Lettie Sitole, 67, stands amongst the ruins of her home in the Makobakobe Village. A faint, eerie hum drifts over the landscape where her descendants first settled in the 1800s. Birds don’t sing here anymore; the sound is the steady drone of mining machines. Around her lie the broken remains of the once thriving Makobakobe community, persuaded off their land with false promises and high hopes. Makobakobe is one of five villages (Maotsi, Botshabelo, Monametse and Dikganong are the others), to make way for Anglo Platinum’s Twickenham Platinum Mine. Consultations began in 2002, with the relocation finalised in 2004. Lettie was among 97 other households relocated to the sprawling, dust-red, rock-strewn, water-deprived township of Magobading, 20km away from their ancestral land.
On arrival, they found that the stands they were promised were considerably smaller and markedly inferior to their previous homes. There was no space to accommodate a kraal for their livestock and the layout offered little in the way of privacy. But the badly built hostel-like accommodation was only the beginning. Over the past few years, the community have faced a constant stream of challenges and setbacks, including the ongoing legal conundrum of having no title deeds to the land where they now reside. According to Jerry Tshehlakgolo, chairperson of the “Magobading Relocated Community”, Anglo Platinum has failed to implement The Social and Labour Plan (SLP), drawn up to ensure the provision of basic services to the relocated community. He also says that the once-off compensatory payment issued to those that gave up their agricultural land has proved insufficient and left many without the livelihood that has sustained them for generations, and that the mine’s initial promise of employment for two members of each relocated household hasn’t materialised. The relocation of graves at the hands of Naledi Development is another punch to the stomach the community is trying to come to terms with. Family members were dug up and then reburied with scant attention to cultural traditions or local sensitivities, a relentless demolition of a people’s heritage. Jerry recalls how families huddled to witness the disturbing scenes, as the mechanical arm reached into the ground breaking soil then bone. He quivers at the thought of seeing his father – buried six months earlier – and then his younger brother – buried three years earlier – lifted from the earth. “This is the bad side of Anglo,” he says.
The grievances of the community continue to mount, their loss and heartache compounded, while the inaccessible corporate machine that has overturned their lives spins a web of legal formalities that hold up any meaningful redress. Yet with nowhere to go, there is very little they can do but continue to find ways to challenge the mine on the promises they made and have not kept.
Lettie Sitole, 67, Relocated from Makobakobe Village to Magobading Township in 2003, Limpopo, Eastern Limb
Community members claim that false promises and unscrupulous treatment have bred suspicion and frayed relations between community members and the mine. This has been exacerbated by claims that identification documents of local community members are forged to allow for the employment of people from other parts of the country. This gives the impression that local communities are benefiting from mining activities when in actual fact they are not.
Tumelo of the relocated Magobading community describes how, in 2013, after applying for a job on the mine and passing all the relevant tests (including the “Dover Test” to operate machinery underground and a psychometric test), he was led to believe his application was successful. A number of years later, with no job having materialised, a friend approached him to share some surprising news: he had seen Tumelo’s name on a list of people in employment at Anglo Platinum’s Twickenham Mine.
Humphrey Mokwala of the nearby Ga–Mashabela Village tells a startlingly similar story. He says that when community members apply for jobs on the mine, they provide a curriculum vitae and proof-of-residence (which includes a stamp from the tribal kraal), and that these documents are then forged – the applicant’s name is deleted and replaced with the name of the person the mine wants to hire. What transpires is that people from as far as Cape Town, Johannesburg, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are hired by the mine, though they are identified via forged employment documents as being from the local communities directly affected by mining operations. For a number of years, Humphrey has asked for a list of the recruits within the Ga-Mashabela area, but the mines refuse to furnish it. He claims bribery is rife within the HR practices of most mines in the area, and that purchasing a job with the mines is common practice.
Tumelo Makgopa, 31
Jerry Tshehlakgolo, 59
Jerry Tshehlakgolo, chairperson of the “Magobading Relocated Community” has continually challenged Anglo Platinum’s Twickenham Mine on various issues relating to the relocation rights of the community, employment on the mine, and the desecration of his and his fellow community members’ ancestral graves. Internal division and mutual suspicion plague the community, with members at odds with each other over the rightful representatives of the newly formed Magobading Township – which draws people from different locales in the area. The disputes centre around potential kickbacks from mine officials, with the jostling for position undermining the pursuit of common goals and the betterment of everyone’s lives rather than just the few at the top. Jerry himself has seen his home vandalised and burnt to the ground in late 2016 over the leadership conflict.
Isaac sits at the site of the once thriving Maotsi Village. Residents were relocated in 2003 and the village is now the location of Twickenham Platinum Mine’s Hackney Shaft.
Isaac Mahlakwana, 59, Relocated from Maotsi Village to Magobading Township in 2003, Limpopo, Eastern Limb
Ntoyi Dorah Maphori, 71, “It was better because there were no mines here”, Dilokong area, Limpopo, Eastern Limb