Eric has lived on the northern limb in the Mapela area his whole life. Born in Fothane Village, over the years he has seen the systematic encroachment of mining operations on the land where he grew up. Cracked homes, limited herding land and chemical-infused dust from nearby blasting blight the community of Skimming where he now resides, wreaking havoc on daily life for Eric and his family. Angered by the situation, and with little prospect for change, his political views have shifted since 1994. Today, Eric puts his faith in the Economic Freedom Fighters, and believes Julius Malema can do something about their current predicament. His hope is that political change will bring positive socio-economic change to the lives of the people who now live at the mercy of the mines.
Eric Langa, 51, EFF Ward Councillor, Skimming Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Due to lime build-up, James and his wife Susan Pila attempt to repair the blocked water pipes running adjacent to their plot. The Pilas were relocated in 2001 along with 7 000 other residents of Ga-Pila village, to make way for the expansion of RPM Mogalakwena Section Platinum Mine’s Sandsloot 236 KR open pit. The community were moved to Sterkwater and paid R5 000 per family in compensation. In stark contrast to the vast ploughing fields of Sandsloot where they had lived for generations, the only land available for growing crops in Sterkwater is the tiny plots that surround each home. For many, the subsistence farming they had relied on for survival is now no longer a viable option.
James Pila and his wife Susan Kgaugelo Pila, Ga – Pila (Sterkwater), Limpopo, Northern Limb
old Ga-Pila Village, Ga-Masenya, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
In the dry, acacia-lined Ga-Mashiane cemetery on the outskirts of Ga-Masenya Village lie the relocated ancestral graves of the Ga-Pila community. The epithet “unknown” is engraved across a number of the stark granite tombstones in a graveyard that is showing early signs of dilapidation, while the relocated families of the deceased try to build new lives for themselves fifteen kilometres away in Sterkwater. Unmaintained and left to the elements, the cemetery is a fitting testament to the 7 000 residents relocated from their ancestral land nearly 16 years ago to make way for Anglo Platinum’s Sandsloot 236 KR open pit.
Community members say that no agreement was made with, nor compensation given to, the Ga-Pila families concerning the relocation of the ancestral graves, and they now live an untraversable distance from the loved ones they have left behind, exacerbating feelings of displacement and anguish. Community members say there are numerous communities across the Mapela region facing the very same issue. In an attempt to ease their despair, monetary compensation has been awarded to the families, ranging from R750 to R1000 per grave.
Robala Ka Khutso Mokone – Rest in Peace
Relocated graves, Ga-Mashiane cemetery, Ga-Masenya, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Jane still holds onto what is left of her homestead in the Motlhotlo Village. She has lived here her whole life and is one of a small number of remaining families under increasing pressure to relocate and make way for the rapidly expanding RPM Mogalakwena Section Platinum Mine’s northern open pit.
The old Motlhotlo village was once made up of two villages, Ga-Puka and Ga-Sekhaolelo. In 1998, Amplats began negotiations with the Mapela Tribal Authority, under the leadership of the Kgoshigadi Atalia Thabantsi Langa, with a view to relocate the two communities. Relocation Steering Committees were formed and Section 21 companies brought on board to assist in the relocation process, with the relocation finally commencing in May 2007, as families were relocated to Armoede and Rooibokfontein. Some, like Jane, opted to remain in their ancestral homes.
That decision has come at a cost. Every day, these families that hinder the expansion of the mine’s northern open pit are burdened with the unyielding roar of mine trucks as they dump rubble and rock several metres from their homes. They watch as mountains of mine waist slowly converge on what is left of their land. Jane is concerned about the impact her current living conditions have had on the health of her family, and believes the noise and dust have inflicted irreparable damage to her eyes, ears and lungs. With no ploughing fields and no regular supply of water, she knows she will soon be faced with the prospect of having to move. She stands firm, however, refusing to relocate until her family are offered quality housing – including the title deeds to their new home and land. She also wants surety her child will be given a job on the mine.
