How we are doing it: (1) community engagement


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Western Limb wants to ask and answer 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 community engagement.  (The others are academic research and performances and interviews).

Wall mural

Why community engagement matters

The future of the Western Limb matters most to the people that live there.

However, often crucial policy debates take place at meetings and conferences attended by a few representatives of the state, the unions and the mines.  This is understandable, but we think that a much richer, wider and more rewarding conversation is possible.

Western Limb aims to include everyone.  To find out from the communities what they want and provide reports and feedback on what they say.  

We want to link the communities to the policy debates, and the policy debates to the communities.

We are starting off with three initiatives: (1) Community days and reports, (2) Community bloggers and (3) a Rustenburg-London schools project.

(1) Community days 

We are hosting fun, creative days in the communities on the Western Limb, where we will be asking people what they want and need, what facilities they would like to see, and what they are good at, and what they can do to contribute to their community.

wishes tree

The Western Limb will record the answers and develop social and ethnographic research, which will be made available on, and help build a picture of the real wants and needs of communities in the Western Limb, in their own words.

whats on

(2) Community bloggers

We want to give people a chance to see the Western Limb through the eyes and voices of the people who live there, ongoingly.  We are looking for community bloggers to tell us about their experiences on the Western Limb blog. If you know anyone who would like to blog for us, let us know!  Get in touch on

Once we have a community of active bloggers, we want to start to get them to focus on specific issues in their area, like schooling, health, and recreation.

wl blog screenshot

(3) Rustenburg-London schools project 

We are undertaking a collaborative project involving a school in Rustenburg and a school in London, where senior High School students in these two very different cities collaborate on a joint school project, looking at mineral resources, communities and international trade and investment.  The students will use online sharing platforms like Google Docs, Youtube, and WordPress to communicate with each other and produce their projects.

Why London?  Many of the companies that own and operate mines in this areas are based in London, listed on London stock exchanges.  Mining and communities are a global issue.

And then there is the pure joy and adventure, as a young person, of having a real connection with a place and people far from your own home.

Want to get involved in any of these initiatives?  We would be delighted to hear from you.  Write to us at

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What are Western Limb’s objectives?

Western Limb is a project with charitable objectives that deals with communities, mining and the state in the Rustenburg mining region of the North West Province in South Africa.  Our website is

The long-term future of this area is uncertain.  While its mineral wealth is a huge  opportunity for development, this opportunity is in danger of being wasted.

The name Western Limb refers to the refers to the geological formation that gives rise to the rich Platinum Group Metal ore bodies around Rustenburg in the North West Province of South Africa: the Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex.

Photo credit: Step It Up

Rustenburg has been in the news recently, due to the tragic deaths of mineworkers at Lonmin’s Marikana Mine. This tragedy highlights the difficult relationship between communities, mining companies and the state, a relationship that has shaped South Africa’s modern history.

The question that Western Limb is asking, and beginning to answer, is:

What will the Rustenburg mining region be like in 20 to 30 years time when the Platinum Group Metals have been mined out and the mines have closed?

Shaft at sunset

What will the communities be like?

Wall mural

What industries and job opportunities will there be?

Photo credit: Step It Up

What actions can we take now, to ensure a bright future for the Western Limb?

Photo credit: Enid Williams

We know that these are big, complex questions.  This is why Western Limb is tackling answering these questions from several angles.

There are three key areas that we are working on:

(1) community engagement

(2) academic research and publication

(3) recording and broadcasting performances and interviews

In future blog posts, we’ll look at what we are doing in each of these areas and why we believe that we are doing will change the future of the Western Limb region.

Lebone II Spring Concert for rhino conservation: Director of Performing Arts

Gareth Dry, Lebone II’s Director of Performing Arts spoke to us about the College’s Spring Concert in aid of rhino conservation.  This is what he had to say:

“The plight of our rhinos is on the forefront of many South Africans’ minds of late. At the last count over 500 rhino have been poached in 2012, and it doesn’t look like we are winning the battle. Our game rangers, police and even the army, are finding themselves out-maneuvered and, in many cases, out-gunned. The poachers are armed with heat-sensors, helicopters, night-vision goggles and automatic rifles, and rangers need all the help they can get.

Lebone II – College of the Royal Bafokeng, is a school with a strong social consciousness and the students and staff are very aware of this problem. In order to help, the school decided to donate the money earned from their annual “Spring Choir Festival” to the Honorary Rangers Association of South Africa to go towards the fight against rhino poaching. This annual festival brings top choirs from around the region and beyond to perform in the magnificent Lebone College amphitheatre. Guests are invited to bring blankets and a picnic and to enjoy and evening of high class choral entertainment.

