People linked to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are part of a contentious platinum mining venture that is dividing communities in Limpopo's eastern platinum belt.
Different factions in communities in the areas of Kalkfontein and Buffelshoek near Steelpoort in southeastern Limpopo have alleged that Kameni, a company with a questionable reputation in the mining industry, has not consulted them properly and unilaterally divvied up a shareholding structure to mine platinum and chrome.
The Kalkfontein and Buffelshoek communities are divided over who should be allowed to mine in their areas and how the share structures will work. Concern has also been raised about the proposed 10% stake for the communities being based on a debt buy-in that will have to be repaid before dividends are paid into a trust on behalf of communities.
There is concern about the local benefits – from profits to jobs from the proposed mining, which, according to Kameni's website, has about a 20-year lifespan that is projected to yield a combined total of 3.6-million tonnes of platinum group metals a year.
According to the company structure on Kameni's website, its black economic empowerment partners will receive a 36% stake in the mining through a company called Tamboti Platinum. Tamboti's sub-components include Sangriflex Investments, a "women's black economic empowerment group" that will receive a 6% stake and Matlotlo Trading 115, which is "wholly owned" by the SACP's social investment Masincazelane Trust and has a 10% stake in the operation. The final 10% will go to "local communities", according to the website.
Sangriflex, whose offices are registered at the same address as Kameni, has two active board members, Jennifer Plaatjies and Zukiswa Maduna. The latter is the personal assistant to the general secretary of the NUM, Frans Baleni, who is also part of the SACP politburo. Baleni is a close ally of SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, who, as education minister, appointed Baleni's wife, Phindile Nzimande, and SACP chairperson Gwede Mantashe's wife, Nolwandle Mantashe, to the boards of sector education training authorities under his command.
Matlotlo Trading 115, which is also registered at the same address as Kameni, has a single active director, Setenane Mabulu, who is also on the board of Masincazelane.
The areas around Kalkfontein and Buffelshoek are intensively mined by various companies, including Patrice Motsepe's African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), Impala Platinum and Samancor.
Residents in these areas are unhappy about how the mines have operated. Ally Maabane, chairperson of the Platinum Chrome Community Forum, which was formed last year to lobby the mines for greater social and economic investment in the area, said: "A great challenge is to get the mines to hire local people. We are not xenophobic, but the mines are always bringing in people from the Eastern Cape, Swaziland and Lesotho. How can you feed your neighbour's child while yours is hungry?"
Maabane said xenophobic violence had previously broken out in the area because of the lack of jobs for locals.
A source familiar with the mining industry said, as companies like ARM shifted from their less profitable gold mining operations to platinum, they were retraining employees to keep retrenchment figures low. This, the source said, was hampering local employment on new mines.
Maabane said the community forum also wanted training to be given to locals through social investment, but he was not overly optimistic about buy-in from the mines.
He also raised concern about the mines using traditional authorities such as the chiefs in the area to divide communities and push through development with bribery and by dishing out contracts to them. He said the chiefs kept a repressive grip on communities by imposing petty taxes on community members and then withholding confirmation of residency – required for job applications in the mines – if these taxes were not paid.
"This area is close to exploding because the people here are seeing very little benefit from the land. I believe that we will have our own Marikana moment," said Maabane.
Andries Malumo, a farmer at Kalkfontein whose land borders that of the Two Rivers Mine operated by Impala Platinum and ARM, said because of the mining there was very little top groundwater left for his livestock to drink.
"Whenever my cattle get anywhere near the water near Two Rivers, they are caught by the mining company and locked up in Lydenburg [more than 50km away]. They fine me R2 000 per cow and then I have to transport them back here, which is costly. One time, they captured 20 to 30 of my cows," said Malumo.
It is in this context that questions are being raised about the social-investment benefits that the SACP will bring to the Kalkfontein venture through its interests in Tamboti Platinum.
SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka confirmed Masincazelane was involved with Matlotlo Trading 115, but said the company was "not involved in operational issues at Kameni".
He said the SACP leadership did not direct the business choices of the investment arm apart from "setting broad parameters on matters of principle". Maleka said the party was not aware of the issues brewing between Kameni and the community: "We undertake to follow up on the matter, establish the facts, get proper legal advice and explore what role we could play to advise in the resolution of the matter to the best interest of the community and all parties involved," he said.
Maduna, Baleni's secretary, forwarded the Mail & Guardian's inquiry to the spokesperson for the NUM, Lesiba Seshoka, who said the union's secretariat was "un-aware of the existence" of Sangriflex Investments or the "issues the community is facing". He referred the M&G back to Maduna.
Matlotlo Trading 115's Mabulu asked the M&G to contact Livhu Nengovhela, who is also on the board of Masincazelane, when approached about Kameni. When Nengovhela was asked about the community's concern about shareholding in the mine, he said the company would hold discussions with the community "about a possible increase in the 10% stake. We are currently just prospecting. Once the mine is off the ground we will relook at the matter", he said.
Kameni chief executive Barend Meulenbeld said: "We have consulted extensively and are continuing to consult local communities and other interested and affected parties in relation to the project in compliance with all legal requirements and processes. There are some internal community issues which are being resolved with the involvement of Kameni."