In the days of apartheid, the government moved people using force. In the days of democracy they do it with promises.
This is the story of Maditlhokwa located in Marikana not far from the site where 34 workers were massacred because they were angry with false promises.
“When we were relocated we had high hopes as we thought we will be moved to proper houses, with running water, electricity and sanitation but we were dumped into shacks with VIP toilets and dirty water” said Mrs Elsie Blye a 51 year old female who was relocated by Tharisa Minerals from the community of Maditlhokwa
The people of Maditlhokwa were largely workers on white farms. The white farmers built them houses and over the many decades they formed a community. They had their own garden, a school was built. It is where they also had their graveyards.
In 2009 they heard of discussions between the mines, local government leaders and the white farmers.The white farmers sold their farms for large amounts of money. The people got confused reports from the councillors who represented them.They accepted the promise that they would be relocated to a good living area better than where they were living.
Tharisaa is a European owned mine, with a 26% BEE ownership. We are not sure who these owners are.
The people are angry with their new living conditions, they are frustrated because even after many protests their situation remains the same.
There is always dust
The relocated community live in poorly built two room zinc shacks.The shacks are regulalry flooded during rainy seasons. There is always dust whether it’s windy or not due to the open cast mine located about 500 meters from the community. Many residents complain of having respiratory problems which they never did before the mine. “ We are forever coughing, one does know if its TB or what due to the dust in this place”, one the residents told me.
The Soil Eats Up Our Plants
They were promissed space for gardens but Tharisa covered the clay soil in the area with nitrate which destroys any vegetation. Mrs Elsie Byle said “unlike the old Maditlhokwa where we farmed because the soil was fertile, the soil here eats up our plants so we have to go to the bush to get clay soil just so that we may have plants in our yards. “
People are scared to talk openly. I asked one women if I could take her picture.She was very reluctant. She said “Won’t Tharisa evict us as they might feel that we are exposing them when they see me on pictures, in addition to the fact that I am known to be active as I have been part of the CPF they might say that am too forwad.”
A Sad Story
The people who were dumped in this site have a sad story to tell. I met up with a 54 year old women who was born as a resident of Maditlhokwa. I met her at her home in the new Maditlhokwa. She was busy brewing African beer. She told me that both her parents were farm workers employed by a farmer called Rasotho Smith who later passed away and the farm was inherited by his son Jan Smith. They lived in a 3 roomed farm house. “Jan sold off and just left and we were later informed that we will be relocated and promised that the mine will take care of us. However we were just grabbed as parcels and most of us lost our furniture during the process. I am not sure if the place they moved us to was even surveyed as a good place for us to live. We face a challenge of rain water overflowing into our shacks were we were just dumped in” said Violet with a very sad and angry face.
They Are Breaking down our Community
“I remember home at times, I remember my forefathers I become sad whenever I pass by the area which used to be our graveyard from where our ancestors were exhumed and relocated to a new place for R10 000. They promised that they will erect headstones but have not done so. This community relocation has affected us deeply even in our minds as the promises made were never met by the company. This is breaking down our community.Our children are rebelling out of control and many young people are taking drugs and are becoming dependent on alcohol” said Violet Jonas.
The community is divided into 4 sections and each section has 2 tankers which are connected to boreholes, the community experiences water shortages and the quality of the water is questionable.
Patrick Moreki a 52 year old male and Violet Jonas were employed by Tharisa Minerals to take water samples of the community’s stream, borehole and taps. They took samples and send them to Pretoria for lab testing. What they found as shocking was the fact that they were never shown the water results, they would just send the samples and submit their invoices. Patrick said “When we questioned management about the results we were never answered”. What they know is that the water is salty, has tadpoles at times and alkali which leaves utensils they use for water with cement like mineral. “We were accused by the community that we know that the water is contaminated because it’s our work to take samples” said Violet Byle, they both lost their jobs and were not given any explanation as to why there were replaced rather were taken from pillar to post by Tharisa management.
No Future Development is Possible Here
Alex Salang who is part of the BUA community monitors and a resident of Maditlhokwa says that his community must be relocated to a place that is suitable for living. “This area is just across the road form a very busy mine. No future development for people is possible here. Tharisa blasts on a daily basis. We have to be moved to a place where they will have access to basic service delivery.Our community requires justice.”
By Olebogeng Motene