Jane Mogotlwa, 49, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
David Masubelele, born in Motlhotlo Village on the 29th January 1930, is one of the village’s last remaining residents. His homestead stands as a beacon to what was once a thriving community – now surrounded by dust and petrol fumes, the sound of rocks crushing the land resounding for miles around. His children have long since moved on, whether it be to Johannesburg or the relocated township sprawls of Armoede and Rooibokfontein, and David has been completely alone since bidding farewell to his companion and closest friend, his wife Masubelele Ramokone Elizabeth, who passed away in 2016. Now, he is taking one final stand before all is lost, though he worries what will happen to the ancestral graves including his wife’s – whether, like the village itself, they too will be lost to the mine dumps.
Gravesite, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Fallen rock, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
An eerie reminder of the risks of living near a mine where explosives are detonated daily. Here a rock lies after being dislodged by a scheduled blast. The homes that once stood in its path have since been demolished, and the residents relocated to areas such as Armoede and Rooibokfontein.
Abandoned home, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Paul, born in Motlhotlo Village (also known as the Swartfontein 818LR farm), remembers a time when the arrival of Anglo American was welcomed by the local community; when the prospect of employment and a better way of life was a surety celebrated by all. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way people expected them to. “Each and every village where Anglo arrives from Rustenburg – people are fighting, they are not happy. I have realised it is too difficult for Anglo to employ each and every family but what we should be offered are shares in the mine, because this farm belongs to our forefathers. It was purchased in 1912 and registered in 1913 under ‘Markus Masi Ba Langa’, the former Khosi in the area of Mapela.” Paul believes the mines’ promise of employment in exchange for resettlement or expanding dumping ground is not a fair deal. “You can violate the [harsh] employment conditions and you risk being fired.” But if he were to hold shares, he says, those shares would remain in his possession and be passed onto his kids. Paul’s sentiments ring true for many that remain in Motlhotlo Village who have seen their grazing and ploughing fields lost to the relentless encroachment of rubble and rock. “As long as Anglo is benefiting from our land I must benefit from Anglo, because the land belongs to the community.”
Paul Thobane, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
A few years ago, representatives from a platinum mine in the area approached the remaining residents of the old Motlhotlo Village (many had already been relocated) to negotiate the expansion of the existing dump situated approximately 400 metres from their homes. The mine’s HR officers reached an arrangement with community representatives that would allow the dump to encroach further, and in exchange fifteen community members would be provided with permanent employment after eighteen months of contracted work. Victoria was one of those listed for employment. She started working at the mine in November 2012. With no prior mine-working experience, she relished the opportunity to earn an income and provide for her four children. She had been living alone for a number of years after losing her husband to ill health and had been left with the sole responsibility of caring for her family. Training was provided, and soon she was working with the maintenance team providing plumbing services.
Near the end of the initial eighteen-month period, Victoria arrived at work to find the key card provided didn’t allow her access; without notice her contract had come to an end. Of the fifteen people that were promised employment in exchange for the expansion of the dumps, not one person was given a permanent position. Angered by this, members of the community gathered to protest outside the gates to the mine requesting to speak to the general manager. They were met with rubber bullets. Victoria was badly injured when a rubber bullet hit her above the lip, and she was treated for her injuries at the mine clinic. Expecting to be taken by ambulance to hospital to get further treatment, she was instead arrested and held in police custody for nine days. She has since had three operations in an attempt to repair the injury. She feels she is due compensation and is looking for legal assistance in the hope the mine will cover her medical bills.
Victoria has been without work for nearly three years, but now the mine has approached the villagers once again to negotiate for more land to dump on. Currently twenty-five people are in line to receive permanent employment at the mine, Victoria among them. After completing her medical, and having undergone training to operate trackless machinery such as dozers and dump trucks, she began her new role earlier this month. So far fourteen people have signed permanent contracts to work on the mine. Victoria hopes she will be next.
