Community loses temper, protest foiled

Community & Police

A trail of violent disturbances in the broader village of Batlha-ros occurred on April 20, 2018 as a result of the alleged many is-sues that remain unresolved hinging around the Kalagadi Manganese Mine on one hand and the para-mount chief Pelonomi Toto - the sitting provincial chairperson of the Traditional House, on the other hand.
The sad events were initially pre-mised by a protest that commenced on April 06, 2018 that sought au-dience with the beleaguered chief in the same village, allegedly claiming that a clandestine agreement had been reached between her and the mine that remains a skeleton in the cupboard.
Part of the community believes she is defending the mine from being confronted outright. There is also a seething chieftaincy row that simply needs a simple trigger to spark off the dispute and the mine could be the possible scapegoat.
The following week, two meetings aimed at resolving the impasse on April 10 and 12, 2018 in the village ended up in sheer chaos and had to be adjourned to April 18, 2018 at Kuruman police station - ostensibly for security reasons.
Chaired by the station commander Brigadier Kenneth Baloyi, contend-ing parties, the working sub-commit-tee under the chief, chief Toto and her council members, Kalagadi mine
representatives, COGHSTA officials and other interested stakeholders attended the explosive meeting.
 The Batlharos community repre-sentatives were the organisers of the meeting and nothing had chan-ged from the purpose and expect-ations of the meeting, ie to meet the Chief Executive Officer of Kalagadi Manganese Mine, Mr Thulo Madu-mise and the mine’s General Mana-ger Mr Wonder Zwane.
The community representatives expected a response from the mine regarding the memorandum sub-mitted regarding the employment opportunities arising from the mine : Why the mine considers people from outside the region instead of locals among other issues ?
 They also wanted to get clarity as to why the mine instituted a court interdict instead of seeking audience with them. Instead the mine sent an irrelevant officer to present a letter at the meeting, ie Ms Tshegofatso Gasekoma, rendering the meeting also valueless.
In that letter the mine authorities put it categorically that they are pre-pared to meet the collective region's traditional leadership to resolve the recurrent pressing issues once a formal invitation letter with the agen-da has been submitted. Importantly, the letter must also be from authori-tative office bearers who represent the community.
 After the mine representative read
out the letter, emotions rose like a yard full of chickens that discover a snake in their midst. However, the Brigadier was able to control the flaring tensions in his boardroom.
The meeting was cut short with the conclusion that the only way forward was to invite the Minister of Mineral Resources on a date to be decided upon, with his departmental officials, all chiefs in the district, their coun-cils, municipalities, the provincial traditional house, all mines in the re-gion, all political parties in the region and the police provincial commiss-ioner, as the only way to derail the great controversy in the region.
 A day later, the community of Batl-haros went to close the Hotazel road at dawn of April 20, 2018 expressing their anger over the fruitless meet-ing. Unfortunately, the police had gotten the wind of the intentions and botched the protest, followed by several arrests at the mining belt - Hotazel, Vergenoeg and Batlharos village - the sources of all unrest.
The very same day, some acts of vandalism occurred at Batlharos vil-lage and the police took another bold step by protecting the community from the looting of shops and the vandalisation of properties.
Tens of the arrested were detained in Kathu and Kuruman holding cells and appeared in court on April 23, 2018.