The involvement of senior government officials in mining interests in the North West is believed to be a driving force behind the lack of transparency and accountability to communities in mining areas.

Speaking during a Corruption Watch webinar on Traditional Governance Threatened by Government’s Lack of Transparency, a member of the Bapo ba Mogale traditional community near Brits in the North West, Joseph Rapanyana, says the community has grown even more divided as the provincial government continues to withhold the Mafereka Commission Report.

The Mafereka Commission was established in 2011 to look into traditional leadership in the North West province. While it submitted its findings in 2014, the report was never released.

It was instead superseded by the release of a report by the Baloyi Commission of Inquiry and the recognition of Andrew Nkwane Mogale as the new chief of the Bapo Ba Mogale last year.

However, according to Joseph Rapanyana, a community member of Bapo Ba Mogale, they remain divided over traditional leadership disputes.

“At this stage, our community is divided, the royal family is divided. There is no true understanding of what is really taking place and the issue again is the D Account. The community’s funds have been misused and corruption around here is rife. Everyone does as he pleases. I think hands in the cookie jar is the biggest problem. Government officials having businesses around or interests in the mining areas around Bapo Ba Mogale is a problem.”

The main source of revenue for this tribe has been royalties from mining companies doing business on their land. These royalties are deposited directly to the D Account, which is controlled by the North West government.

While at the beginning of April 1991 the balance of Bapo Ba Mogale’s D Account was over R600 million by June 2016 just over R490 000 remained. To this day, it is not clear what had happened to the money in the D Account.

While the platinum-rich Bapo ba Mogale has had a long history of mining activities in their area, many business deals with mining companies were done with the exclusion of most of the community. Listen to Wilmien Wicomb from the Legal Resource Centre.

In 2014, this challenge was brought against basically 2 things; on the one hand, Lonmin entered into a very complicated suite of agreements with the Bapo traditional council and in essence, what those agreements meant was that the community gave up its entitlement to royalties that it had for decades and in return, they got an equity stake in Lonmin. So that was the essence of the agreement and it was co-signed by a traditional council that at the time was not even lawfully constituted.”

Sibanye recently acquired the Lonmin operations and Wicomb says they hoped for more inclusive consultation with the community, but this seems not to be.

“We had a meeting with Sibanye at the end of last year where they asked us or advised us on how to not make the mistakes Lonmin made and the one message that we wanted to get across was to be careful of only engaging with the traditional leader whoever that is because that is not the community. And unfortunately, it was very clear to me that they saw their role again as only engaging with the very top structure.”

When we asked the Premier office to comment on why the Mafereka Report has not been released to date the Premier’s Office had this to say: “The Premier publicly released various reports between 2019 and 2020 pertaining to traditional leadership disputes and claims in the province, whose recommendations the Premier has implemented. The Premier is convinced that he has not left out any report, but if there is any report outstanding, the aggrieved are advised to approach a competent court of law to find a legal solution to their grievances.”