KGOSHI Mmutle III may have laid a proper foundation for his tribe to prosper when he bought farms during his reign that ended when he passed away in 1950. But his vision today lies in tatters as apparent greed continue to tear apart the rural community of Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo.
But the chrome rush and the desire to amass wealth has plunged the community into turmoil, with brothers and sisters turning against each other. The chrome-rich Farm Locatie Van M’patlele 457KS remain at the centre of the low-intensity “war” raging in the area.
It all started in 2010 when the Bakgaga Ba Ga Mphahlele Traditional Authority – today known as the Traditional Governance Council – approached a law firm to assist with the application for the prospecting rights with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) on Farm Locatie Van M’patlele 457KS.
After complying with all the requirements, DMR granted the prospecting right to the Traditional Authority in 2015, with Mphahlele Community Development Trust being the holder of the right thereto. The harmonious relationship – bar the royal battles – ended there.
The entrance into a fray by a private company known as Dithabeng Mining changed the dynamics in the area and triggered court battles. The company negotiated with the Traditional Authority in January 2017 as an investor in the prospecting operations and entered into a joint venture which was celebrated with members of the community, according to the tribe’s regent Sophia Ngwanamohube Phatudi- Mphahlele (commonly reffered as Ngwanamohube_.
According to her, an ownership structure was agreed upon in which the community will hold and control 51% of the mining company, and the remaining 49% remains in the hands of Dithabeng Mining.
In the papers filed with the Polokwane High Court, Ngwanamohube stated: “Our good fortune did not end there. The Fourth Respondent [Dithabeng] has, thus far, employed more than 50 people in the preliminary stages of the prospecting operations. All these people were previously unemployed and many of them are from very poor households, they depend almost entirely on the income they derive from their current employ with the Fourth Respondent.
“The high ended attitude and approach adopted by the Applicants stands to prejudice my subjects, and their livelihood. The Applicants are seemingly unaware of my people’s plight and they appear to be indifferent.”
However, it was the events that led to Mphahlele Royal Council and its chairperson Nkopodi Mphahlele, the community and the Mashemo Owners Association to raise their eyebrows. They began to take Ngwanamohube head-on and raised concerns which included that the prospecting right cannot be ceded. Other concerns include that:
- She unlawfully and illegally appointed her son, Thabo Malekutu, without the resolution of the Traditional Authority and the Royal Council to act in her capacity
- She unlawfully and illegally appointed her son to represent the Mphahlele Community Development Trust in contravention of the Trust Laws
- Thabo Malekutu misrepresented himself to the Notary Public that he was appointed as a representative of the Mphahlele Community Development Trust. They further argue that for him to be legally appointed as a representative of the Community Development Trust, a resolution of the beneficiaries of the trust has to be obtained and favoured, and produced to the Notary Public.
- Thabo Malekutu applied for the amendment of the prospecting right to include bulk sampling.
Other serious concerns are contained in other documents which do not form part of the court application. The application has so far been partly heard and the Polokwane High Court has since made an order.
The Part B of the application is set to further change the dynamics in the area, for it seeks to show that Ngwanamohube is no longer a legitimate regent of the tribe and all the decisions she took regarding the mining and tribal affairs in the area were invalid.
Should the decision of the court favour the Applicants, it will place Dithabeng Mining which has already invested more than R66 million in a predicament.
It is against this background that one of the Dithabeng Mining director, Rueben Gladstone, has deposed an affidavit supporting Ngwanamohube.
In the affidavit, Gladstone remains worried that the delay in the execution of operations has great financial implications to the company: “The Fourth Respondent [Dithabeng] has employed contractors on the basis that they commence and conclude the prospecting opeartions. The cost of retaining the contractors, whilst no work is being done, cannot be sustained.”
The alleged role by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – as claimed by the Mphahlele Royal Council – further complicates the matter and apparently make mockery of the vision of Kgoshi Mmutle III.
- At the time of going to press, African Times was reliably informed that the Department of Mineral Resources has rejected an application for a Mining Permit in Ga-Mphahlele.