Under the land that belongs to the Bakgatla Ba Kgafela lie the richest platinum deposits on Earth. But a toxic alliance between government, traditional chieftaincy and major mining houses has stood between the community and its wealth. Could this be the largest state-sanctioned, business-perpetrated fraud in the history of Big Mining in South Africa? By KEVIN BLOOM & SASHA WALES-SMITH.
I. The Great Diversion
Motlhabe, a village of around 3,000 people in North West, is a settlement from where it is possible, if the wind is right, to inhale thick clumps of dust from the rock waste dump of the Pilanesberg Platinum Mine, one of the most lucrative open-cast mines on earth. The village is located on the western fringe of the Bushveld Igneous Complex, a two-billion-year-old geological phenomenon that contains up to 90% of the world's known reserves of platinum group metals, or PGMs, being palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, osmium, iridium and platinum itself.
Photo: Bridgeman Sojane, general secretary of the BBKCPA, points to the farms on Bakgatla land that are being mined for the benefit of "outsiders". Photo: Daniel Born
Motlhabe's traditional headman, a destitute man in his early 50s named Mmuthi Pilane, believes that these two facts add...