Joining the Lebone Choirs this year were choirs from the Royal Bafokeng Youth Choir from Phokeng, Grenville High and Rustenburg Hoër from Rustenburg, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls Choir from Henley-on-Klip just outside Johannesburg and two groups from Potchefstroom – “Fitz” a small male ensemble from the National Choir Academy, and PUKAmici, a seven man operatic group from the University of Potchefstroom.

The 800 strong crowd were royally entertained by these wonderful groups who all sang upbeat and energetic programs of high quality. There were also three lucky draws of a biltong hamper, a dinner for two at local restaurant and a grand prize of a two night stay for two at the five star Royal Marang Hotel. Approximately R20 000 was raised for this very worthy cause, and everyone is looking forward to the same event in 2013.”

Platinum Weekly article on rhino poaching near Brits

Book Review – Mining the Future: The Bafokeng Story


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I got back to London on Monday to find the a slim volume by Jacana Publishing in my inbox at work called Mining the Future – The Bafokeng Story.

Front cover: Mining the Future – The Bafokeng Story

It does what it says on the tin.  Its a stimulating introduction to the Bafokeng heritage and their dreams for the future.  It was researched written and edited by a an inspiring crew called Totem Media, who describe themselves as “curious outsiders”.  They are designers, writers, educators and technical wizards.  They say they are “more like a troupe of performers, artists, storytellers, and conjurers travelling from village to village”.  They are also South Africa’s premier museum and exhibition design company.

The book was written for the Research and Planning Department of the Royal Bafokeng Administration.

They have also done a beautifully shot little documentary that covers some of the same ground

Back to the book.  Although a slim volume, its provides a great overview of the Nation and a wealth of information on what its taken to hang onto to its land, mineral rights, and cultural identity over 300 tumultuous years.  It makes it clear that luck and skill in spades where required for the Bafokeng Nation to be where it is today.

The book looks at

– how the Nation works, its traditional system of hereditary leadership and the 72 wards in the 29 Bafokeng villages, led by tradtional headmen or dikgosana, and a system of monthly makgothla where the commmunity meet to debate and raise solutions

– getting young people involved in the political life of the Nation and closing the generation gap

– the hotly debated origins of the tribe and the almost continuous low-level conflicts with other Tswana tribes, with the Mzilikazi’s breakaway group of Zulus who left the Zulu Kingdom after a dispute with Shaka, with the boers

– the complex relationship between Kgosi Mokgathle and Paul Kruger, the President of the Transvaal Boer Republic

– the long-standing and far-sighted policy of all of the tribe contributing to buying land for the tribe, many in the name of a Lutheran missionary Christoph Penzhorn.  One of the ways the tribe did this was to persuade you men to work in the diamond and gold mines (it would be many decades before platinum was first mined on the Western Limb) and give a portion of their wages to Kgosi Mokgathle on their return to buy land

– the divisions in the Nation caused in the wake of the establishment of the Boputhatswana bantustan by the apartheid regime.  “Bop” was one of several “independent homelands” set up by the apartheid regime in an unsuccessful attempt to lend the apartheid state credibility.  It covers the events that led to the exile of Kgosi Lebone I and his wife Mmmeogolo and their children.  It looks at the divisions among the Bafokeng caused by the rift between those who followed the exiled Kgosi and those who supported the George Molotlegi, the kings brother, who was sympathetic to Lucas Mangope, whom the apartheid government had appointed to rule Bop

– the long-running legal battle between the Bafokeng and Impala Platinum regarding the validity of an agreement that George Molotlegi had signed on behalf of the tribe, granting Impala rights to mine the Bafokeng’s mineral rights in perpetuity, and the settlement of the dispute which made headlines globally

– the joint venture between the Bafokeng Rasimone joint venture between the Royal Bafokeng Nation and Anglo Platinum, an innovative partnership described as “the blueprint for all future deals”

– the Vision 2020 strategy begun by Kgosi Lebone II to reduce the Bafokeng’s dependence on diminishing mineral assets and to become a self-sufficient community by the second half of the 21st century

– the fantastic Lebone II College of the Royal Bafokeng, a school and centre of excellence for the Bafokeng community.  The school is beautiful and has been designed around the African maxim: It takes a village to raise a child.  It has the intention of becoming one of the top schools in Africa

Its a great little resource if you are interested in what is possible through a unified vision for a community, and the challenges faced to get there

Interview with Kathy Squire of Step It Up about mine safety events, Wednesday 24 October 2012


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I interviewed Kathy Squire, co-owner of Step It Up Productions, about her work in the Western Limb on mine safety.  Kathy was a safety events co-ordinator for one of the major platinum mining groups.

