We are looking for a new leader for the Western Limb project


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First up, what is Western Limb?

Western limb is an initiative that was set up by Kevin Williams in the aftermath of the Marikana tragedy in August 2012.  Western Limb refers to the platinum mining region around Rustenburg, in the North West and Limpopo Provinces.  While the platinum resources which have led to have fuelled the area’s growth would not last forever, Kevin believed that a different future for the area was possible, that all the elements are there for the area to be a healthy, thriving community.  What we see is missing is communication among stakeholders, leading to a shared commitment and accountability to creating and implementing a plan for the future of the area.

Western Limb’s vision and mission

Led by team member Meisha Robinson, we went through a process of defining our vision and mission.

The vision we created is that:

All people in the Western Limb region live fulfilling and prosperous lives

The mission we created is to:

Empower people in the Western Limb region to create positive impact for transformative change

In essence the Western Limb project is about people living fulfilled and prosperous lives, and people being empowered and enabled to be the change that they want to see in the world.

Would you like to be a leader in this area?

We are looking for a leader to lead the Western Limb project.  There is a team of people who are experts in the field and are willing to support you.  You may be from any background, you may be young or old.  But you are probably inspired by that vision and mission, and you know that more is possible for the Western Limb region and its people.

What would this look like if you were the leader?

You would lead the Western Limb project.  I would basically hand over the keys to the entire project.  The team of experts (many of whom are keen to continue the project under new leadership.  The website.  The blog.  The youtube account.  The dropbox account with all the documents.  The design and logo work that has been done.  The twitter account.  Although some work has been done, which you can see on the site, blog and the youtube channel, you would effectively charting your own course and creating it and transforming the project to something that inspires you.

What has changed?

I created this project in August 2012.  Since then there have been many changes in my life.  My attention is increasingly on London and Europe and exciting developments here.  And so I am looking for a leader to take it over and make it their own.  Try it on, experiment, learn.   Even though several phases of this project were not the success that I had hoped for, I developed my leadership skills by taking it on.   If you feel something on reading this and you want to go deeper, get in touch, and let’s explore it and what you want to create.  Often the things that really make a difference in our lives are those that seem out of reach to us.

Get in touch

You can contact me on kevin@westernlimb.org.



Special Olympics Does it Again in Phokeng


Special Olympics 2013


Not so long ago, Special Olympics hosted the Youth Summit in Phokeng and now they have done it again. Yet another inspiring event took place in the heart of the Bafokeng Nation where the Youth came together to redefine the meaning of INCLUSION. The summit was filled with positive minded individuals from schools such as Iteko and Kutlwanong which are both special schools for students with disabilities. Everyone had a common purpose which was HOW I CAN HELP IMPROVE MY COMMUNITY.

Over the three days of the event these young individuals astounded us with their amazing talent, cooperation and as well humanitarian thoughts. Knowing how difficult it is for the Youth with disabilities to voice out their opinions, I was extremely proud how they did not let themselves fall behind. The atmosphere was filled with a great deal of cooperation where it did not matter who you were and where you were from. Special Olympics raised the bar for these individuals and they stood up to the challenge.

Video production of the day by Western Limb and Eye Opening Productions

Looking back from last year, I can confirm that these individuals gained confidence not only in shaping their community but as well as within themselves. Supporting this statement is Mpho who was a student at Charora High School and is now studying a LLB degree in criminology. It is amazing to see of a young female take open this challenge. I live upon a saying that, You empower the Youth, you empower the nation, and this is exactly what Special Olympics is going towards.

Thapelo Nthite, a student from Lebone II College, said: “being part of the Special Olympics Youth Summit has taught me more about myself and the importance of how I treat other people. I have learned that a community is not only built by an individual but by different people from different backgrounds and in order to make it a better place I need to start within myself.”  

One my side I would not only like to congratulate the Youth for taking a step and being part of trying to make a change in their community but as well as Special Olympics for being the very few projects to come into the Bafokeng community and empowering the Youth into realizing their potential. Special Olympics has proved that Kgetse ya tsie e kgonwa ke go tshwaraganelwa meaning one can never face a challenge alone but with other people it is always possible.

-Nomathamsanqa (Thami) Rangwaga

Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity workshop at CALs, 22 July 2013


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MSI Integrity Workshop at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, 22 July 2013

On 23 July 2013, MSI Integrity will be holding a workshop at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits on their methodology for assessing Multistakeholder Initiatives (MSIs).

