Death ends Sara Tsebe’s mine bat­tle

Mail & Guardian - - News - Lu­cas Led­waba

In life Sara Tsebe re­fused to move to Rooi­bok­pan to make way for An­glo Amer­i­can Plat­inum’s ex­pan­sion of the big­gest open-cast plat­inum mine in the world, Mo­galak­wena. Her wish was to live out her fi­nal years in Motl­hotlo, the vil­lage where she was born 92 years ago. She got her wish — she died at home at the end of last month af­ter a long ill­ness.

But, on Satur­day morn­ing, she was buried in the place she had shunned in life.

Tsebe was among the 64 fam­i­lies who had stead­fastly re­fused to take up An­glo Amer­i­can’s of­fer of a once-off R20 000 cash pay­ment in ex­change for mov­ing to Rooi­bok­pan, a town­ship set­tle­ment about 8km from Motl­hotlo, in the Mapela dis­trict of Mokopane, Lim­popo.

“What is R20 000?” she asked in an in­ter­view last year.

She wanted to be com­pen­sated for the loss of her fields, which had sus­tained her and fam­ily for a life­time. She also wanted enough fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion to be able to take care of her grand­chil­dren.

Her son, Ephraim, whom she was look­ing af­ter, is epilep­tic and sur­vives on a state dis­abil­ity grant. He burnt his leg af­ter fall­ing into a fire while hav­ing a seizure. Now he walks with a crutch.

Tsebe re­mem­bered a time in Motl­hotlo when they ploughed the lands and har­vested bags of mil­let and mealies, some of which they sent for milling and stor­age.

She re­mem­bered a time when they had wa­ter in abun­dance and the peo­ple had very lit­tle use or need for money, when the land was their bank, their bak­ery, their su­per­mar­ket and their butch­ery.

She feared be­ing moved away from the land she loved and the only home she had ever known. She was also afraid of start­ing a new life in a strange en­vi­ron­ment at her ad­vanced age.

Rooi­bok­pan was built by An­glo Amer­i­can as part of a re­lo­ca­tion process that be­gan in 2005 and tore the largely sub­sis­tence farm­ing com­mu­nity in two — the 892 fam­i­lies who ac­cepted the of­fer and moved and the 64 fam­i­lies who stayed be­hind and fought on bit­terly, even when the mine dumps tow­ered ever closer to their homes and their fields dis­ap­peared.

The re­lo­ca­tion be­came the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion in 2008 af­ter the non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion Ac­tionAid re­leased a scathing re­port ac­cus­ing An­glo Amer­i­can of vi­o­lat­ing the rights of the peo­ple who lived near the mine.

In Jan­uary An­glo Amer­i­can an­nounced that the re­main­ing fam­i­lies had agreed to move to Ex­ten­sion 14 in Mokopane. Jo­han Loren­zen, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the fam­i­lies, con­firmed that some of the res­i­dents, in­clud­ing Tsebe, had reached an agree­ment.

An­glo Amer­i­can had ini­tially bought two farms in the Mook­gophong area for Tsebe and her peo­ple’s re­lo­ca­tion but the plan fell through af­ter ef­forts to re­zone the farms failed be­cause of op­po­si­tion from po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

At Tsebe’s fu­neral, it ap­peared old en­mi­ties be­tween the de­fi­ant com­mu­nity and An­glo Amer­i­can had been set aside. Both united to give the nona­ge­nar­ian a dig­ni­fied send-off.

An­glo Amer­i­can sent two rep­re­sen­ta­tives who ad­dressed the gath­er­ing and or­gan­ised a bus to ferry some of the 100 mourn­ers to the ceme­tery in Rooi­bok­pan.

The com­pany will con­duct an in­de­pen­dent re­view of all its re­set­tle­ments be­fore the end of the year. — Muku­rukuru Me­dia

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