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SEKHUKHUNE BATTLE

The fight goes on, vow Limpopo protesters demanding stake in chrome mine

The fight goes on, vow Limpopo protesters demanding stake in chrome mine
Police and security officers escort trucks loaded with chrome as they leave Makgomo Chrome Plant outside Burgersfort in Limpopo. (Photo: Rudzani Tshivhase)

The monthslong clash between a Limpopo chrome mine and residents demanding a share of its wealth has led to the arrest of six protesters and a large police presence – but they are far from discouraged.

Residents of Sekhukhune in Limpopo have vowed to continue their fight for shares in a local chrome mine, despite the mine securing the help of the police and private security, as well as the arrest of six villagers when tensions erupted in chaos on 3 May.

The arrests were the violent culmination of months of furious protest by residents who have been camped outside the Makgomo Chrome plant, near Impala Platinum’s Marula Platinum Mine outside Burgersfort, since February, preventing trucks from transporting chrome.

It all came to a head on 3 May when the six protesters allegedly tried to block the trucks – now escorted by local police and Gauteng provincial officers, as well as private security guards – with their own vehicles. 

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Malesela Ledwaba said police had used water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse protesters camped outside the mine. 

Following the ensuing “unrest situation” and “public violence” at Ga-Manyaka village outside the Marula mine, six suspects were arrested and six vehicles impounded, he said.

This fight has been going on for years, all around the district.

“Mecklenburg SAPS are investigating a case of malicious damage to property after a mobile container was burnt. No arrests for now,” Ledwaba added.

Now, the six men will face charges of public violence and intimidation on 3 June after being granted bail in the Mecklenburg Magistrates’ Court on 10 May.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s provincial spokesperson, Mashudu Malabi Dzhangi, said the case was postponed to 3 June for a trial. “It is alleged that on3 May 2023, the suspects were blocking trucks that were collecting chrome from Makgomo Chrome plant. They left eight vehicles along the road. Some of the vehicles were impounded by the police.”

The suspects were: Charles Maapea (48), Prince Phala (34), Moses Tau (56), Eric Lekwadu (52), Motau Tobejane (65), Daniel Moloto (70), Heti Thobejane (26), Rachel Sekiti and Thamahane Phasha (66).

Read more in Daily Maverick: Limpopo villagers win court round in battle for bigger stake in chrome mine

According to community spokesperson Esrom Phoku, the mine – having failed in March to secure an urgent interdict against the protesters preventing the trucks from leaving the premises – recently secured the interdict.

“The interdict shows that we can only challenge it on 5 September, but we are engaging our lawyers to apply for the court date to be brought earlier,” he told Daily Maverick

Asked why the police have deployed police officers from Gauteng to guard private property, Ledwaba said it is part of their operational plan. “It’s against our policy to discuss our day-to-day operations with the media,” he added. 

Background

The Makgomo was started to empower people from previously disadvantaged communities to have a stake in the chrome-mining industry. 

Chrome and platinum are found in abundance around the Sekhukhune district, where some people find chrome in the backyards of their homesteads and sell it on the black market.

Some residents blame the mine for not doing enough to make sure that everyone in the area benefits from the chrome mined in their villages. 

Phoku says only a few individuals are mining chrome and transporting it to Richards Bay harbour, from where it is shipped to China. 

He vowed that residents will continue demanding what they believe is rightfully theirs.

“This fight has been going on for years, all around the district, as for now only a small group of community members were allowed to be shareholders of the Makgomo Chrome Plant.”

Transport ‘resumed’

Johan Theron, who speaks on behalf of the Makgomu, Marula and Implats mines, said profit from the sale of chrome is shared among residents. 

He said the protest had also disrupted operations at the nearby Marula mine.

“With the assistance of the SAPS, chrome transportation has resumed at Makgomo Chrome. Regrettably, following this action by some community members have disrupted the unrelated operation Of Marula Mine. These cases are being investigated by the SAPS who remain active in the area in support of the rule of law,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The shine dims on South Africa’s chrome as ruthless pirates muscle in on mining operations

“To be clear, our chrome shares are not for sale, because we care for and are committed to developing our host communities. We also know that outsiders want to take what is not theirs. Over the past 12 months alone Makgomo Chrome has generated R169-million in dividends, R84-million rand has gone to Marula Chrome Company, a local community company created by the six host communities; R33-million has gone to the Marula mine, specifically to be used for local community development projects; R50.7-million has gone to Implats – all this earmarked for local education in the Marula area,” he explained. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    some one is not sharing what they have been given
    Who are the shareholders of the mine ?
    There must be a significant BEE partner

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

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