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Land claims open Pandora’s box

Author: Kwanele Sosibo

The Bapo ba Mogale, who this week signed a R546-million share deal with Lonmin, were one of a number of chieftaincies placed under administration by the North West province because of long-running disputes between rival branches of the ruling lineage.

With pressure mounting to push the deal through, and Lonmin desperate to meet its black econonomic empowerment requirements, the province hired an academic to determine the bona fides of the members of the royal family who would form the core of the reconstituted council.

 Gavin Capps, a senior researcher at the Mining and Rural Transformation in Southern Africa project at the University of Witwatersrand who has been observing the situation closely, notes that “these kind of genealogical disputes are the very stuff of political competition in Tswana formations, and claims to familial rank are frequently manipulated to mobilise popular support or legitimate the victors”.

 “So what we are really seeing here is the use of a state-appointed ethnographer to stabilise a tribal authority by cementing the claims of one faction over the others,” he said. “This is exactly what used to happen under apartheid, but the difference today is that these interventions are increasingly connected with securing the conditions for mining corporations and determining who will benefit from their local operations.”

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