In the mining villages of Ga-Pila where Anglo American Platinum continues to profit from land grabbed from the traditional communities just west of Mokopane, the appointment of new Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi has been met with a sense of betrayal.
Ramatlhodi, premier of Limpopo from 1994 to 2004, was considered to have had inside knowledge that Angloplat intended to use Sterkwater-De Hoogedoorns for its mining expansion and community resettlement programme. Ramatlhodi’s part in the 1996 purchase of a farm near an Angloplat mine in Limpopo was partly obscured by the fact that a close corporation acted as the buyer. Ngoako Properties sold the farm two-and-a-half years later to Angloplat for the company’s controversial resettlement of communities affected by the mine’s operations. The communities of Ga-Pila, Ga-Puka, Ga-Molekane and Ga-Chaba continue to resist the land grabs by Angloplat and will once again march on the Mogalakwena mine today June 17, in their ongoing struggle for justice.
The Ga-Pila community lost 1 800 hectares of agricultural land on the Sandsloot farm it had occupied for generations. By contrast, the only land available for growing crops at Sterkwater (the plots to which the community was “forcibly” removed) is the small plots that surround each house. By Angloplat’s own admission, cited in a social survey done by the company: “A large percentage of the community depends on subsistence farming as a source of food … The communities depend on subsistence farming for their survival.”
In a 2008 report by ActionAid South Africa, entitled ‘Precious Metal’, Abel Mogale, a 65-year-old with two hectares of land producing potatoes, beans and maize, told how he was “ploughing, but the police came and stopped us. I had hired a tractor, which cost a lot of money. They told us we must not plough here or we’ll be put in jail.” Ever since, Mogale, who used to sell a considerable amount of food, has relied for his survival on a small pension and contributions from other family members.
The same report also noted that the Ga-Puka and Ga-Sekhaolelo committees claimed that “Anglo Platinum has been working purposefully and deliberately to turn Mohlohlo [comprising the Ga-Puka and Ga-Sekhaolelo villages] into a ghetto by cutting off the communities’ access to the resources that sustain them, including land for food production, water, grazing, roads and schooling.”
The fact that Ramatlhodi was implicated in their forced removals and decades of suffering has not been well received in this struggling rural community.
It reported that “If Ramatlhodi or [Johannes]Mogodi profited from the former’s inside knowledge as premier, it was an abuse of office. Angloplat needed Ramatlhodi’s government for approvals, including for aspects of the resettlement plan. The evidence is compelling, though circumstantial:
- [Kgoshigadi Athalia] Langa, the traditional leader with whom Angloplat negotiated, was an ANC member of the Limpopo legislature.
- The area fell in the constituency of advocate Seth Nthai, then a legislature member and safety and security minister under Ramatlhodi, to whom he was close. Nthai denies discussing Angloplat’s resettlement plans with Ramatlhodi.
- Angloplat dealt with and had to obtain approval from Ramatlhodi’s administration for environmental assessments relating to its mining and resettlement plans.
- The Constitution bans members of the provincial executive from using ‘their position or any information entrusted to them to enrich themselves or improperly benefit any other person.”
For the thousands of communities affected by mining, Ramatlhodi’s appointment has been a cause of grave concern. The minister’s track record of dealing with communities leaves one with a sense of foreboding. When questioned on a radio show recently about how he intended to deal with communities, the minister confirmed many people’s worst fears when he responded that he would be dealing with traditional leaders and not with communities themselves. The collusion between politicians, traditional leaders and mining companies have often been at the heart of the sense of betrayal experienced by communities like Ga-Pila, which has seen first-hand how traditional leaders have benefited at lesser mortals’ expense.
Despite their humble submissions to portfolio committees of Parliament and provincial legislators, and despite promises made by former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and other ministers in a meeting with representatives of mining-affected communities last year, these people have been consistently ignored as legitimate stakeholders in the mining sector.
The Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua), a network of more than 70 organisations in mining-affected areas, recently questioned government’s commitment to finding lasting solutions to the problems they face. The network claims that government has allowed two laws on mining and land rights to be rushed through the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Macua claimed in a letter to President Jacob Zuma that the department of mineral resources, in contravention of parliamentary procedure, met separately with mining companies and included clauses proposed by the mining companies in the amendments to the Minerals Petroleum Resources Development Act. The letter also claimed that only two hearings were held in the provincial legislatures with no time for communities to give input, that even though five provinces submitted to the NCOP that there must be more community participation in the mining laws, this was not included in the bill, that the bill was rushed through the NCOP in just three days, and that no recommendations made by communities were included in the bill.
Ramatlhodi’s appointment seems to be a clear indication that the government will continue on its path of excluding communities despite an increase in the frequency and intensity of protests by communities and government’s continued arrest and harassment of community activists. This cannot be a sustainable long-term strategy. We call on the minister to meet with communities urgently to find a new sustainable path to lasting solutions within the mining sector.
Pic Credit: Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramathlodi is sworn in – courtesy of GCIS