Behind community protests in the platinum belt – by Sarah Evans (Mail and Guardian – August 5, 2015)

Who is responsible for the backlash? A research paper unravels the nexus of land ownership, traditional authority and mining elite interests.


A new paper reveals insights into the complexity of the land question and marries it with the plethora of issues that underlie community protests that plague the platinum belt.

This nexus of land ownership, traditional authority, government and mining elite interests, and the ultimate brunt to be borne by mining communities in the North West is explored by this recent research. Platinum mining in the North West province has resulted in “untold suffering” for residents near to mines, according to the paper released on Wednesday.

The paper, titled “Platinum, poverty and protests: platinum mining and community protests around Rustenburg”, was released at a seminar hosted at Wits University’s Society, Work and Development Institute (Swop), and researched by Dr Joseph Mujere and a Swop research associate from the University of Zimbabwe.

Mujere undertook a study of three examples and sites of so-called service delivery protests: the Matebeleng and Number Nine informal settlements near Rustenburg, and Luka Village in the Bafokeng area. The research attempted to study the “impact and meaning” of service delivery protests on communities who live on the outskirts of mines, as well as land ownership and the way land-owning authorities impact on community organisation.

It also analysed the spatial geographies that have emerged in and around mining communities.

Elite structures

Mujere’s paper is critical of mine owners and their shareholders, including politicians who moonlight as shareholders. But he also considers some traditional land ownership structures and the government as part of this elite structure, which Mujere says have benefited from the mines. This is juxtaposed with the communities studied.

“It is evident that while platinum mining has benefited mining capital and elites such as the Royal Bafokeng Nation [RBN], the wealth has failed to trickle down to the lower classes. Yet [it] is the lower classes especially the workers, villagers and residents of informal settlements that have emerged on the margins of the mines who bear the brunt of the worst effects of mining,” writes Mujere.

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