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Why Ga-Mapela residents are burning up their small Limpopo town

Hebron Protest

Over the past week, residents of Ga-Mapela in the Limpopo province took to the streets and to social media to voice their grievances with Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena Mine. Protestors say the mine offers little to benefit the community; officials say this is no reason to start burning down the town. FIRDAUS KHAN explains why residents are up in arms.

The Anglo Platinum Mogalakwena mine in Mapela has been operating for the past 25 years. Communities, schools and even cemeteries have been moved to make way for it. But much of the community surrounding it remains poor and jobless. Residents say they do not benefit from the growth and wealth of the mines. They’re demanding that the mines employ those who live in the area, to help empower Mapela and its people.

Lawyer to the protesters, Letlhogonolo Gaborone, told The Daily Vox that all the protesters want is to negotiate with the mine, so that they too, can benefit from mining in the area.

The protesters are also up in arms about their children being moved from Seritarita Secondary School in Mapela to a school in a neighbouring village. Reports say the move was necessary as it would ensure that children would not be harmed by mine blasting. The children were later moved again to a school set up by the mine. However, schools are now closed as a result of the protests, and residents are unable to go to work because public transport is out of service. Shops, too, have been closed for days.

Mokete Khoda, an activist in Mapela, described the situation as “a total shut-down”.

“The government hasn’t come. We have our mayor and councillors; they haven’t come to our community to actually even assist us,” he said.

Mokete said one of the community’s key grievances is that it would like to be consulted about new developments.

“We have some buildings that have been built by the mines, but we don’t know who the mines have actually consulted. We just wake up one day and find people building something, but in the end, we don’t know who has been consulted,” he said.

The community has since taken to destroying some of the buildings, including a local chief’s house, a tribal office and a retirement home built by the mine.

Police have responded to the protests with arrests and rubber bullets. According to Limpopo SAPS spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto a total of 36 people have been arrested on charges of malicious damage to property and public violence, with four others arrested on charges of inciting violence.

Nine people, including a pregnant woman, are reported to have been injured so far but Otto denied this, saying that only one injury has been reported. “Nobody was shot,” she said. “Throughout the week, we’ve had to make use of rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd. On Friday, one woman was injured on the foot by a rubber bullet. Never ever did we use live ammunition, and the woman was only injured slightly.”

Otto said police are maintaining a strong police presence in the area and are in “continuous talks” with representatives from the mines, traditional leaders, the mayor’s office and the municipality.

On Tuesday, the protesters’ lawyer, Gaborone, said all the arrested protesters have been released on bail.

“They were given bail because firstly, there was a huge number that would be incarcerated, the police station can’t cater for more than 60 people who have been arrested – and also because it makes practical sense and their addresses are known,” he said.

One Mapela resident told The Daily Vox that the media has been largely ignoring the protests. “We’ve been calling the SABC to come, but they haven’t come,” she said.

– Featured image via of a protest in Hebron last year, by Wesley Fester on Flickr.
10 Comments
  1. Danny says

    The mine must create jobs,ther are many people jobless but they live near the mine.

    1. maticz says

      we are tired of inhaling a very serious dust from the mine and our houses are cracking but there is nothing that the mine is doing to fix our houses. We also apply for jobs but our CV are thrown away whereas we have degree that match the requirements needed for the specified job advertised. instead they hire people from Gauteng and other provinces. We need to be hired at the mine in order to uplift our family and our community.

      1. Firdaus Khan
        Firdaus Khan says

        Hi Maticz!

        I’m the journalist who wrote this article, and I’m interested in hearing your experience of Mapela. I’d like to know about the difficulties you face on a daily basis, and what you think should be done to fix these issues.

        Can we chat?
        Please drop me an email with your contact details.

        I look forward to hearing from you!

        1. lizzie says

          You must also visit Bakenberg which is closer to Mapela, they also got the same problems as Mapela and i can guarantee you that this will escalate to the neighbouring villages.
          Corruption is rife and it is the root cause of this whole saga. Let them employ this people or leave. It is true that the community just see things happening, they are not being engaged nor told anything. The only people who benefits are those close to the chief and friends. There is poverty there it is not a joke.

        2. Madimetja says

          Why money been stolen in langas family?

        3. REMS says

          use my email

  2. thabo mega says

    The mines mist stop undermining communities they operate in and start delivering. Finish and klaar

  3. kgwadi lesiba kleinboy says

    they should’nt undermine the community of mapela

  4. kgwadi lesiba kleinboy says

    as one of the community members,i’m fully in support with them.they must initiate some ideas and come up with plans for developments

  5. Frantz says

    The problem is not the mine bcos the traditional leader is not the rightful heir to the throne and does not know how to rule the community. Even now is investigated by the hawks for corruption and money laundering.

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