Family at war over mine riches
Feud over prospecting rights
AFTER a years-long familial dispute over land and mining rights near Rustenburg, a group of relatives have no closure over who owns their family’s land – and who has access to the millions of rand of chrome underneath.
In a case brought to the Saturday Star by the non-profit Corruption Watch, conflict continues over a title deed signed by five men in 1921.
Court documents show the farm has held official leases with mining companies since 1989. Until several years ago, Xstrata South Africa – which merged with Glencore in 2013 – mined the farm. “We abandoned that portion of the right comprising the mine as it was uneconomical to mine,” said Glencore spokesperson Shamiela Letsoalo.
In a letter sent by Glencore in 2013 and stamped by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), the group announced its abandonment of the area.
The letter said further matters regarding the land should be referred to the Kumamo Trust, a group set up by third and fourth-generation descendants of the five original titledeed holders with the goal of clarifying land ownership.
Kumamo does not hold the rights to the land as the group is attempting to transfer them.
Trustee Nora Mfeleng said the conflict began over a family member, Cornelius Molwana, and his handling of royalties paid by Xstrata to people with a claim to the original title deed.
“The fight started there with our royalties when we wanted to know about them… how this money is being invested,” she said.
When Xstrata finished mining, Molwana applied for prospecting rights without the family members involved in Kumamo.
A Promotion of Access to Information Act request sent to the DMR found that Molwana, through Mokotudi Mining, where he is a director, applied to prospect on the farm the exact day in 2012 that Xstrata applied to abandon its mine.
Mfeleng and others involved alleged an out of court settlement of a 2009 case Molwana brought against Xstrata involved a financial agreement and led to collusion.
Glencore spokesperson Letsoalo disputed this claim, saying: “No payments were made to any of Mokotudi Mining’s directors.”
When the Kumamo trustees learnt Molwana had applied for a prospecting right, they appealed his application and continue to wait for a decision from the department.
The trustees launched their own application under section 104 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, which gives preference to applicants if “the right shall be used to contribute towards the development and the social upliftment of the community”.
Mokotudi Mining was granted the prospecting right to take bulk samples.
Interested and affected parties needed to register by December last year to be involved in the process.
Molwana offered Mfeleng and other family members the chance to join Mokotudi Mining’s right, but they refused due to his secrecy.
Amanda Shivamba researches potential corruption in mining as part of Corruption Watch’s “mining for sustainable development” programme.
“From the act as well as the Mining Charter, it’s supposed to carry a lot of weight,” she said of Kumamo’s section 104 application.
But Molwana said Mokotudi Mining earned the prospecting right simply because he followed correct application procedures more closely than Kumamo.
“You have to comply with legislation. You cannot try to jump from one activity to another,” Molwana said, before threatening litigation against the newspaper.
Community elder Shimankane Joseph Maleka, a grandchild of one of the original deed holders, filed an affidavit in which he claimed that two people, including Molwana, were incorrectly using his name in support of their bids for mining licences.
“(Molwana) also betrayed me by making me sign documents to support a mining licence application by Mokotudi Mining and thereafter also disappeared,” Maleka alleged.
Shivamba said the DMR’s online portal for permit applications sometimes allows competing applications, such as in this case, that must be rectified through either negotiations or court.
“We have to take the DMR to court and we have to take Cornelius to court to stop him from doing anything pending the outcome of this appeal,” said Kgaugelo Baloyi, the Kumamo Trust’s attorney.
Corruption Watch is an NGO launched in 2012 to encourage and enable the public to prevent, report and combat corruption in South Africa. It is concerned with the abuse of public resources or public power for personal gain. To report any form of corruption, call Corruption Watch on 011 242 3900 or e-mail: info@ corruptionwatch.org.za