Claims from below
Platinum and the politics of land in the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela traditional authority area
Drawing on a detailed study of three village-level disputes in the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela traditional authority area, this article explores how intensifying land struggles on the platinum belt around Rustenburg are being mediated through conflicts over group boundaries and identities, and how this in turn is articulating a potentially new yet contradictory rural class politics. In a context where customary authorities are themselves becoming major shareholders in local mining operations, the burning question is whether the ‘tribe’ should be treated as the only legitimate African land-holding unit, or whether the collective ownership of mineralised land should reside in smaller socio-political groups, typically claiming descent from its original buyers.
The article finds that while contested constructs of rural ‘community’ are emerging as a significant means of defending or advancing popular claims over landed resources, these corporate forms of organisation are simultaneously riven by gender, generational and other social divisions, and are prone to replicating the tribalist logics they seek to challenge. The attempt to establish private property rights through more exclusionary group definitions may therefore also act as an equally divisive force against those labelled ‘outsiders’, not least migrant mineworkers.