Christina Matjiu rose much earlier than usual on the first weekend of December to lead her family in a sacred ceremony as they prepared to depart from the land they have called home for almost half a century.
The time had come for the family to finally move from their ancestral land after a bruising, lengthy battle with mining giant Anglo American Platinum. Matjiu knows too well the significance of communicating the decision to those whose bones lie beneath the soil, the ones whose spirits still roam the hills to guard over and guide those who still walk the land.
That morning Matjiu, her children and grandchildren took turns kneeling in the centre of their homestead, sprinkling offerings of sorghum beer, tobacco and snuff on the cow dung coated floor – each giving thanks to the gods and saying their goodbyes.
The Mogalakwena Platinum Mine, situated about 20km north-west of Mokopane is the biggest open pit platinum mine in the world and its reserves are expected to last until 2040.
“I informed them [the gods] that we are leaving. We are going away. They must not wonder and worry when they can’t find us here. They must know we have left and must know where to find us. We carry them with us to our new home,” Matjiu said later that day as friends and family joined them for the going away party.
In most African traditions including MaNdebele ase Nyakatho [Northern Ndebele] to which the Matjiu belong, land is regarded as an integral connection to the spirits of those who came before.
Matjiu has lived in Motlhotlo, a rural village in the Mogalakwena Local Municipality, Waterberg district of Limpopo since 1971.
In 2007 Anglo entered into an agreement with the Langa Traditional Authority for a settlement on the relocation of the communities of Motlhotlo, Ga-Sekhaolelo and Ga-Phuka. But this proved disastrous as a result of a lack of consultation between Anglo, the traditional authority’s appointed representatives, and the communities.
The communities also resisted Anglo’s offer of only R20 000 in compensation and a house in a semi-township development. The relocation process became the subject of an investigation by the SA Human Rights Commission.
Johan Lorenzen, a lawyer working with human rights lawyer Richard Spoor to help fight the community’s cause, described the earlier attitude by Anglo as “here is R2000, R5000, good luck and have a nice life” kind of approach to the community.
The Human Rights and Business Dilemmas Forum, a joint initiative between the United Nations Global Compact and British-based global risk and strategic consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft argues that resettling people means more than just replacing their homes hence giving them financial compensation is not always a straightforward solution.
Jana Marais, spokesperson for Anglo American Platinum said the Motlhotlo resettlement was initiated in 2005 and all 956 households at the time agreed to relocate. Marais said subsequently, 64 households retracted their decision, electing to remain on the property. Matjiu’s family was among those 64 who later sought the services of Spoor to fight for a better deal.
Lorenzen said the deal with Anglo “sets a very important precedent in terms of what is the minimum standard for community when you want to profit off a community land”.
As part of the deal the relocated households have each moved into a new house designed to their own needs with running water, electricity, built-in kitchen and cupboards in bedrooms with a roof tile. Most importantly, they will be given title deeds to their homes.
Lorenzen added that as part of the deal Anglo has already hired 38 people from the 49 households that have agreed to move; the community is also getting a cash payment in advance on relocation and another cash payment as part of relocation and that for six months following, they will also get monthly cash payments to allow themselves to get settled.
In addition Anglo has purchased two commercial farms of over 500 hectares and has set up a trust of R2 million “to keep those farms into operation.”.
Marais said “the main principle is that households may not be left worse off after a resettlement” and that “all households will therefore be supported to develop a sustainable livelihood”.
“Schooling is being paid for because the households did not pay for schooling in the villages; all suitable education will be provided at no cost to the households. Each household will receive electricity vouchers, and their rates and taxes will be paid for a fixed period. During the allotted time, Anglo American is committed to assist the households to adjust to living in an urban setting. Inflation adjustments were made for payment of other allowances,” said Marais.
Victoria and her eldest daughter are now employed at the mine together with six other family members as part of the relocation and empowerment deal.
It’s a bitter sweet ending for Victoria who spent nine days in police custody awaiting trial before after she was shot by mine security during the Motlhotlo resistance to the relocation.
“I love this place. We have tolerated this for 12 years. We have been fighting but now we are tired,” she said.
Marais said the current resettlement plan was informed by the internationally accepted good-practice guidance in the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) performance standard 5, as well as Anglo American’s Social Way requirements.
“It should be noted that the IFC standards, as well as the Anglo American Social Way, did not exist at the time when the original resettlements were done in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” she said.
Marais said Anglo “has appointed independent consultants to conduct a review of its historic resettlements to assess the status of these communities”.
She said work on the remediation plan is underway and communication with communities will continue during the year.
Each of Matjiu’s children, except one who is still pondering to leave Motlhotlo, all moved into their own new homes in Extension 14. Their mother will stay with one of her children until her home in the new village is completed.
“I am happy. But I am thinking of my husband and all those who died while we were fighting the mine [Anglo]. They did not leave to see this day, but I know they are also happy,” Matjiu said. – Mukurukuru Media