‘Jozi Gold’ Documentary Examines The Dark Heart Of Mining In SA

Snake Park Doornkop Mine

Mining activities have wreaked havoc across South Africa, in a variety of communities. Big companies come to the communities, mine the land, and then leave. This leaves the community to deal with the aftereffects of the mining. These include polluted water sources, dirty air, and an unsafe living environment. Jozi Gold is a documentary that wants to raise awareness about this.

Jozi Gold is a film-documentary made by Sylvia Vollenhoven & Fredrik Gertten. Gerten is a Swedish director and journalist while Vollenhoven is a South African writer, journalist, playwright and filmmaker. The doccie took seven years to make and “required a lot more resources and a lot of energy to manage the story process,” said Vollenhoven.

The documentary showed at the Encounters South Africa, an international documentary festival. The festival took place from 6-16 June in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“It’s the premier industry event for documentary filmmakers,” said Vollenhoven about Encounters adding that it’s a great platform to watch documentaries from around the world.

Vollenhoven says Encounters fills in the gaps sometimes left by local broadcasters where the focus in on “quantity and not quality.”

The documentary looks at the environmental and political picture of South Africa’s abandoned mines. Vollenhoven told The Daily Vox that the documentary looks at the huge environmental impact of mining. “They are leaving behind an environmental mess that is not being cleaned up. People like Mariette are working tirelessly to raise awareness and force mining companies and the government to clean up,” she said.

Jozi Gold follows Mariette Liefferink, an advisory committee member of the South African Human Rights Commission. The documentary deals with issues that investigative reporter Adam Welz has written about for years through following the work of Liefferink.

Welz began working on a documentary film about the mining industry. He then made contact  with Gertten’s film company WG Film. Gertten contacted Vollenhoven and thus began the project.

“It’s a remarkable co-production between Norway, Sweden, and South Africa,” Vollenhoven told The Daily Vox about how the project developed.

In 2018, The Daily Vox team visited the Snake Park community in Soweto. The community lives in the shadow of a mining dump. Just like the many communities in South Africa the mine severely affects the health of the people living there. Many of the children in the community have cerebral palsy which experts have linked to the effects of the abandoned mine. It is communities like this that Jozi Gold aims to shine a spotlight on.

Liefferink who is the central figure of the documentary is widely recognised as a prominent environmental activist in the mining industry. Vollenhoven said they decided to center the documentary on Liefferink because “of her style of activism and how effective it is.”

Vollenhoven said Welz have been following Liefferink’s work and when they saw the footage he had gathered “we agreed undoubtedly that Mariette is any filmmakers’ dream.”

To continue showing the film beyond the festival, Vollenhoven says they’ve designed a six-month outreach programme to show the film to communities around South Africa, especially “mining-affected communities.”

“It’s about taking the film out there and not just showing the film but using the film as a way to create awareness to assist activists and NGOs to combat this huge environmental disaster,” said Vollenhoven.

To get in touch with Vollenhoven and organise a screening and discussion of the documentary, you can contact her via email. (sylvia.vollenhoven@gmail.com)

Featured image by Fatima Moosa