Mineral Wealth and Distributive Struggles on the Platinum Belt, South Africa

This project explores distributive struggles on the platinum belt in South Africa. Primary, it examines local politics of distribution in platinum-rich traditional authority areas in South Africa’s North West province. Of key interest is how distributive claims by the rural poor in could contribute to the intense global debates on state-driven distributive measures and limited grassroots benefits from Africa’s mineral resources.
South Africa’s post-apartheid state, despite nationalising all mineral resources, has failed to ensure that the benefits of mining accrue to the historically excluded Black population and to local communities where the industry’s operations occur. Benefits of mining for local communities and the rural poor, in general (both hosting communities and labour sending areas), are miniscule. Research has shown that mining has led to land dispossession and loss of livelihoods on the platinum belt. In communal areas, local residents who are also customary land rights holders have no right to withhold consent for mining or other development.
The role and contribution of mining industry at a local level has so far received limited empirical focus. This enigma is somehow ironic because mining industry tends positions itself as an agent of local development through its social corporate investment programmes and other corporate social investment mechanisms. Moreover, there has not been a detailed empirical focus on how poor themselves imagine distribution and development. Most studies on distribution and development tend to limit the ‘voice’ of the poor. This study seeks to contribute towards addressing this impasse.
The rural-based platinum industry in South Africa provides an opportunity to address the highlighted empirical gap.

Project leader(s):
  • Sonwabile Mnwana, (Department of Sociology, University of Fort Hare)

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