Today the Constitutional Court handed down a judgement on the matter between the Lesethleng Village Community and the Pilanesburg Platinum Mine (PPM). Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) represented the Lesethleng Village Community in an application for leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court against an eviction order granted by the North West High Court in favour of Pilanesburg Platinum Mine (PPM).  

Over a century ago in 1916, thirteen families in the Lesethleng Village Community decided to buy the farm Wilgespruit (“Modimo Mmalo”) in the district of Rustenburg. It took them about three years to raise the complete purchase price and the farm was eventually registered in 1919. In spite of being the true purchasers, the community could not be registered as the owners of the land because of the discriminatory racial laws and policies in place during apartheid. Consequently, the farm was registered in the name of Native Commissioner, who in turn held it in trust for Chief of the Bakgtala-ba-Kgafela – the overarching traditional authority presiding over the Lesethleng Village Community and about 30 other villages in the area.

The Constitutional Court set aside the eviction order granted to PPM by the North West High Court. The Constitutional Court argued that “the fact that the respondents [PPM and the Itereleng Bakgatla Minerals Resources (PTY) LTD ]  mining rights are valid….does not mean that the applicants [Lesethleng Village Community] are, in consequences, occupying the land in question unlawfully. The existence of a mineral right does not itself extinguish the rights of a landowner  or any other occupier of the land in question”

Louise Du Plessis said that “this  judgement is exactly the milestone mining communities needed especially because it clearly outlined that having a mining right does not surpass the rights of those that are currently occupying the land”

For more information please contact Louise Du Plessis, Land Housing Programme Manager on 012 320 2943 or Carol Mohlala, Media Communications Manager on 079 238 9826.