Socialist Worker

Platinum mines spearhead scramble for Africa's wealth

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2036

A new 'scramble for Africa' is taking place, which has many of the features associated with the 19th century carve-up of the continent.

Today oil is the main prize, with the Gulf of Guinea (from the Ivory Coast to Angola), Sudan and Chad the central battle grounds. But other vital resources are also up for grabs as the world's great powers seek to control vital raw materials.

Ordinary Africans suffer as multinationals – backed by neoliberal African governments – compete for these assets.

Perhaps the starkest example is in South Africa where people are being expelled from the land they have inhabitedÊfor generations in order to clear the way for platinum mining. When they fight back, people are harassed, arrested and beaten.

The demand for platinum has rocketed in recent years. It is an irreplaceable component of vehicle exhaust systems – and globally car ownership is soaring, especially in China and India.

South Africa, which has 90 percent of the world's platinum reserves, is eagerly eyed by giant companies like Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American) and Impala.

The mine bosses already have a green light from the ANC government to remove any obstacle to them ripping out platinum as swiftly as possible.

Last week women in the Mothlohlo area of the Limpopo province formed a human chain to stop Anglo Platinum from putting a fence around their crop fields. The firm instructed bulldozer drivers to dump mounds of dirt onto the women.

This region has seen the largest forced removals since the end of apartheid. Around 6,000 people have been driven from their land and 10,000 more face removal in the coming weeks.

In Magobading (a relocation camp for people removed from their homes) 15 leaders were beaten and arrested by police as they were walking home after a demonstration at Anglo Platinum's Twickenham mine. They were denied medical attention for 22 hours and bail was set at an outrageously high level.

In Maandagshoek several community leaders were arrested for protecting their land. Police shot rubber and live bullets at the community during a peaceful protest.

In Ga-Pila, 25 families refused to move from their land while 6,000 others were moved to a relocation camp. The government dumped mine waste on their water source and cut their electricity. They too were beaten and arrested for protecting their crops.

Mekgwe Lucas and Thusi Rapoo are campaigning against Impala in the village of Luka near Rustenburg in South Africa's North West Province.

They told Socialist Worker, 'Luka is a village of around 20,000 people in an area which has the two largest platinum mines in the world.

'We have many concerns about what effect these mines are having. They have created vast waste heaps and on some days the dust blows everywhere and covers everything.

'We believe this is damaging water. The soil is being poisoned and our village is undermined by the workings. In some areas you can hear the miners working underground beneath the houses!

'We are also concerned by the gases released by the mining, which we believe are hazardous. Again and again we have demanded action, but we are always brushed off without proper answers.

'The Impala mining company was set up under apartheid as a bastion of that racist system. Yet the ANC government has not taken sufficient action to restore our rights.

'The Bafokeng tribal authority claims to speak for us, but its leaders have enriched themselves without pressing our demands.

'We will continue our campaign for justice for the people and for respect for the environment. If mining is to go ahead, the wealth created must be used for the whole community and for the miners as well.'

Emmanuel Makgoga, spokesperson for communities in the Tubatse area that are fighting the platinum mines, said, 'The land the mine is using belongs to us. The government refuses to fix this problem, but we will not be intimidated by the government or the police.

'We know that people in Peru, Nigeria, the Philippines and many other countries face the same problems. We must come together to fight.'

For updates on the platinum campaign, e-mail Jubilee South Africa on [email protected]

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