The workshop will be held at 2pm at The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, DJ du Plessis Building, West Campus, University of the Witwatersrand, Braamfontein.  CALs telephone number is +27 11 717 8600 and the general office e-mail contact is Duduzile.Mlambo@wits.ac.za.  Please contact CALs if you would like to attend this workshop.  There is no charge for the workshop.

About MSI Integrity 

MSI Integrity (full name: The Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity) is “dedicated to examining the impact and value of voluntary business-related human rights initiatives. Through research, critical assessment and shared learning, MSI Integrity aims to ensure that these initiatives protect and promote human rights. MSI Integrity takes a particular interest in how the initiatives include and impact affected communities.”

MSI Integrity’s Multi-Stakeholder Evaluation Tool

MSI Integrity has developed an evaluation tool to score the impact that MSIs have on human rights.  The MSI Evaluation Tool has over 400 objective indicators against which it assesses MSIs.  It then issues a report card based on the proportion of minimum standards that the MSI has met and a set of criteria assessing the MSIs scope and mandate.

MSI Integrity draft evaluation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

In MSI Integrity’s reports to date, it has covered five MSIs, and reported on the extent to which they protect and promote human rights.  This includes two mining-related MSIs: The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Kimberly Process.

For the Western Limb region, the EITI is potentially a very relevant initiative.  The EITI is a global standard that promotes revenue transparency and accountability in the extractive sector. It has established a methodology for monitoring and reconciling company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining at the country level.  The EITI is a coalition of governments, companies, investors, civil society organisations, and partner organisations.

MSI Integrity’s draft working report on the EITI concluded that “EITI’s narrowly defined notion of transparency is one step toward creating conditions to improve human rights. By limiting EITI’s mandate to transparency of revenue and payments, rather than directly incorporating human rights standards or analyzing those payments and revenue (and subsequent government expenditure of that revenue, discussed below) through a human rights framework, EITI does not explicitly attempt to protect human rights”.

Thus the MSI Integrity Report acknowledges the role that transparency can play in fostering the conditions for human rights to be promoted and protected, but EITI’s mandate was not explicitly linked to the promotion and protection of human rights.  Their report made a number of recommendations for the EITI to meet MSI Integrity’s minimum standards for community involvement.

South Africa is not part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

However, South Africa is not part of the EITI.  An un-named Department of Mineral Resources representative was quoted as saying “We don’t really see a very compelling argument or need to be signatory of the EITI[…]We think we are transparent enough in terms of how we account for the mineral resources revenues that come to us” (May 2013 SAIIA Occasional Paper).

Expanding the links between high-level initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the lived experience of people in mine-affected communities

There appears to be an opportunity to protect and promote human rights by doing more work on expanding the links between international MSIs like the EITI (something that MSI Integrity has made its core focus) and what is actually happening right now in mining communities (something that is very much part of CALs’ mandate of the meaningful implementation of human rights).

If South Africa were to join the EITI, this would be a step towards greater transparency.  However, the MSI Integrity review of the EITI indicates that, to make a real impact on the protection and promotion of human rights, there needs to be a much closer connection between the things that the EITI currently measures – what mining companies pay governments, and what governments say they earn from mining – and the conditions that communities live in.

In other words, those numbers need to have faces and names behind them so that people can understand the implications for peoples’ lives. This type of detailed qualitative and quantitative work has traditionally required intensive research.   Even when its done, this information is generally not widely available.

The ability to crowdsource quality information using freely available software, and present it using platforms like film and video and graphics that anyone can view and understand, brings this goal within reach in a way it has never been before.

The True Richness of the Bafokeng Nation


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Many mistakenly measure the wealth of the Bafokeng Nation in terms of its assets, the price of platinum, etc.  After living in Phokeng, I now know that the Bafokeng Nation’s true wealth is in the strength of its people, the richness of its culture, and the legacy they have and are creating.

Traditional Dancing

I had the fortunate opportunity of living in the Bafokeng Nation for 9 months as a Peace Corps volunteer supporting the Special Olympics.  I was based in Phokeng to assist with the planning of the Special Olympics Africa Unity Cup that took place at Lebone College II in October 2012.

