Picture: Mokopane residents seek work at a mine in the area where they live. Madelene Cronje, M&G
The traditional leader who negotiated a controversial R175-million settlement agreement with the Anglo Platinum mine in Mokopane, Limpopo, has substantial business links with the mine.
The agreement, intended by AngloPlats as a full and final settlement of “a number of legacy issues”, was signed on March 1 this year by the company and Kgoshi (Chief) Kgabagare Langa, representing the Mapela community. But community members, organised by the Mapela executive committee, have rejected the agreement, claiming that he did not consult them and they know nothing about it.
He insists he did consult them. But an amaBhungane investigation has revealed that Langa and his wife own two companies that do work for the mine worth a combined R183-million a year.
Langa confirmed that he has a stake in a company that, according to AngloPlats, did work worth R33-million for the Mokgalakwena mine in the year to April 2016. His wife, Dinah Raesetja Langa, has an interest in an ore-transporting operation that did work for Mokgalakwena last year valued at more than R150-million. Online records suggest she is married in community of property, which, if correct, would give her husband a direct interest in her business.
Asked whether there was a conflict of interest because of this when he negotiated the settlement, Langa said: “In the protection of community interests, I secure the services of advisers who guide the community. This assists in managing any possible conflict of interest that may arise.”
Langa confirmed that he has a 14% share in JCB Barokatshipi Tse Kgolo, which provides welding services on heavy-duty equipment for Mokgalakwena. He is also listed as a director of Barokatshipi, which was registered in 2004.
AmaBhungane was unable to establish how much the company paid him last year. Barokatshipi’s Sean Holtz refused to answer questions on the phone and did not respond to emailed queries. Langa said he had become a director of Barokatshipi before acceding to the Mapela chieftainship.
Also at issue is the chief’s indirect link to the Pamaplim Joint Venture, which has been transporting crushed ore for the Mokgalakwena mine since 2011, and last year had a R153-million contract with the mine. AngloPlats revealed that a firm called Planet Waves 388 has a 15% stake in Pamaplim. According to the company register, Dinah Raesetja Langa is the sole director of Planet Waves.
In an interview last week, she confirmed that she is married to the chief. AmaBhungane has also established that Planet Waves is registered to the address of a property that Dinah and the chief co-own, Erf number 312, Paradiso, in Pretoria.
The Pamaplim chief executive, David Sephehlo Langa, confirmed that Planet Waves 388 is a minority shareholder and that Pamaplim paid a dividend last year. He did not respond when asked how much was paid.
The R175-million settlement agreement provides for a trust to oversee the use of the money and an investment company. But community members complain that Langa and traditional authorities, whom he largely controls, will dominate the trust.
At a community meeting on April 15, attended by amaBhungane, more than 400 community members gave human rights lawyer Richard Spoor a mandate to challenge the agreement in court.
Asked to comment on Langa’s business relationship with Mokgalakwena, AngloPlats’s spokesperson, Mpumi Sithole, said, to place it in context, the mine had 93 locally based black economic empowerment suppliers, and, since 2009, the company had spent R206-million on a social labour plan and corporate social investment projects around the mine. It was “part of our values” to engage with all concerned community members, including through the task team set up by the minister of mineral resources at the time, Ngoako Ramatlhodi.
Sithole also dismissed claims that the settlement deal was concluded in the face of demands for it to be delayed pending the resolution of community objections. “No, this was not the case,” she said. “‘The settlement agreement was signed on March 1. [The company] received a letter from Richard Spoor on April 11.”
The residents of several villages in Mapela expressed their dissatisfaction with several issues that should have been linked to the deal. At Ga-Chaba village, they complained of dust from the mine dumps, as well as a shortage of water in the area, where the rivers have run dry. In Scheming village, residents claim that borehole water contains dust and toxins from the mine.
Pupils at the Seritarita Secondary School, close to the mine’s perimeter fence, say they have to contend with the noise of regular blasting and tremors linked to mining. Villagers in Motlotlo, who were removed from the current mining area, say the dam they once used was now within the mining area and they are suffering from water shortages and poor sanitation.
Mapela residents also raised questions about the closeness of the bond between Langa and the community, alleging that neither he nor his mother, the former chief, lived at the traditional palace in Fothane village and that he only visited Mapela two or three times a month.
Langa said he had two residences, one in Pretoria and one in Mokopane, and that he visited Mapela three times a week. He also said he no longer lived at the traditional palace in Mapela because part of it was burnt down during violent protests in September last year by residents who complained that they received few benefits from the Mokgalakwena mine.
Langa dismissed claims that he was recently driven out of the village of Ga-Molekane. Residents there say they did so because they were unhappy with his attempts to renegotiate a lease with the mine in terms of the settlement agreement.
Seara Mkhabela, AngloPlats’s head of corporate affairs, said the company “was cognisant of the concerns raised by some members of the Mapela community in relation to the establishment of the Mapela trust”. “We are willing to do our bit in reviewing community representation, transparency and engagement processes to ensure tangible and lasting benefits. We can only achieve this through ongoing engagement with a unified Mapela.”
Mkhabela said the company was legally obliged to deal with the chief.