Chief’s justice?: Mining, accountability and the law in the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela Traditional Authority Area

  • Sonwabile Mnwana University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: Traditional authority, North West, mining, communal land, business, customary law, accountability, justice system, chiefs, South Africa


Drawing on research conducted in the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela traditional authority area in North West Province, this article explores how the expansion of platinum mining on communal land is generating resistance to a local chief. The point at issue is the chief’s refusal to account for the mining revenues and business transactions that his traditional authority manages on the community’s behalf. The article argues that the North West High Court’sinterpretation of customary law not only leaves the chief’s unaccountability unchecked but also endorses the punishment of village activists who call the chief to account. Hence it remains extremely difficult for ordinary rural residents to challenge the chief to account for vast mineral revenues that he controls on behalf of their communities. Consequently rural anti-corruption activists are losing faith in the justice system.

Author Biography

Sonwabile Mnwana, University of the Witwatersrand
Mining and Rural Transformation in
Southern Africa (MARTISA) project and Society Work and
Development Institute (SWOP)
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Research articles