I arrived in Phokeng teeming with ambition. I wanted to use the skills I gained through my graduate studies and professional experiences to further the mission of Special Olympics in the North West and ultimately enrich the lives of South Africans in this region.  I knew I had a lot to give, but didn’t fully realize how much I would take back to America with me and forever be changed.

The Bafokeng are rooted in the “men and women who walked to Kimberly to mine diamonds.  The founding families who offered cattle and worked on nearby farms to help Kgosi Mokgatle buy the land.  The men and women who defied the apartheid and homeland authorities and sacrificed for the larger goal of freedom from oppression and racism.”*

Similar to the extraction of platinum, it took time and some deep digging to unearth the authentic Bafokeng culture.  Once I hit the core though, I witnessed a unique and proud community that is leveraging its ancestral values and history as a foundation to insure it is sustainably self-sufficient, to propel it into the future, to establish a standard of excellence, to create the next generation of great leaders, and to define its place in not just the North West or South Africa, but in the global community.

The Bafokeng not only taught me the significance of a well placed salutation, but the importance of reaching deep to go far beyond where others would ever imagine you could go.


*Kgosi, Royal Bafokeng Nation, Kgotha-Kgothe, 21 April 2012

Reviving the Water Forum for the Greater Pilanesberg – Tuesday 30 April 2013 at the Maslow Hotel, Johannesburg

Water Forum for the Greater Pilanesberg, Tuesday 30 April 2013 

On 30 April 2013, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment is hosting the first meeting of the revived Water Forum for the Greater Pilanesberg area.  Its going to be held at Sun International’s Maslow Hotel on the corner of Rivonia Road and Grayston Drive in Johannesburg.

This is a great opportunity to take a good look at what the future of the Western Limb will look like if we do not manage our precious water resources, and to look at what can be done now to shift that.

Presentations: human rights, tourism, NGOs, communities, labour, the environment, mining companies, government and others

There will be presentations by many of the key stakeholders:

– the South African Human Rights Commission on the Constitutional Right to Sufficient Water, presented by South African Human Rights Commissioner Janet Love;

tourism and ecotourism representatives, with presentations from Sun International, the Legacy Group and the Black Rhino Game Lodge.

-the Chamber of Mines’ members, including members Anglo Platinum and Royal Bafokeng Resources;

– non-governmental organisations, including the WWF South Africa, Birdlife Africa, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa;

the Benchmarks Foundation;

– community perspectives by community representatives;

– the National Union of Mineworkers;

– presentations by other groups with an interest in this key issue, including Eskom, Afriforum, a representative of irrigation farmers;

– the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry for the Crocodile West / Marico Water Management Area

Magalies Water, a state-owned water and sanitation provider

What will it take to really make a difference?

This is a real opportunity to develop a shared vision and plan for the area’s water.  Often at these kinds of events, which include all the various stakeholders, I am struck by how much agreement there is.  Often, almost everyone kind of knows what needs to happen to make it all work.  There is sometimes disagreement, but on core issues, people often agree.  I am also often struck by a real willingness to do something about it.  This may not be the case here, but it may be.

So, my question is, how can all these key players keep the conversation alive after 30 April, and keep holding each other to account to take the actions that are going to make the difference?

What structure can be put in place so the actions that need to be taken are taken, and for regularly having an honest look at what’s working and not working, that leaves everyone empowered?

A request from Western Limb – a weekly conference call to keep the conversation moving, and actions being taken

One strategy I have found effective is a weekly 30 minute call, using a conference calling facility. with all the people there, which always ends with who is going to do what, and by when, and starts by acknowledging what was done and was not done that was promised the last time.  Situations transform through actions.  If there enough actions, there will be a different result.

I sometimes dread those kinds of calls, because I don’t want to have to admit that I didn’t do what I said I would do, or to have a conversation with someone about something that they promised and didn’t do. But, I have learned that they do make a real difference, so I have them often.

Over time, this is a practice that greatly improves performance.

Is this something the stakeholders at this forum are willing to take on?  Do you have other suggestions for keeping the conversation alive?

Let us know in the comments field, or get in touch with me, Kevin Williams at kevin@westernlimb.org.

Breakfast Seminar hosted by SWOP at Wits: Are communities benefiting from mining in Rustenburg?

I attended a breakfast seminar at Hofmeyer House, Wits University on 15 March 2013, hosted by the Society Work and Development Institute at Wits (SWOP).   The speaker was Sonwabile Mnwana of the University of the Witwatersrand.  The question posed in the seminar was one that is of interest to Western Limb: is mining benefitting the communities in Rustenburg?

