Platinum riches tear tribes apart

24 April 2016 - 02:00 By LUCKY BIYASE


Marikana, in the middle of the platinum belt, will be remembered as the site of the most horrendous massacre in the post-apartheid era, where more than 30 miners were killed fighting for better wages. But Jan Kgomo and Lawrence Mmekwa, who have lived in the area for most of their lives, remember Marikana in the '60s, before mining, as a place where they grew up herding their parents' cattle.Wonderkop, the scene of the August 2012 tragedy, is a sub-village of the Bapo ba Mogale tribe."It is so sad that our village has become a place where a big company like Lonmin is making millions but we local people are worse off than ever before," Kgomo said."You can see the underdevelopment in our neighbourhood. The only change that one sees from what the place used to be is the influx of foreign people who are hoping to find jobs."story_article_left1Both men belong to the section of the Bapo ba Mogale that holds that the reigning monarch, Bob Edward Mogale, is not the rightful chief and should make way for Julius Mogale. They are also members of the group laying claim to the mineral-rich Wonderkop.The village lies between mineral-bearing farms in Rustenburg and Brits, in North West, an area in which Lonmin owns about 11 shafts.Problems began in 2014, when a section of the tribe loyal to Bob Edward entered into a black empowerment deal with Lonmin.In November last year, a part of the tribe not loyal to Bob Edward, and which Kgomo and Mmekwa belong to, objected to the deal.They sought an order from the High Court in Pretoria, compelling the release of a report by the Mafereka commission, which was established to investigate traditional leadership disputes in North West.In February, the court ordered that North West premier Supra Mahumapelo should release the report within 30 days. The report has still not been released."Why is the report not being released?" Mmekwa asked."The reasons are obvious. It will confirm that the rightful chief is being sidelined by our government."We know how our government operates. They will hold onto the report because the land in question is rich."Question marks over the legitimacy of chieftainships over some parts of South Africa's mineral-rich areas add uncertainty to the BEE deals that have been struck between communities and some of the world's leading mining companies, including Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum.full_story_image_hleft1So far, most of the cases that have been the subject of litigation have shown that most of the current traditional leaders are not the rightful ones.With about 70% of South Africa's platinum found on tribal lands, traditional affairs experts say chiefs and influential people in the communities are using apartheid-era laws to ring-fence their gains.Early this year, Mahumapelo issued an edict in which he dethroned Nyalala Pilane as longtime traditional leader of the about 300,000-strong Bakgatla ba Kgafela, a community of 32 villages, some of them platinum-rich.The community had brought a successful land claim over various villages after it created a legal entity, the Communal Property Association, to hold the land.Elsewhere in the province, a group of 300,000 Tswana-speaking people are locked in a bitter court battle with their traditional body, the Royal Bafokeng Nation.The battle relates to a 2008 attempt by the nation to have a tranche of mineral-rich farms transferred and registered under its name.story_article_right2The community, which has organised itself as the Bafokeng Land Buyers' Association, argues that Chief Leruo Molotlegi and his royal family - which has accrued about R40-billion in revenue - have no right over its farms.Judgment is expected next month.The community says the Royal Bafokeng Nation does not consult it when dealing with tribal matters.Thusi Rapoo, secretary of the Bafokeng Land Buyers' Association, points to a decision by the tribe's investment arm, Royal Bafokeng Holdings, to dispose of a 5% stake in Impala Platinum, worth about R2-billion, early this month."This has always been our contestation. We are never consulted in the affairs of this nation. The Royal Bafokeng Nation does the way it wants with the tribe's coffers," said Rapoo.At the time of publication, the Royal Bafokeng Nation had not responded to queries from Business Times."Where in South Africa has mining left communities better off?" asked an analyst who wished to remain anonymous."Even if there are positive economic spin-offs, they get captured by the elite."Through the use of "traditional laws that even the current government put in place, the chiefs' hands get strengthened and poor communities have no right", he said.biyasel@sundaytimes.co.za

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