Ditshele Johannes “Dee Jay” Lekoro, father of three, sits in the living room of his home with his son Resentse. He resides in the relocated village of Mafenya, a small community north of Rustenburg. A longstanding employee at Royal Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine, where he worked as a full-time shop steward for the UASA (United Association of South Africa) union, Dee Jay was dismissed on 14 September 2012 at the height of the mining protests that swept the platinum belt. On the day of his dismissal he arrived at his shift to find he couldn’t gain access to the premises. He says he was interrogated by mine authorities who accused him of conspiring to arrange an illegal strike at the mine. Mine authorities subsequently issued him with a letter of dismissal and he was escorted off the premises. He claims that in the process of taking his dismissal to the CCMA, he was taunted by one of the mine’s executives. “He told me that I could take my case to whoever I wanted – he had enough money to buy those people who are representing me.” The CCMA eventually notified him that the case needed to be dealt with by the Labour Court, but in the meantime, Dee Jay had found new employment as a contractor for a company called Shaft Sinkers at Stelton Shaft, on the premises of the Royal Bafokeng Rasimone Mine. He says it was not long before Shaft Sinkers received notice from the mine to the effect that if Dee Jay remained in their employment, they would lose their contract.
Dee Jay has been without work ever since. He believes his reputation has been tarnished and any future employment opportunities thwarted by the fact that Royal Bafokeng Rasimone Platinum Mine have blacklisted him on a central database utilised by mining operations across the country. “The fact of the matter is that I am going to be at home without employment for the rest of my life,” he says resignedly. He also worries about his children carrying the Lekoro name and whether they too will also be subjected to the same treatment.
Dee Jay says his situation isn’t unique, and that hundreds of other breadwinners from the Macharora community (encompassing the villages of Chaneng, Mafenya, Rasimone and Robega) have been dismissed by the mine on the basis of alleged involvement in unprotected strike action. “Those people were not even in that unprotected strike, the mine decides there is no need for these kind of people and then finds a way to get rid of them. You know if you are an activist and you start talking about things which are the truth, the people who are doing those things end up not being very happy.”
Ditshele Johannes Lekoro and son Resentse, Mafenya Village, Macherora community, Limpopo, Western Limb
Priscilla and her family were forced to relocate from Lekgoropaneng (literally, “Gravel Place”) to Mafenya to make way for a platinum mine’s mining operations. Consultations began in 1998 when residents were assured a pre-built home awaited them. However, Priscilla found on her arrival in 2000 that no house had been built for her family; they were simply given a piece of land to build their own home on. Even though other residents of Lekgoropaneng were given designated homes in Mafenya, Priscilla seemed to have been left off the list. It has taken many years to build a place that they can finally call home, and it has been a long and arduous journey. Members of the community have suggested corruption and bribery were at play, and that people paid off officials to have a home in Mafenya, bumping Priscilla off the list. Surrounded by mining operations, the community members will never be certain of what the future holds. Ditshele Johannes Lekoro, a fellow Mafenya resident, says, “we were not treated fairly in this regard, we are going to live with this pain forever. And maybe the mine will come here and say, ‘we have seen [more mineral deposits in] this place, we want to relocate you from here to another place’ – what will be the response from the community then?”
Bonolo Maboe, 29, Eddy Maboe, 25, Priscilla Maboe, 51, Mafenya, North West, Western Limb