I found out about it on the day before the event, and stayed an extra night in Joburg to be able to attend it.  I found myself, somewhat to my surprise, on a friends racing bike doing the monthly 25km Jozi Hustle around the CBD that starts at the Hunter Cycling Clubhouse in Braamfontein. The Jozi Hustle involves riders at high speed, running the gamut of potholed streets, missing drain covers and crazy centre town traffic.  Similarly, Mnwana’s talk provided a close up view of parts of the Western Limb most people don’t see.  In the same way that the Jozi Hustle got me connected to the city of Joburg,  Mnwana’s up-close views on the Western Limb provided an insight into some of the areas that need to be addressed to make the Western Limb a better place for everyone to live in.

Mnwana’s work in communities in the Western Limb

Mnwana presented his finding of research in the Bafokeng and BaKgathla ba Kgafela communities, eliciting the views of the communities on infrastructure development plans over a three month period.

The Royal Bafokeng Nation is held up as a model for community participation in mining

Mnwana started his talk by noting that the Bafokeng are held up as a model for community participation in mining.  However, he said that his research showed that there were certain flaws and paradoxes in the Bafokeng model. 

Leaders of traditional communities are empowered to speak for the community

The mode of engagement in the Bafokeng model is between the leaders of traditional communities and the mining communities.  They are legally empowered to speak for and on behalf of traditional communities.

The Communal Land Rights Act gives traditional leaders “elevated and entrenched powers”.   (The proposed Traditional Courts Bill will extend these powers).   They become the “champions of mineral wealth development”.

Mnwana said that after the tragedy at Marikana in August 2012 where 34 mineworkers were shot and killed, many suggested that the Bafokeng model should be emulated in South African mining communities to ensure peace between mining companies and the communities that surround the mines.

A different emphasis – traditional leaders and community members

He found that there was a different emphasis between the traditional leaders and the people in the community.  They have different priorities.  The leadership was focussed on particular long-term infrastructure projects, but the people who live in these communities are more concerned about the very poor quality of housing and of roads, and the influx of people into the area. 

Ho noted that Bakgathla ba Kgafela (a community near Moruleng on the north side of the Pilanesberg National Park) Administration’s spending plans are very focussed on infrastructure.  They have plans to build a water treatment plant, a stadium, shopping mall, and an administration block

Similarly, the Bafokeng (a community based near Phokeng between Rustenburg and the Pilanesberg National Park) have plans for a shopping mall.  He lauds the infrastructure development, but went on to identify one of the key concerns that people in the area express about the type of development is taking place: they feel that they are not consulted on these plans and projects and have no say in how mining revenues the community receives are spent. 

People in the communities feel they are not consulted about projects that take place

Mnwana interviewed a teacher in Moruleng who expressed a concern about traditional leaders sitting in boardrooms and deciding what is best for the community.  He said that the community was never consulted on these projects and they should not assume that this is what the community wants.   

One of the key things he found was that there is tension between villages, because there is differential development in these areas, there are new facilities in some villages but not in others.

Other community-led structures feel they are unable to directly engage with mining companies

Mnwana said that another concern among community members was inaction on the part of local leaders about the environmental impact of mining in communities.  Mnwana says that the mines engage with the traditional leadership, and they do not want to engage directly with members of the community on environmental issues.

Mnwana noted that there are several local forums that have been established to deal with environmental problems caused by mining.  However, Mnwana said that some mining companies have refused to engage with these forums.  He says that some mining companies have stated that they will deal with the leadership of traditional communities on these issues, as they represent the communities.

Mwana said that one mining company representative told him that they do not want to engage with some these forums, because the leaders of some forums represent “narrow, selfish interests”. 

A fear among communities that mining companies “co-opt” traditional leaders

He said that distrust was emerging among people in mine-affected communities regarding the relationship between traditional leaders and the mines.  He noted that there is a perception that mines are using business opportunities to co-opt traditional leaders.  

Difficult questions emerging regarding the letting of housing to miners on land conferred by traditional leaders

Mnwana noted that there were disagreements between people that had been granted the use of land owned by traditional communities, and traditional leaders.

