Court challenge on Royal Bafokeng Nation’s identity and status

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Ownership of the land which the Royal Bafokeng Nation (‘RBN’) claim is theirs, and on which over 20% of world platinum is produced, is now before the Appeal Court at the North West High Court, Mafikeng.

The three appeal court Judges will on the 08th September 2017, hear an interlocutory appeal by the Bafokeng Land Buyers’ Association, Setuke Family and Thekwana Community on whether the Bafokeng chief had, without consulting affected Bafokeng communities, the prerogative to lodge an application with the Court to have some 61 platinum-rich farms around Rustenburg transferred and registered in RBN name.

Due to some colonial-apartheid laws, the farms are still registered in the name of the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform in trust for ‘the Bafokeng’ and its chief.

In the main Case 999/08 lodged at the same Court, the appellants claim they bought the land individually and independently of the ‘tribe’, but that they were subsequently forced by apartheid colonial governments to subject themselves to a ‘Bafokeng chiefdom’ led by a certain (‘chief’) Mokgatle.

The appellants essentially claim that, during the late 19th century, the apartheid colonial governments were less interested in establishing how African tribes or communities were composed.

The appellants assert that the apartheid colonial governments were deliberately divisive, and that had they done their research, they would have found that many communities purported to be sections of the Bafokeng ‘tribe’, were in fact of different ethnic origin; had their own lands, chiefs and totems; and practiced different customs separate from that of the ‘Bafokeng chiefdom’. The latter ‘chiefdom’, a poor small clan of Sotho origin at the time, was later elevated and ordained a ‘chiefdom’ by colonial apartheid governments, to rule over other settled African communities in the area. The ‘chiefdom’ was also strategic to the Boer-British colonial apartheid government to exercise indirect control and administration over all those other settled communities in the area.

The Bafokeng chief Leruo Molotlegi, without notifying the ‘tribe’ and the appellant communities, approached the Mafikeng High Court in 2008, to have the said farmlands transferred and registered in RBN name. The farmlands, if so transferred and registered, would ostensibly be under the chief’s unfettered control.

In his analysis of evidence submitted at the trial court, Judge Landman found that the chief ought to have consulted communities for a mandate to lodge the said court application. Having found the chief’s obligation to consult, Judge Landman then somersaulted in his ruling and held that the chief had a prerogative not to consult.

The RBN also, having conceded at trial that they did not consult the ‘tribe’, self-contradicted themselves, claiming to have consulted the ‘tribe’ through their disputed, so-called Supreme Council. It is at this pseudo, non-statutory Council where the chief also claims he consulted and was properly authorised.

Judge Landman further found and held that the said disputed Council, allegedly constituted by some elected councillors and headmen claiming to represent a number of villages forming the Bafokeng ‘tribe’, had no powers to give the chief said authorization or mandate. And that such power would ordinarily lie with the statutory Traditional Council.

The appellants are represented by the Legal Resources Centre.

See Heads of Argument – BLBA Appeal against RBN

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