Mining firms in South Africa's former homelands have learnt the hard way: If you bypass communities and cut deals with tribal chiefs, protests can bring your operation to its knees. So what does the ANC-led government do? Blithely ignoring recent history, it has given chiefs the power to cut such deals.
The Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Act, signed last week by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is a setback to the administration's stated objective of attracting investment into South Africa's moribund economy.
Blithely ignoring recent history, when it comes into effect it will entrench into law a policy that has been a proven commercial failure, namely allowing mining companies to cut deals directly with traditional authorities in the apartheid relics that are the former bantustans. It is utter madness that can only be explained by the influence traditional leaders wield within the ANC.
It is an irony of history that much of South Africa's platinum and chrome reserves are found in the old homelands, which were among apartheid's bedrocks. They are where the rich geology beneath the surface meets head-on with political and social pressures unfolding above ground. Like tectonic plates, when these forces collide, the result is upheaval.