Many of those who have houses on such land are now sub-letting houses or shacks on such land to miners, who use their housing allowances to pay the rent.  However, traditional leaders have decried this practice.  Mnwana said that in some cases the traditional authority had threatened to knock down some backyard houses that had been rented out to miners.

Conclusion and call to action

Mnwana returned to the question of whether communities are benefitting from mining in Rustenburg.  He said that actually, this begged the question: what is the community?  He said that a better question to ask would be ‘which sectors of the community are benefitting and how?’

In question time, I noted that based on his talk, reports from monitors from the Benchmark Foundation, the Legal Resources Centre and Marietta Liefferink of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment (who works on the dire problem of water supply and water pollution in mining areas), seemed to paint a picture of no agreement, with no shared vision for the future of the area. 

There appeared to be little agreement between mining companies, the state, traditional leaders and the communities that traditional leaders are legally permitted to represent.  I asked what he thought that civil society actors could do to move things from a situation of no agreement, to agreement on how to make the Western Limb a better place to live. 

He said that the one key area to work on was engagement with communities, so that they had a real voice in the decisions that affected them.  He said that choices, which affected the communities, should not be taken by traditional leaders without consulting the communities. 


Mining Dialogues 360


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Western Limb is  concerned with the answer to one key question: what will the Rustenburg platinum mining region look like in 20 to 30 years when economically accessible platinum resources have been mined out and the mines have been closed.

One of the key areas that matter to the future is high quality, relevant academic research.

A promising multi-stakeholder organisation set up to inform the debate on the future of mining in South Africa

A promising organisation called Mining Dialogues 360 (MD 360) has been set up to provide “a neutral, objective and safe platform to facilitate open debate about all aspects of the mining sector and related issues.”

MD360 Study on state participation in the mining sector was the catalyst

Mining Dialogues 360 came about as a result of a comprehensive academic study compiled by a team of international global experts “into issues relating to state participation in the mining sector from a global and historical perspective”.  The study’s objective was to “inform national debate through exhaustive and rigorous research”.

Mining Dialogues states that the Study seeks to “provide all stakeholders with a common information resource to develop opinions and positions”.  The MD 360 Study aims to be non-partisan and ideologically neutral.

The July 2012 Turbine Hall dialogues

The first dialogue took place over three days.  There were five half day sessions, each of which focussed on a particular stakeholder constituency: civil society, mining companies, investors, labour and government. The sixth and final session synthesised the five session and mapped out some next steps.  This synthesis is set out in a concise nine page summary report (available here).

MD 360 participationOne of the things I found inspiring about the dialogues is that, even as it attempted to establish a neutral platform for these very different stakeholders, the Summary Report made it clear that there needs to be a common vision.   The Summary Report states that the “the vision must be to optimise the contribution of the mining sector to South Africa’s economic development“.   I would have preferred the focus to be on human development rather than economic development, but within a global system that still uses economic development as a bench mark for the good life, this is a sensible place to start.  Its one that everyone understands.

Balancing act

The key theme that emerged was the need for balance:

“If any of [the five stakeholder groups] feels short-changed or excluded, the optimization process will never be successful.  Nor will it work if any stakeholder group is perceived to be securing more of the benefit than it deserves.”

Nine key messages

Nine key messages emerged from the dialogues.  Western Limb is excited about exploring these nine key messages, from the different angles we are interested in: community engagement, academic research and music, film and the arts.

The nine key messages are:

1. Finance – investors are skittish, but there is excellent long term potential, because South Africa has the goodies.

2. New actors – the landscape is changing, after a long period where the same organisations where the key actors – the landscape is shifting, and this requires careful consideration.

3. Evidence – the evidence we have to inform the debate sucks.  Different stakeholders mistrust the evidence that is presented to them.  An agreed evidence base is needed.

4. Benefit sharing – “The challenge is not solely to allocate the benefits from mining equitably among the stakeholders; instead it must embrace the deeper challenge of transforming value creation in mining into the development of a modern, diversified economy”.  Very well said.

5. Strengthening Government performance – raise your game, folks.  Life is more fun when you perform.  For you and for everyone around you.

6. Skills development – “Mining houses and the industry need to move beyond simple compliance-based approaches in this area and embrace a more strategic and collective approach to skills development in the sector, potentially emulating other sectors in establishing ambitious institutes of education, skills development and leadership that embrace not only the sector’s own needs but also the wider needs of communities and governments; if they are to be effective partners in development they too need a higher level of skills development”.

