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Steelpoort shows economic logic of violent protests

For a long time, the African National Congress (ANC) government has claimed to be the buffer between the rich and the poor. However, this is no longer the case.
ClkerFreeVectorImages via
ClkerFreeVectorImages via

If you do not believe me, please ask Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi which road he used last week when he rushed to Steelpoort in Limpopo on a mission to put out fires between the mines and angry locals.

For two reasons, it is unlikely that Ramatlhodi's motorcade used the R555 connecting Middelburg in Mpumalanga to Steelpoort. First, the drive from Middelburg to Steelpoort is not one of the best. Parts of the road are in serious need of maintenance and driving behind trucks for a long distance on a narrow and winding road does not make for a pleasant experience - with or without blue lights.

Second, Ramatlhodi, who is also a member of the ANC's powerful national executive committee, would not have used the R555 because the Steelpoort part of the road was blocked with rocks and tree branches by angry community members. Passing vehicles were stoned and some were set alight. The residents were demanding jobs from the local mines.

By the end of Ramatlhodi's first meeting with the mine bosses and community representatives at the Greater Tubatse Local Municipality chambers, it was clear the angry masses were dictating the terms. According to the local Steelburger newspaper, the meeting was brought to a standstill when the minister told the crowd that he did not come to Tubatse to be disrespected. "I don't have work opportunities in my pocket; I never came here to be disrespected by you," he said.

The residents started hurling vulgar words at Ramatlhodi and were escorted out of the council chambers by a strong police presence. The final word from the residents was that "the unrest will stop" when people were employed. Otherwise, there would be no peace.

At the second meeting the next day, Ramatlhodi and the mine bosses realised that they had to play by rules that were not written in the boardrooms but on the streets. Suddenly, 239 job opportunities were available in the six mines. Also, each mine agreed to provide 500 learnerships and to train 10 artisans.

So up to 4,000 people have, by use of force, been taken off the streets into some form of employment. Who said violent protests do not solve anything? The angry mobs won the day and the protests stopped.

One day, and one can only hope, Ramatlhodi will tell us how he managed to produce jobs out of his back pocket. With more mining companies throughout the country planning to retrench workers, the minister will need more pocket magic for the remainder of his term.

Source: Business Day


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