Rural community’s attempt for redress sidelined by leadership

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About 300 members of the Mapela community in Limpopo marched to the tribal council office on Friday to present their grievances about a settlement agreement signed between Amplats and their chief, Kgoshi David Langa.

Langa did not meet the marchers and representatives of the tribal council refused to accept the memorandum or to engage with community members directly. They said the community should send their headman as their representative.

“This is a strategy to silence our voices as they know that the council will use its influence to suppress the headman as he will fail to stand against them alone”, said Chippa Langa a leader of the community and chairperson of the independently elected Mapela Executive Committee.

People who participated in a march were from Ga-Chaba, one of 42 villages that make up the Mapela traditional community, which was relocated from its ancestral land with the arrival of mining corporation, AMPLATs, in the 1990s.  Since the arrival of this mine in Mapela and its continuous operation over the past 20 years, 42 communities have faced similar and distinctive challenges as a result of the mine’s presence.

These deprivations range from inadequate compensation for losing their ancestral land, which was also used for grazing and ploughing, to environmental and health hazards due to opencast mining on and near their land.

“With relocation we lost our plantation together with livestock due to the lack of ploughing and grazing land. We lost our ancestral land, left graves behind. In this new land, houses are cracking and our health is declining due to mining.”, added the community leader.

Friday’s march follows the community’s concern about the announcement in the media of R175 million settlement agreement between the traditional community and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) without the community being consulted.

The concern of the Ga-Chaba community is that the process of reaching the settlement agreement was flawed in a way that the chief should have called a “pitso” (public gathering) based on their custom to inform the community about these developments, which he did not.

“According to our custom, the chief should have consulted Bakgoma (members of the paramount family), mantona (headmen) and then convened “pitso” with the members of this community”, argued a community leader.

Secondly, the chief and Amplats did not consult with the community.

“The right under Section 2 of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Acts of 1996 states that the community should be consulted,” said Thabiso Nyapisi of the Land and Accountability Research Centre.

Lastly, the chief went ahead to sign the settlement even after the community had asked him to consult fully with them before considering approval of the Amplats offer.

This settlement overlooked the community’s grievances and rights to consultation but still, these are not the only concerns with this agreement. Other concerns raised by the community include:

  • Only two of the seven trustees who will oversee the use of the new funds will be nominated by the community;
  • The agreement claims to settle all outstanding issues between the mine and the community, but does not say what these could be;
  • The proposed trust deed does not say what criteria should be used to allocate benefits amongst the 47 Mapela villages;
  • In its current form, the settlement agreement could promote divisions within the Mapela community.

“After what happened today, we are going back to the community to mobilise and lobby more villages to join the cause to call for accountability in Mapela”, concluded a community leader.

opinion-grey Mzwakali is a reporter attached to the Land & Accountability Research Centre at the University of Cape Town.
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