May 2010 (excerpt from Financing Economic Apartheid)
“I can take a stone from your hand, and then hit you with that stone. That is what they are doing here”.
James Shiburi clenches his fist. He is angry at the mine company and he is disappointed with the South African government. He has experienced his ancestor’s land being taken away from him and witnessed his community falling apart.
James has taken us to the Motlhotlo Mountains, where his family has lived for generations. The landscape has changed over time though. If you face north you see the soft shaped green hills that are characteristic for this area. But if you face south it is a newer and different picture. Here you’ll meet a barbed-wired fence. Through the grid you’ll see grayish-blue rocks sur rounding the noisy work of a platinum mine. What might seem to be a different kind of hills in the background are slimes dams filled up with waste rocks from the mine.
All this land now fenced off used to belong to James and his community. He explains how his heart is sore from the way his government is letting him down:
“Our vote is our voice, but our voice fall into deaf ears. So we have wasted our vote”.
He wishes his community to develop, but he wants things to be done in a proper and honest way. He tells us that the community never signed an agreement with the mine company. The minister of land affairs signed it for them. Shiburi is deeply worried about the government’s passive role in this case. He wonders how they can avoid interfering, when the problems are so obvious.
The mistrust also goes for the mine company. He describes the mine company as a deceitful and manipulative thief and that is why the community keeps fighting them. Their land was taken from them in broad daylight just before their eyes. But they were brutally pushed back by the police and could not prevent the fence, the bulldozing and the blowing of the ground later on.
“If I say no, I say no. I’ve got the right to say no. But they [the mine company] threaten me to forget this name of no. I must just say yes or keep quite. They continue anyway (…) I may not know how to read or write, but I am born on this mountain and I know, it will never grow and it will never go down. That is what I know. The land where my father and my forefathers were bread is my heritage. So if somebody comes here and take it, they destroy everything for me, my life, my children’s life, my everything”
Many things have changed within the community, since the mine company came. Shiburi calls it a mess, that people are scattered around the area now. Social division is a reality, while only a few are offered to work in the mine and the rest must go to bed hungry. He is afraid that hunger eventually will make people surrender and give up the resistance.
James Shiburi is 67 years old and he is tired. But he ensures us that he will keep on protesting day and night until the community is treated in a fair and human way.