Who Owns the Land, Who Owns the Platinum? Conflict and Contested Meanings of Land and Mineral Wealth in Rural South Africa

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Sonwabile Mnwana delivered a seminar entitled, Who owns the Land, Who owns the Platinum? Conflict and Contested meanings of Land and Mineral Wealth in Rural South Africa on the 14th March 2018 as part of the Labour Studies Seminar Series. The series is jointly co-ordinated by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) and the Departments of Sociology, History, and Economics and Economic History.

Professor Sonwabile Mnwana is based in Sociology at the University of Fort Hare, and is Project Leader for the Mineral Wealth and Politics of Distribution on the Platinum Belt investigation.  He worked as a researcher in the Mining and Rural Transformation in Southern Africa (MARTISA) project, was Deputy Director of the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand, and served as President of the South African Sociological Association (SASA). He has published inter alia in Development Southern Africa, the Journal of Contemporary African Studies, the Review of African Political Economy, the South African Crime Quarterly and the South African Labour Bulletin.

The Presentation

The 'platinum belt' - a vast stretch of platinum-rich land in South Africa's North West and Limpopo provinces - has been marked by a rapid expansion of mining over the last two decades. Platinum has increasingly displaced gold as an employer and as a part of crucial mining sector. But the platinum belt is largely located in the old 'homelands, ' on 'communal' land controlled by 'traditional' authorities (chiefs). These 'tribal' authorities lease mining rights and land to large private corporations in return for payments. Large mines operate amidst impoverished villages in overcrowded areas, where generations of dispossessed and impoverished African families have eked out a precarious existence through farming and other strategies.

The social shifts and struggles that have been produced by the rapid expansion of this homeland-based mining have not been properly examined. The paper takes a step towards addressing the gaps.  It examines some of the emerging local struggles over control of land and mining revenues. I argue that these struggles attest to the reality that ordinary villagers receive very limited benefits from mining leases, and only limited access to mine jobs. They also epitomize contestations over  the meaning that actors attach to land and mineral wealth in rural South Africa. I demonstrate the agency of the rural poor in using competing histories of land and politics, and contestations over the meaning of land, to resist the control and distributive power that chiefs wield over land and mining revenues, and to claim land rights and social identities. Distributive struggles on the platinum belt, by commoners, are also struggles over the meaning of land and mineral wealth. The paper draws on detailed ethnographic and archival material gathered over years in the villages under traditional authorities in the North West and Limpopo.       

Prof Sonwabile Mnwana's paper could be downloaded from the links below:

Chiefs, Land and Distributive Struggles on the Platinum Belt: A Case of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela in the North West Province, South Africa



Source:  www.mistra.org.za

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