Image: Centre for Environmental Rights

By Matshidiso Dibakwane
First published in City Press

After receiving a number of reports from mining-affected communities in the North West, Corruption Watch undertook to advocate for the release of the Mafereka commission report, which has not seen the light of day, years after its submission to the premier’s office.

The North West Provincial leg of the National Commission on Traditional Disputes and Claims, aka Mafereka commission, was set up in 2011 and chaired by Joe Mafereka. Its mandate was to deal with disputes and claims relating to traditional leadership in the North West province. The commission concluded its task and in 2015 handed its report to then-premier Thandi Modise, who had not released it to the public by the time she left office.

Her successor Supra Mahumapelo also withheld the Mafereka report, instead establishing a similar commission of enquiry in 2016 with similar terms of reference. This was the Baloyi commission. The Baloyi report was released in part in August 2019, excluding the Bapo Ba Mogale findings as per an interdict granted on behalf of a claimant to Bapo ba Mogale chieftainship. These findings, relating to Bapo ba Mogale traditional disputes, were released on 21 August 2020.

Corruption Watch followed up in 2020 on this matter with the North West premier’s office, whose spokesperson indicated that they would engage with us. But despite a further letter clearly articulating the demands of the traditional communities, the report remains, up to this day, hidden from public view – nor has there been any word from the North West premier’s office. 

This is concerning because the institution, status and roles of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised and protected in chapter 11 of South Africa’s Constitution. Furthermore, the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act is pending repeal because of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act, which is expected to be effective from 1 April 2021.

There is no better time for the Bapo ba Mogale Community to demand the answers and clarity they are entitled to, on the various commissions of inquiry which sought to establish lawful and correct traditional leaders in terms of the legislation. Their experiences to date of abuse and refusal by the North West government are appalling and unacceptable.

The Bapo community sits on valuable minerals mined by Sibanye-Stilwater and Anglo American amongst others. Disputes into traditional governance resulted in the Bapo ba Mogale community not meaningfully engaging with mining companies on development or benefits such as community royalties. These omissions have left them vulnerable to corruption and deprived of the development that should be improving their lives.

Download our infographic detailing the chain of events and attempts to hide the Mafereka commission report, or save the images below.