There is a Catch 22 situation where African lawyers, who are qualified in South Africa, can’t practise in South Africa if they are not citizens. They go home and can’t work because of a different legal system. There is a need for advice and, again, to help people deal with regulations so that they can successfully convert their training to be applicable to their home country,” says Majoko.
It is this spirit of reaching out, of enabling people to meet their potential and of using the law as a tool to make things happen rather than to impose barriers that Majoko and Dlongolo have infused into their way of doing business.
Both are deeply spiritual and speak about allowing God’s hand to guide them in the plan for their work and their lives. They are as disciplined with their faith as they are with their legal work – Dlongolo rises at 4am for reflection time and Majoko at 5.30am. While they have offices in Dainfern, both prefer to work from their homes in nearby Paulshof, where they live a few streets apart.
Dlongolo grew up in KwaNdengezi Township in Durban in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, while Majoko lived between Francistown in Botswana and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Dlongolo said she always thought she would be an accountant and then an entrepreneur but finally settled on law. She chose to study in Gauteng to broaden her world view and experience more of South Africa. Majoko too imagined her life as a businesswoman. She had a friend who ran a trucking business and was inspired by his grit and hustle-hustle attitude. It was only after a tour of the University of Pretoria campus with her uncle that she understood the path she would follow.
For both playing a part in enabling change in an industry weighed down by historical suffering has been humbling.
“Our parents didn’t have these opportunities and we recognise that it is a responsibility to ensure that what happens next will make a real difference for future generations.”