Bafokeng install new king

19 August 2003

The Bafokeng nation in North West – one of the richest tribes that occupies its own land in the country – on Saturday witnessed the enthronment of Kgosi Leruo Tshekedi Molotlegi as the 36th paramount ruler of the 800-year-old kingdom.

The ceremony was attended by high-profile local and international dignitaries as well as members of the 300 000-strong nation at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng, near Rustenburg.

The third of six children, Kgosi Molotlegi’s ascendance to the kingship is by birth and the Bafokeng laws of succession.

Known as the “People of the Dew”, the Bafokeng nation currently spans 44 farms and extends over 70 000 hectares. The kingdom is sub-divided into 72 traditional dikgoro (wards), each of which is regulated by a hereditary dikgosana (headman) and mmadikgosana (headman’s wife).

Located on the mineral-rich Merensky Reef, the Bafokeng kingdom has an abundance of chrome reserves and the world’s second-largest platinum deposits.

An agreement reached between several mining companies and the Royal Bafokeng administration resulted in the Bafokeng receiving compensation payments and annual royalties from the mining companies that extract minerals from the land.

In 1999 the late Kgosi Lebone Mollwane Molotlegi II won a 10-year legal battle for royalty payments from Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats) – amounting to an estimated R827-million at the end of the 2002 financial year – which began mining platinum on Bafokeng soil in the 1960s.

Royalties were raised to 22% from 1998, and the Bafokeng were given one million Implats shares, worth about R250-million today, and a seat on Implats’ board, which is currently occupied by the new king.

The Bafokeng have formed Royal Bafokeng Resources Holdings (RBR) to manage the mining-related interests of the nation – including its 43.9% shareholding in SA Chrome and Alloys, the only ferrochrome producer listed on the JSE Securities Exchange.

The Bafokeng have used their income from mining to build schools, roads, clinics and other infrastructure such as a sports complex incorporating a soccer stadium with an athletics track, an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts and a gymnasium. Almost all the infrastructure has been planned, designed and funded by the Royal Bafokeng.

The Bafokeng king has devised Vision 2020, a programme which aims to foster sustainable development for the Bafokeng through the effective use of resources.

The king has said he will strive, as part of the vision, to move the Bafokeng mindset away from work-seeking employees to job-creating employers, and to transform their economy from a resource-based into a knowledge-based one.

Kgosi Leruo is a member of the Mineral Rights Association of Indigenous People of South Africa, and holds a degree in architecture and urban planning from the University of Natal. reporter