The R104 road bears the charred remains of a community protest earlier that morning. In the twilight hours of Thursday 6 October, the smell of burning rubber and dark clouds of smoke rise above a group of men and women gathered to voice their concerns. The sprawling mining community of Ikemeleng in Kroondal, seven kilometres outside Rustenburg on the Western Limb of the platinum belt, forms the nexus of six mining companies – Lonmin, Xstrata, Samancor, Lanxess, Aquarius and Anglo American. Once the small rural farming village of the Mahermane and Baphalane people, since the establishment of these mines in the 1990s, the area has grown into an overpopulated informal settlement. Ikemeleng remains a flashpoint for people seeking employment and a better way of life, many journeying at great risk from all over Africa in search of financial opportunities. Yet in an already congested area that continues to grow rapidly, problems are also multiplying. Besides a lack of basic services, substance abuse, HIV/Aids and other STDs, rape, underage pregnancy and xenophobia are all rife, while the overbearing pressure of unemployment brings with it sex work and crime. Historically, protest in South Africa has been a formidable tool in the fight for change – a collective voice heard by all. This is certainly the case in the mining sector, where the disruption of mining and municipal operations by people from communities like Ikemeleng has become commonplace.
Protest, 6 October 2016, Ikemeleng, Marikana, North West, Western Limb
Steven Tshokolo Ramokhula, Ikemeleng, Marikana, North West, Western Limb
The prospect of a better life, job security and the need to earn a living wage lures many families like Andile’s to the platinum belt. It was here, at the Glencore Xstrata Mine, that his father found a job as a drill rig operator, while his mother cared for the home and family until her untimely death in 2013. Andile arrived on the western limb in 2009 to join his parents, who had settled in Ikemeleng, a sprawling, overpopulated informal settlement seven kilometres outside Rustenburg. His uncle arranged a job for him as a driver with a contractor at the mine, and Andile has since been working shifts to earn a small wage while he focuses on pursuing his career as a hip-hop artist. “In Rustenburg there are places where you can express yourself so you can be heard around the world. So that is why I am here. I am looking for a recording deal and I am pushing my career forward through music.”
Andile Mswazi, 26, Rapper and Hip-Hop artist, Ikemeleng, Marikana, North West, Western Limb
Anonymous, Unemployed mine worker, Rose Tavern, Ikemeleng, Marikana, North West, Western Limb