Protests test tribal authority on South Africa’s platinum belt – by Ed Stoddard (Reuters U.S. – October 8, 2017)

MOGALAKWENA, South Africa (Reuters) – A new power struggle is unfolding in South Africa’s old homelands between global mining giants, traditional leaders and an impoverished rural populace.

Parts of an industry long used to labor unrest are now contending with community protests that have cut production of the country’s largest mineral export earner, platinum, and may shut some operations down altogether.

At the heart of the conflict are tribal leaders who have royal titles and feudal-style control over the homelands, poor rural areas designated to South Africa’s black majority by its former white minority rulers during apartheid. Tribal leaders are also key allies of President Jacob Zuma, whose political base has become increasingly rural, and his African National Congress party has drafted a law that would cement their control.

But with protests spreading across the homelands, the communities, mining companies and some within the ANC itself are moving to change what they see as an anachronistic system.

The traditional leaders have acted as intermediaries with companies which have discovered chrome and coal as well as platinum in the homelands and hope to find shale gas. Many locals say they are seeing none of the proceeds.

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