Photo: James Oatway for the Centre for Environmental Rights

By Matshidiso Dibakwane
First published in The Star

Despite several commissions of inquiry set up both at national and provincial level to investigate and establish lawful traditional leaders in terms of customary law and the Constitution, mining communities in the North West still await justice.

Although two commissions were set up to determine the truth about their traditional leadership, only one report has been made available for public scrutiny, and community members are as much in the dark as ever.

In the meantime, mismanagement of royalties accounts continues, while people live in poverty.

Corruption Watch ( CW) is concerned at the unreasonable length of time the North West provincial government ( NWPG) is holding on to one crucial report – that of the provincial leg of the National Commission on Traditional Disputes and Claims, set up in 2011 to deal with disputes relating to traditional leadership in the province.

There is much at stake, particularly for the Bapo ba Mogale community. The Bapo community is located on platinum- rich land in Marikana, North West, which is mined by Sibanye- Stillwater, formerly Lonmin. Entitled to significant mining royalties, the community has seen very little of the funds that should be used to develop and uplift it, with both the government and traditional authorities accused of plundering the bank accounts.

CW questions the release of one commission’s findings over the other when both had the same mandate.

This action is tantamount to abuse of power. Furthermore, the disregard of the court order to release the Maluleka report undermines our judiciary, while the lack of transparency on the Maluleka findings will continue to cause divisions in the community.

There is much at stake, particularly for the Bapo ba Mogale community

Like many others, the Bapo community is led by a tribal authority and a chief, who, at the dawn of the new democratic South Africa, was Kgosi Bob Edward Mogale. When he became too ill, some years ago, to take part in leadership matters other than traditional rituals, his adviser took over in an administrative capacity. Mogale passed away in 2017.

That year the public protector found that more than R600- million was missing from the Bapo coffers, and named the culprits as the North West Department of Traditional Affairs and the so- called Bapo Administration.

At the core of this and many other social difficulties in the Bapo community, is what the public protector identified as “lack of accountable governance”. The public protector’s report is only one of a series of events highlighting the Bapo ba Mogale community’s efforts towards achieving transparency and accountability on findings of the traditional governance processes.

So the Bapo remain in poverty, and the royalties to which the community was entitled, have been stolen.

The reality is that not only do the victims of the issues investigated and those closely affected need to know the truth; the country at large does too. The findings of commissions of inquiry are a matter of public interest.