Notes on the meeting between the Parliamentary Select Committee on Petitions and the Bafokeng, Bakubung and Bakgatla communities

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On the 17th May 2013, the Bafokeng Land Buyers’ Association and the communities of Motlhabe (Bakgatla), Ledig (Bakubung), Chaneng, Luka, Lefaragatlha, and Thekwana made a second round of presentations before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Petitions and Private Members’ Legislative Proposals.

Community members raised a concern about the neutrality of the venue, saying many of them have never set foot at the plush Royal Marang hotel before, that since the hotel is ‘Royal’ it is commonly seen as a guesthouse of the Royal Family, and that the hotel is full of the Royal Families’ spy cameras deployed to identify and victimize community members later. After much deliberation, the Committee members assured communities of their safety, that they were not bought off by the Bafokeng, and that in the democratic South Africa, everyone must be free to go wherever one pleases within the confines of the law, and that as Government, no one will intimidate them. Some members intimated that during struggle times, they organized meetings right in Phokeng to fight the apartheid government.

Mr Gash Nape could not hold back his tears when he related the undue hardships and human rights abuses that he and the Thekwana community have been subjected to at the hands of the Bafokeng and the mines in the democratic South Africa. He said the only land that the Bafokeng clan of Kgosi Mokgatle (current chief’s forefather) has, is the one donated to them by Paul Kruger (referring to Beerfontein). He lamented on how the Bafokeng misuses tribal money (communities’ monies) to fight against the Thekwana community and others.

Mr Ernest Setuke and the community of Lefaragatlhe reiterated on how the chief applies divide and rule tactics to create hostilities in the Lefaragatlhe village. The chief was accused of distorting Lefaragatlhe traditional system by imposing a headman on the community. The illegitimate headman is seen as a lacky strategically placed to sign off mining deals in favour of Leruo Molotlegi. Mr Obed Mokgatle was angered by how people like Cyril Ramaphosa, who served with him as NUM leaders at Impala mines, and the ANC government, have openly neglected and turned a blind eye to the oppressed Bafokeng communities. It was further submitted that in Bafokeng traditions, the Bafokeng chief was said to be unfit to hold office as he was still a bachelor. It is alleged his mother interferes on tribal affairs and is against him marrying as she will lose the ‘queen mother’ title.

Chief Mmuthi Pilane of Motlhabe fired on how Government continue to extend favours and protection to apartheid imposed chiefs. He described on how the North West Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims (NWCTLDC) has recently heard the wrongful recognition and misrepresentation of Nyalala Pilane as the rightful chief of Bakgatla. He lamented on how Nyalala despite having been accused of fraud and maladministration, continue to sign mining deals on land that belongs to Motlhabe village. He accused the NWCTLDC of dragging in finalizing his claim for chieftainship, that they deliberately distorted the claim to be that of headmanship instead of chieftainship. Bakgatla warned that if the Committee and Government are not keen on the speedy resolution of the communities’ legitimate claims, that the only option left to them would be to take up arms. They pleaded with the Committee to address the issues before it was too late.

Mr Lucas Mekgwe of Baphiring and Mr Enias Motene of Chaneng described how their communities were forced by the colonial apartheid regimes to subscribe to the Bafokeng chief (Mokgatle) or face slave hardships in boer farms. Baphiring follow a spotted hyena as their totem, while Chaneng village has Ndebele clans whose totem is an elephant. Their claims for land and cultural recognition has been trampled on by both the mines and government institutions, and the chief continue to impose headmen on their communities.

Mr Ignatious Monnakgotla of Bakubung also condemned the mines for reneging on their social labour plans. He said the Bakubung community is mainly affected by Wesizwe Mine whose mine operations continue to create socio-economic ills in the area. The mine claim in its reports to be supplying the Bakubung communities with portable water when  it is not the case. That where there is supply, it would be dirty water.

The crosscutting issues among all these communities, as Noko puts it, is how the Department of Water Affairs allow the mines to operate in the areas without water licenses and how these mines have pillaged the environment without reprimand. He urged the Committee to take drastic measures in the preservation of water in the area, and warned that underground water pollution and dewatering by the mines was catastrophic.

Once again, the communities urged Parliament to freeze the Bafokeng finances and to place the Bafokeng under administration. This so as to facilitate unfettered investigation of the Bafokeng affairs, including its financial mismanagement. The Committee was quizzed on why it is that the Bafokeng is known to be rich, with its chief flying in helicopters and staying in Sandton, when there are many recipients of RDP houses, and bad roads in the Bafokeng.

It was submitted that the covert military operations  in rural host mining communities have been documented by the Human Rights Commission when it submitted a report in around 2008. This was after the State police in Limpopo opened fire on communities’ protest against the blasting of their graveyards by Anglo Platinum. BLBA warned about these operations in their 2008 petition to Parliament. The nature of this security apparatus to be made up of the State police, the tribal police, the mine security companies and the Potchefstroom based Special Task Force or Public Order Police. That their mandate is to suppress dissent by mining communities against the mines and the oppressive state. And this done by declaring a pseudo state of emergency, denying communities their right to protest, arrests and concocted charges of public violence.

The Chairperson, Honorable Nyambi, noted the burning issues to be around the slow land restitution process, claims about chieftainship, security threats, maladministration and the demand for the appointment of an Administrator over the Bafokeng affairs. The Committee indicated that it will follow up with relevant authorities and that the next meeting will be giving a feedback report. Where a need arises for further information, individuals will be approached.

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