Victoria Matjiu, 37, Rubber bullet injury, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Malose, who was relocated from Motlhotlo Village to Rooibokfontein, has been awarded a tender by RPM Mogalakwena Section Platinum Mine to deliver water to the surrounding communities of Sekuruwe, Rooibokfontien, Malepetleke, Sekgoboko, Phafola and the remaining residents of Motlhotlo.
Malose Johannes Masubelele, 50, has acquired a tender by the mine to supply water, Motlhotlo Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Jankie and Solly welcome mining to the area as it has provided employment for their parents. Hans Village has not yet been affected by mining operations, though prospecting has commenced nearby.
Jankie Mathebula, 18 and Solly Machoga, 19, Hans Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
The rapidly encroaching Mogalakwena Platinum Mine has left an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the inhabitants of the once-thriving community of Ga-Chaba Village. Ga-Chaba is one of 42 traditional communities adjacent to mining activity in the Mapela region, and the Mashishi’s home is one of 500 other homes sitting precariously close to the mine’s operations – just 20m away from the relentless deluge of dust and fumes that blow in through their doors and windows.
Flower arrangement in the home of Mr Phillmon and Mrs Maria Mashishi, Ga-Chaba Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Community members gather at a wedding celebration to watch Dinaka Traditional Dance’s entertain the bride and groom, Ga-Chaba Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Makeshift pillars and support beams precariously hold together Cuthbert’s home. Mogalakwena Platinum Mine’s relentless mining activity that continues to encroach on his community has begun to inflict noticeable damage to the 500 homes of Ga-Chaba. Cracks riddle the foundations and walls, with very little that can be done to curb the ongoing explosive vibrations that ripple though the village.
Cuthbert Makgamatho, Ga-Chaba Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Around 70% of the Ga-Molekane Village are under 35 years of age. Unemployment and poverty are pervasive in many mining communities, and youth in particular are frustrated and angry at the dearth of opportunities available to them when thriving mine operations are in sight of their birthplace. They hope for a better future; a chance to move beyond the confines of their family home, and carve out a space in which they can be independent, earn an income and raise a family.
Nathnabiseng, 33, lives with her parents in Ga-Molekane. She has only recently given up the use of a walking stick after she became the unsuspecting victim of community unrest when she was shot in the leg by a stray bullet in September 2015. Community protestors had blocked the tar road running parallel to the village, a major thoroughfare for mine trucks accessing the nearby RPM Mogalakwena Mine’s Sandsloot Pit. Nathnabiseng has made a steady recovery, but worries about the financial burden placed on her family as a result of the shooting, having frequented the doctor on several occasions. Her anger and frustration at the mine is undimmed. “The mine doesn’t do anything for us, there is a lack of consultation when projects are implemented, and they don’t benefit the community.”
Nthnabiseng Florence Mputla, 33, gunshot victim, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Police Report illustrating Nthnabiseng Florence Mputla’s gun shot wound, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Mphoza Matlou, 14, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Chris has lived in Ga-Molekane Village all his life, and says the mines are a good thing. “Others, they are benefiting because they have jobs, scholarships and internships.”
Khutjo Motlotsi, 16 and Chris Nkhona, 20, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
William Nkuna, 51, the head herdsman employed by the community of Ga-Molekane to supervise the safe grazing of livestock in the area, recalls a time when cattle could roam as far as the mountains of Mohlohlo. “When we were growing up here there was plenty of grazing land. Now the mine has taken that all away. We had land to farm, land to live. Now we have nothing.” Due to the increasing pressure to feed his livestock and the ongoing financial constraints on William and his family, he has sold off 15 head of cattle in recent times to give his child the chance to go to school.
William Nkuna, 51, head herdsman in the community of Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
A young boy herds cattle adjacent to RPM Mogalakwena Mine’s tailings dam, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Anna Makgai, 33, Collecting wood, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
Entrance to the graveyard of Ga-Molekane Village with the RPM Mogalakwena Mine dump, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
A miners glove adjacent to RPM Mogalakwena Mine, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb
RPM Mogalakwena Mine, Ga-Molekane Village, Mapela, Limpopo, Northern Limb