Bafokeng Communities’ Human Rights Under Threat

Siboniso Mawandla | The Republic Mail

To what was supposed to be an event to commemorate human rights day, the Bafokeng Land Buyers Association (BLBA) were instead marching against violation of their human rights.

The march they said, “was about raising deep discontent with the administration.” During the peaceful march, the BLBA members were seen caring placards bearing messages demanding land control. They alleged that there is a daily waning human rights, the rise of security belligerence, arbitrary and spiteful evictions, demolitions of houses and inaccessibility to basic services.

Also, they raised their concern about the power and influence of Royal Bafokeng Traditional Authority which presides over a massive amount of resources with little accountability.

The history of Royal Bafokeng community as examined by Graeme Simpson tells it all paper. He chronicled that “The most central and best documented struggle which took place in the Rustenburg district during the 1920s was the challenge to Bafokeng chiefly control between 1921 and 1926.This struggle was initially rooted in the challenge to chief August Mokgatle’s control over the allocation of landed resources, and was characterised by a high degree of factional manoeuvring”.

Simpson delineate a period where Chief Augustus Mokgatle was under severe pressure from the community to relinquish the thrown. The BLBA statement asserts that the only thing that sustained the rebellion was Mokgatle”s repeated disregard to the people, coupled with his manipulative and canny control over the community land.

The statement additionally indicate that other historical facts on this pandemonium was that “Mokgatle disregarded the community-sanctioned boycott on a store and threshing mill which was located in J. Kruger’s farm. This was after the community’s failed attempt to buy Kruger’s farm, due to its exorbitant price.

Further on calls depose Mokgatle was because of his misdemeanour of drinking excessively and misappropriation of the community funds,” read the statement.

The statements also highlight that at the root of this conflict between the Chief and the Community was the land. It Claims that “Whilst the above reasons suggest being the absolute cause for rebellion the unfettered truth is that, the land question was at the origin of this relentless challenge”.

Retrospectively, it is easy to fall a victim to the logic that no system ever learns from history even when it repeats itself. As South Africa continue to bask in the glory of a miraculous rainbow dream, the Royal Bafokeng communities’ wakes to the nightmare of brutality and deprivation.

The members of BLBA largely under the Bafokeng Traditional Authority tell of ceaseless litigations in the quest stop the Royal Bafokeng Authority’s intolerant actions. The unmatchable security force of Bafokeng, bulldozing and demolishing residents’ house, meted out on the Community of Tsitsing last year. Royal Bafokeng administration seeks to seize control over the allocation of land, which has customarily been the domain of the village council (Makgotla).

“Not only is the Royal Bafokeng Authorities accused of ejecting their own from the land, they are notoriously known to have dislodged indigent farm dwellers in 2013 in Boeshoek, Rustenburg. These ruthlessness borders on human rights infringements. If the battle is ever won it will give meaning to Cabral’s ‘tell no lies claim no easy victory’, words which reverberated through the BLBA Human rights commemoration,” added BLBA statement.

It is alleged that in 2010, the Royal Bafokeng security went on rampage in Luka village demolishing structures in the village. The claims of human right violation under this renowned traditional authority, extent to systematic denial of basic services like water. Communities in Luka, Tsitsing etc. continue to be denied access to basic services as a vindictive act and punishment of their dissenting voice.

“It is now clear that with the rate they are going, Bafokeng Authority devoted vast amount of time and resources on litigation”, added the statement.

Despite some cases being worthless and imprudent, they are resolved to abuse the courts process. Reckless as their strategy is, it has sustain by splurging community funds with little accountability.

BLBA has implored the government to consider the intervention of Standing Committee on Public Account (Scopa) to deal with this impunity. However, when Scopa was contacted, the Chairperson, Mr Themba Godi: “As much as we have sympathy and understanding on the issues raised, the matter is outside the mandate of the Committee.”

Presently the Royal Bafokeng Nation is facing a court action, disputing their tittle over land. It is expected that BLBA will challenge the authority of the Chief Molotlegi with Supreme council’s clandestine decision and attempt to transfer land title to Bafokeng Development Trust.

In the latest judgement on the matter, Judge Landman concluded, “the Supreme council does not as such have power to institute litigation”. This judgment, which is largely in favour of Royal Bafokeng Authorities, is being appealed. In other litigations, they are faced with the Tsitsing community after evictions and demolitions of communities’ houses.

Royal Bafokeng Authority refused to comment.

The BLBA members believe that the Royal Bafokeng are not immune from the law, they should thoroughly be accountable to the public.