In the 1960s, the 27000 acres of land predominantly owned by the Bafokeng Tribe (now known as the Royal Bafokeng Nation) were signed over to form the Impala Platinum mining company. Ga-Luka is one of 29 villages that make up the Royal Bafokeng Nation, and it was here that Malcolm was born on 8 August 1980. Now 36, he has lived a troubled existence, battling to provide for his family and thwarted at every attempt to obtain employment on the mines that have built up around him. To survive he has resorted to piece meal jobs. One of these involved collecting fragments of broken mine equipment and other waste metal – from an illegal dumping ground on the outskirts of the village the community claim was created by Impala Platinum – which he would then sell as scrap. In 1999, he was falsely accused by the scrapyard he was selling to of stealing money from them. He was 19 at the time and spent 18 months in prison for a crime he never committed. This would be the first of fifteen arrests to plague his life.
Even though his innocence was subsequently established, Malcolm’s name and reputation were forever tarnished. He describes how in returning to his village, where the community immediately marked him as a criminal. He also believes he has been blacklisted as an instigator by the mine because of his arrest 18 years ago. He describes how, whenever there is a protest in the community, he is one of the first to be arrested, even if he was not there that day – though he attributes this to bribery and corruption within Ga-Luka. “I don’t know who goes to the police but there are those who stab us in the back, when we fight for the community.” Over the years, he has suffered regular beatings and abuse at the hands of the police.
Many young men share Malcolm’s fate – desperate to survive, disenfranchised, traditional values breaking down without the farming their forefathers could rely on to provide a livelihood and maintain their dignity. The new generation have had no other option but to fight for work, participating in protests targeted at the mine, and in so doing, often ruining their only chance at gainful employment. There is a sense of discontent in these men; they feel alienated by the influx of people from other parts of South Africa who move into the community to work on the mines. They claim that jobseekers from other parts of the country and from neighbouring countries rent back rooms in their yards – often the only source of income for many in the village now that they are without their farms and without jobs. But the jobseekers also have sexual relations with their sisters and bring with them sexually transmitted diseases, and locals feel that they are given undue precedence for mining jobs. “We are always sending our CV,” says Malcolm, “but I am telling you, a person from the Transkei will come and be my tenant, tomorrow after five days he gets a job.”
Malcolm Ngcobo, 36, Ga-Luka Village, Limpopo, Tau Section, Western Limb
“The mines that are operating around our village have nothing to do with our community. They continue to talk about the allocation of funds that will come in the 2017… 2018… 2019… financial year. We don’t really know who to go and speak with because they never come and meet us. We protest over and over and over, now we are tired.” Michael’s sentiments are shared by many. Arrested for “intimidating” a royal headman after questioning his leadership values and commitment to the community during a heated argument, he believes the headmen are afraid to talk because they have instructions from the royal security council, which is led by the king, to shut down dialogue on the issue. “To be arrested is a harsh way, and it is a brutal way”, says Michael. Although he was granted bail for R1000 and the charges were subsequently dropped, his arrest sends a clear message to those who voice their views: that there are limits to how far you are allowed to go in protest.
Michael Rangaka, 38, Community Activist, Ga-Luka Village, Mogono Section, Limpopo, Western Limb
David was three years old when he left Ga-Luka Village, returning to the place of his birth after he had gained his matric. What he found as a young adult was a community in decline, with unemployment high, and frustration, especially among the youth, at boiling point. He describes a community kept in the dark about goings on at the mine, and unable to voice their concerns. Driven to effect positive change and ensure the community are paid their dues, he established the “Luka Morora Community Structure” in 2012. The objective is to pressure Impala Platinum to abide by their social responsibilities to the affected community, making sure they provide jobs and various business development opportunities, and improve the overall infrastructure within Ga-Luka Village.
Unfortunately, in the intervening years, the Luka Morora Community Structure has met with little success, and the community says the mines continue to shirk their social responsibilities. Bribery corrupts even the most staunch community activists; David himself claims he was offered a job on the mine in 2014 to keep his views to himself. He refused, and remains unemployed to this day, despite having applied for a mining position through “conventional means” on several occasions. To get by, he provides accommodation to the mineworkers that come from as far as the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal. Even this is a source of frustration to him as he feels these jobs should be for the Bafokeng people rather than “outsiders”.
David recognises the protest action has so far proven futile, and that ordinary community members have little say in what happens. “The Rustenburg Local Municipality have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Royal Bafokeng Nation,” he explains. “These mines are under the Royal Bafokeng Nation, and so we cannot succeed.” Nevertheless, he and his fellow community activists continue to challenge the mine structures, however unattainable change seems to be. “We must continue to voice our concerns whatever the obstacles,” he insists.
David Rangaka, 36, Community Activist, Ga-Luka Village, Mogono Section, Limpopo, Western Limb