MINING VS COMMUNITY RIGHTS
Marico Chrome Mine liquidation adds to North West community’s grievances
A chrome mine in North West with links to the late former Bophuthatswana homeland leader, Kgosi Lucas Mangope, that has been at the centre of a protracted struggle over beneficiation rights is under liquidation.
The liquidation of the Marico Chrome Mine, located in Mmasebudule village about 70km north of Zeerust, raises questions about whether the community would ever reap any fruits from its long battle over mining royalties.
Village residents have in the past decade staged protests and marches to the mine’s premises to demand answers about royalty payments, which they believe could be used to develop their area.
During one of the marches in April 2014, 87 residents from the village were arrested and spent seven days in police custody after being charged with public violence while marching on the mine.
Lawsuit against police minister
The case against them was later withdrawn because of lack of evidence. The residents lodged a R21-million lawsuit against then minister of police Nathi Nhleko for wrongful arrest and for pain and suffering.
However, the civil suit, which is still pending in the Mahikeng High Court, is the subject of allegations of corruption within the National Prosecuting Authority.
The case pertaining to the company’s liquidation was placed on the roll in the North Gauteng High Court in 2021 and last year.
Liquidator Hendrick Strijdom confirmed that the company Marico Chrome Corporation (Ltd), which owns the Marico Chrome Mine, is under liquidation.
However, Strijdom refused to comment further on the matter.
The Marico Chrome Mine falls under the authority of the Bahurutshe-Boo-Manyane traditional authority, where Mangope was the chief from 1959.
Mangope guilty of fraud but pardoned later
In July 1998, Mangope was found guilty of defrauding the tribe of R2.6-million in royalties from the mine, after a marathon trial in the Mmabatho High Court (now Mahikeng High Court).
Mangope, whose reign as president of the homeland came to an end in March 1994 after a popular uprising, said during his trial that the mine belonged to his family.
He was later granted a provincial pardon by the North West provincial government. Mangope died in January 2018, aged 94.
The late homeland leader’s son, Kgosi Kwena Mangope, who took over as chief of the Bahurutshe-Boo-Manyane after the death of his father, said the mineral rights to the land belong to the state, according to legislation.
He said that, although the land on which Marico Chrome operates is owned by the Bahurutshe-Boo-Manyane, “minerals are state-owned”.
From 1 May 2004 ownership of mineral rights was transferred to the state after the passing of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002.
Prior to that, minerals were privately owned by property owners.
Kgosi Kwena Mangope, who is also the provincial chairperson of ActionSA in North West, said the traditional authority had initially bought the land to use as a cattle post in the early 1900s.
Chrome mineral deposits were later discovered and investors negotiated with the traditional authority elders “during my grandfather’s time” to commence mining on the land.
Community members have accused the Mangope family of benefiting financially from the mining operations while there was no development in the village.
They also accuse Marico Chrome of failing to develop their village, which is among the most impoverished and underdeveloped in the area.
Kgosi Kwena Mangope said the community has been kept updated on developments through the traditional kgotla, a committee of royal council members that holds regular meetings in the villages.
‘Nothing to show’
Joel Tabane, a community leader from Mmasebudule who was among those arrested during the march in 2014, decried the lack of development in the village.
“Even today we have nothing to show from the mining. I grew up here and there is nothing I can show you that Marico Chrome has done here,” Tabane said.
“Nothing has changed from the time we were arrested [in 2014].”
According to data from Statistics South Africa’s 2011 census, the village of Mmasebudule had 324 households and only 0.9% of these had access to piped water or were connected to sewerage.
On its website, Marico Chrome says it has “endeavoured to assist and support these local villages” (Mmasebudule and Maroelakop). The company says it has, among other projects, “established a routine support plan which includes but is not limited to providing infrastructure to the Mmasebudule Primary School in the form of IT equipment and consumables; providing food parcels to the children of the Mmasebudule Primary School; and grading and maintaining haul roads when in a deteriorated state”.
But Kgosi Kwena Mangope had a different view.
“There is no legacy which Marico Chrome has left in Mmasebudule. I fought with Marico Chrome about that …” Mangope said. He also expressed frustration at the lengthy liquidation process.
Tabane said the liquidation matter was mentioned in passing during a recent community meeting, but residents do not have full details about what is really going on.
“We don’t know what this means to us and our demands,” he said. Mukurukuru Media/DM
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.