Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-c4f8m Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-17T23:17:10.570Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 5 - Mining, Graves and Dispossession in Mpumalanga

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 June 2021

William Beinart
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Rosalie Kingwill
Affiliation:
University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Gavin Capps
Affiliation:
Kingston University, London
Get access

Summary

At Tweefontein Colliery Complex, 25 km south-west of Witbank in Mpumalanga province, lie graves that will be impacted by multinational commodities and mining company Glencore PLC (Glencore) open-cast coal mine expansion plan. The Tweefontein farm, and several other farms such as Boschmansfontein and Klipplaat, are sites of formal and informal cemeteries with graves that belong to former migrant labourers and labour tenants from South Africa and Mozambique. The change of Glencore's mining method from underground to open-cast mining disturbs about a thousand graves, which are legally protected by the National Heritage Resources Act, Act 25 of 1999 (NHRA). The negotiations about the grave relocations began with the affected families in 2011, but the relocations commenced in 2012, before these were concluded. This ignited a dispute between the mine and the owners of the graves.

South Africa's Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA) gives particularly strong rights over land to those who are licensed by the state to mine (see Capps, Beinart in this volume). While contradictions between mining legislation and the heritage law provide a context to the contestations over graves, this chapter explains why grave relocations are sensitive from the perspective of the owners of the graves. I draw on interviews to argue that ancestral remains are mediators of life and death for the living. They are evidence of a history that is entangled with narratives of land dispossession, restoration and contested forms of evidence in the current political dispensation. Graves validate belonging for those whose status was historically disregarded. I first present a description of the grave relocation process and then explore the idea of graves as a body of evidence in the post-apartheid era.

To explain why graves are subject to contestations, my interviews delved into the families’ experiences of the removal of their ancestral graves and the reburial of their remains. My questions probed, amongst other things, ideas and issues related to consultation, access to information and awareness of legal cultural rights. I also intended to evaluate inconsistencies and irregularities in the application of legal provisions in the NHRA and MPRDA. I conducted 14 interviews with the families whose graves were relocated by Glencore. It was imperative to first understand why the deceased were buried on the Tweefontein farm.

Type
Chapter
Information
Land, Law and Chiefs in Rural South Africa
Contested histories and current struggles
, pp. 104 - 120
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×