7. Communities – a fresh approach to the way that Social and Labour Plans (part of the licensing requirements for mining right holders in South Africa) are drawn up. These should reflect a genuine “community license to operate”.

8. Technology innovation – basically, we suck.

9. Connectivity – get everyone together more often and get different stakeholder groups together so that they develop a “common voice”. “There is nothing like small victories to attract adherents”.


The Summary Report concluded with this call to action:

“Addressing these issues through a systematic process of consultation, dialogue and consensus-seeking could finally begin to move the mining sector towards the space that it must occupy if it is to fulfil the many hopes vested in it by South African society.

Nobody thinks it is an easy task, but the price of not adequately addressing these issues is enormous and is already being felt.”

Let’s do it, yeah?

The Making of the Western Limb site

Kevin has asked me to write something about how we approached the initial creation of the site at westernlimb.org, in case it’s useful or of interest to others.

The technical side of the site was very straightforward. Working with a dedicated graphic designer meant I got to focus solely on bringing everything together.  The general principle I advocated was to enable contributors to take effective ownership of the site content as soon as possible.

It can be seductive to start by polishing the presentation before establishing a body of worthwhile content.  However, gathering a body good content from a variety of contributors is a long-term task spread over weeks or even months.  Producing a reasonable look and feel can be done by one or two people in a matter of days.  Good project management means starting such long, uncertain tasks early on.

Even before the initial design for the site was sketched out, I encouraged Kevin to start blogging here, on westernlimb.wordpress.com. This helped him organise his thoughts and ideas into a form where they could be used to flesh out the site and set the focus.  It will also be simple matter to integrate the blog more fully into the main site, now it is up.

The map draws geographic knowledge from several sources who needed to be able to start contributing without having to learn lots of new stuff.  By sharing a Google Map, I was able to start people on a familiar interface that was trivial to embed in the site straightaway.  This also ensured that the data could be easily ported to a more sophisticated representation at a later date.

The timeline was slightly more involved.  After a little research, I was pleased to find TimelineJS which could pull information from a shared Google Spreadsheet and present it beautifully. Being able to view the timeline as new information was being added let the contributor check it was working well within the timeline representation.

Having the site driven early on by live data source (i.e. Google Docs and Maps) avoided nasty headaches in conflicts, omissions and duplications from multiple authorship.  It also removed late surprises and kludges in terms of how the information appeared on the site.

This first iteration of the platform is still fairly sparse in terms of content but it’s ready to grow and adapt to future needs with a simple, loosely-connected approach which also accommodates future development from within the served community.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

(a version of this post also appears at shellsi.com/westernlimb)

How we are doing it: (3) film, music and the arts


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Western Limb are asking and answering the question: what will the Western Limb look like in 20 to 30 years time when the platinum group metals have been mined out and the mines have been closed?

One of the key areas we are focussing on is performances and interviews.  (The other areas are community development and academic research).

Why performances and interviews matter?

Western Limb wants to bring the policy debate to the communities and the communities to the policy debate.  We also want to bring the world to Rustenburg, and Rustenburg to the world.

The creative spirit and energy of the the people of this region is one of the keys to creating a bright future for the Rustenburg region after mining.

The fantastic Oppikoppi Festival is a brilliant example of this.  The festival has grown from being a small dusty rock festival in 1995, to become South Africa’s biggest, most diverse, and most professionally run music festival (its still pretty dusty though!)

Oppikoppi 2012 – The Sweetest Thing – M&G Online

The power of the film, music and the arts to drive research and community development

“Whenever humans come together for any reason, music is there”, Daniel Levitin

“Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent it and reinvigorate it”, Robert Sapolsky

There are four main reasons why we are incorporating the film, music and the arts into Western Limb’s work on the future of the Rustenburg region:

(1) music and the arts are interesting, thought-provoking and fun, and it helps people to connect, learn, discover and remember;

(2) music and the arts can help raise funds and gain international exposure, both for the musicians of the area, and for the problem we want to solve – to create a bright future for the Rustenburg region after mining;

(3) artists and musicians are usually highly skilled, multi-talented people.  Many have a strong desire to make a positive contribution to communities and debates, beyond the art and music that they make; and

(4) interviews are great resource for insight and an access to action.  We want to record interviews with people who know what’s cooking in this area.  We will get them to talk about what it will look like after mining, and what needs to be done to make it a better place.

