Beyond the ‘definition paradigm’: Rethinking ‘community’ and mining-led conflict in rural South Africa

Monday, 16 October, 2023 - 16:00

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The expansion of mining on ‘communal’ land in the former ‘homeland’ areas has produced new struggles in rural South Africa. In this paper, I detail the intense local struggles over the mineral-rich land and mining royalties in the villages that spread over the ‘platinum belt’ in the North West province. Conflict is characterised by contested notions of ‘community’, exclusive group claims over land, resistance to local chiefs, and episodes of violent protests targeting local mining operations. Ordinary villagers also make radical demands for direct cash payments that are rooted on private group ‘ownership’ of land and mineral resources. Some of these claims end up in the courts of law. I argue that the failure of the post-apartheid policy mechanisms to facilitate equitable distribution of mining rents, and new forms of exclusion and elite accumulation at the local level are at the root of the prolonged conflict. Such a gap breeds prolonged conflict and a local distributional impasse at a local – extreme inequality and discontent emanating from skewed distribution on mining revenues by local chiefs.

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