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