What we plan to do

Western Limb TV

We want to host quality recordings of musical and other performances and interviews on our Youtube Channel.  The channel will have a connecting thread that ties the content together: what will the Rustenburg region look like after mining and what could it look like?

Music performances

This great music video from Spoek Mathambo is clever, creative, sexy and its based on a really tight song.  This is the sort of thing we think that there should be much more of out of the Rustenburg region.  We are going to help make it happen.


We want to hear from the people who know what is really cooking in this area, and make this available for others, to provide insight and an access to action.

Thabo Mfulwane

Thabo Mfulwane is an entrepreneur who worked as a driver for Anglo Platinum

Robert Williams lives on a farm on the Magaliesberg and worked for Anglo Platinum's assay laboratories

Robert Williams lives on a farm on the Magaliesberg and worked for Anglo Platinum’s assay laboratories

A Western Limb Concert – April 2014

A concert involving South African and international artists, held in Rustenburg, and broadcast internationally, in April 2014.  Why a concert?:

(1) A concert will raise funds for relevant community engagement work and research and discussion about the future for Rustenburg after mining;

(2) A concert will get people interested in this area, its people, and the question that is the reason for Western Limb’s existence: what will this area look like when the platinum is mined out?; and

(3) A concert will get artists and their fans really involved in the area and its future.  We want to have them not just come in and perform, but also explore the area, talk about their experiences, and get involved in shaping a brighter future for the Rustenburg region.

Rock & Roll


How are we doing it: (2) academic research


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Western Limb are asking and answering the question: what will the Western Limb look like in 20 to 30 years time when the platinum group metals have been mined out and the mines have been closed?

One of the key areas we are focussing on is academic research.  (The other two areas are community engagement and performances and interviews.)

Why academic research matters

Western Limb wants to connect communities to the policy debate, and the policy debate to the communities.

From our experience with the policy debate around mineral resources in South Africa, one of the most frustrating things is how difficult it is to get decent information to inform the debate.  It is out there, but compiling it and keeping track of it is hard work.

We want key information to be available and accessible on http://www.westernlimb.org.  And we want to present it in a way that is easy to understand, remember and act on.

We want to build up an online library of good information that matters, that provides the information that will really help us to plan for the future of the Western Limb region.

We are starting off with three initiatives in this area: (1) an interactive map, (2) interactive timelines and (3) infographics.  

(1) The Western Limb Map

We are creating a collaborative and dynamic map that tells the story of the area through its geography.  The map can be amended, updated and expanded in a quickly changing environment.

We have a map, prepared in collaboration with experts in the area, that shows most of the platinum mines, including who owns them, some of the major traditional and ethnic communities near to the mines, and state facilities.

We want to develop the map so that it becomes a useful, creative and fun way to explore and learn the area.  As we add more information to the map, we will add new features to it to make it easier to navigate and explore.

WL map(2) Interactive timelines

Timelines are useful.  They are also easy to create, amend, supplement and use. 

We made one sample timeline showing the history of the Royal Bafokeng Nation.  We are excited about making more of these.

The timeline feature that we are using is really simple.  You use a Google spreadsheet to  plug in all of the information that goes onto the timeline.

WL timeline spreadsheet

And then whoosh! Using free stuff we found on the internet and adapted for purpose, you get an interactive timeline with dates, pictures and sources.  Amending or adding to the timelines is as easy as amending the spreadsheet.  To create more timelines, just make more spreadsheets.

Royal Bafokeng Nation Timeline

(3) Infographics

Much of the information in the area of mining, communities and the state is in written documents.  However, most of us process information better visually.  Western Limb wants to take some of the most relavent written information, and recreate it, visually, for a wider audience.

We started by taking some excellent original research by Professor Andy Manson of the North West University.  Professor Manson looked at the business ventures that have emerged between traditional and ethnic communities and the mining companies in the Western Limb, as well as legal disputes that have arisen in these communities relating to leadership succession under traditional rules, land ownership and financial management.  We produced a one page infographic that provided an at-a-glance overview of the content that Professor Manson addresses in detail.

Professor Manson's research

If you would like to publish your research on the Rustenburg platinum mining area on westernlimb.org, or are interested in helping us to convert written academic research into map entries, timelines or infographics, please get in touch with us on future@westernlimb.org.