Tribes retain mining rights

The Minerals and Petroleum Development Bill was this week amended in Parliament to address the worries of the three influential “tribes” of the North West province that the law would strip them of their

existing rights.

The Bafokeng, the Bakwena Ba Mogopa and the Bakgatla Ba Kgafela, who own vast tracts of land in platinum-mining areas, had made submissions to Parliament opposing the Bill. They argued that it “expropriates their mineral rights without making proper provision for compensation”. The tribes have been drawing royalty income from Anglo Platinum for many years.

“There was fear that the Bill offers no security that the tribes would continue to receive royalties,” said Bakwena’s representative, Moshanti Makgale.

The amended Bill “now makes provision for the tribes to continue to receive royalties, provided they account to the government every five years what they have done with the royalties in terms of the advancement of their communities”. In addition, the tribes will have to submit their books annually and ensure that proper systems of financial control are adhered to.

The Bill allows for the tribes to negotiate a stake in the mining industry, to avert excessive reliance on royalties in future. In the new dispensation the tribes will have to apply to the government to convert their property rights in terms of the new Bill.

A spokesperson of the Bakgatla, Kgosi Nyalala Pilane, said his tribe had been trying to clinch a stake in the mining industry for years, to no avail.

“We were denied participation in the mining industry by apartheid. And we have made innumerable representations to the mining houses for meaningful participation. However, we are now satisfied with the final version of the Bill. We may not be 100% winners, but we are happy that our concerns have been addressed.”

Presenting the Bill in its amended form this week, Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said it incorporated a broad-based socio-economic empowerment plan where the government would require for new enterprises “significant ownership by the historically disadvantaged”.

The Bafokeng tribal authority has a respectable record of using the proceeds of the platinum mines to uplift local people. It has built a state-of-the-art Olympic stadium, a civic centre and the Bafokeng Plaza, and invested in schools and tertiary bursaries.

“It is hoped,” said a source, “that communities will now stand a better chance of reaping the benefits of the minerals in our land, as opposed to benefiting only mining magnates.”

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