Learning to swim in the deep end

Kathy says that a lot of her drive and self-belief came from working on the mines with people who challenged her and “pushed her in the deep end”.  She says a lot of her development came from the sort of people who could see her developing and playing a bigger role.  The sort of people who said “Ek wil niks van jou hoor nie.  Ons gaan dit doen” (translation: “I don’t want to hear anything from you.  We are going to do it”).

Safety culture

She says that the mine safety events that they ran were a real learning experience and a chance to really learn about what life was like for the miners.  They put safety and fun together.  They used music to get the message out that injuries and deaths on the mines and were preventable and avoidable by going back to the basics.  The messages were simple yet powerful: “One injury one too many”, and were delivered with choirs, drumming, soccer and boxing celebrities.  Mine safety became something cool and happening, and everyone in the company was involved.

Keeping it real 

It is a hard life on the mines, and these kind of events honour the people that work in the mines and create a partnership around safety.

Kathy was involved in a programme of 46 such mine safety events.  And the approach was effective.  A survey done 3 months after the event showed an almost complete recollection of the major daily safety principles that the programme aimed to instill among all mine employees.

These events were successful because they brought humanity and life to the mines.  Kathy says that in order to make something like this work you have got to be genuine.

Learning from each other

One of the most effective events was one at which someone who had suffered an mining-related accident spoke about his experience of living in the township in a wheelchair and what life was like for him.  He had to use his injury compensation to pay people to get him around.  He would sometimes be robbed due to his vulnerable position.  He spoke very powerfully about how the safety messages would have made a difference to him, and urged his fellow workers to follow the basic steps, so that they did not suffer the same fate that he had.

Interview with Kathy Squire of Step It Up at Ebenhaezer Castle, Wednesday 24 October 2012


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I am with Kathy Squire at the Ebenhaezer Castle on the R24 to Magaliesberg.  Kathy worked with my Dad on the mines doing events.  She now runs an events and promotions agency called Step It Up.  My folks have come along with me to the Castle to interview Kathy for Western Limb.

I have driven past the castle dozens of times in Rustenburg, and it had never betrayed much indication of what lay within its turrets and towers, so I did not know what to expect in the Castle.

We parked outside and went past a statue in a pond of a rearing horse and entered the entrance hall and into the Royal Hall,  where Kathy and her team were a buzzing hive of event planning and logistics.

Having set the course for her team, she joined us in her corner office.  I had told her a little about Western Limb on the phone, and asked if I could interview.

There was no need to ask too many questions as Kathy began with reslish to tell me all about the two topics that I wanted to cover – what she was doing with a hulking great faux-medieval castle in Rustenburg, and her safety work on the mines.

Starting Step It Up

Kathy took a voluntary retrenchment package from one of the major mining groups and decided to set up an events, promotions and marketing company with her husband.  This was the obvious choice for Kathy as she lives and breathes events and loves arts and culture.

Step It Up provides a full range of events, production and promotion services including graphic design, printing and posting, photography, music production, video production, editing and animation, live music, weddings and other events, as well as mine safety events and promotional events for brands.

They started out small but have had a very good response, and turnover has grown 86% in 3 years.

The Ebenhaezer Castle

As the business grew, Kathy needed a place for he whole team, a place to host events and a base from which to expand.  Kathy was looking at other venues near the castle and saw the building and noticed that there did not seem to be much life in the place.  She got in contact with the owner and they started negotiations to redevelop it into an entertainment venue.  The castle needed a lot of work.  As Kathy says, she was a big lady to take on, but she decided to go for it.  She says that she felt that something was pushing her to take this on.

One of the big challenges was raising finance for the redevelopment.  The bank wanted to see a healthy business plan, and Kathy and her team delivered, and have raised the significant funds needed to complete and redevelop Ebenhaezer Castle.

Life within the Castle walls

The Castle really does justify the name, as there is very little one could not achieve within its walls.  The facilities include four very large wedding suites, complete with lounges and outdoor areas, a spa (which was just getting its finishing touches), and outdoor beer tent, a cognac bar, a chapel hall for weddings.

In terms of office space they have a photography studio, a film editing and animation suite manned by three very tech-savvy looking gents, a graphic design office with large format printers with two attractive graphic designers manning the keyboards, an events office with directors chair and pictures or stars, established and rising, that have been through the castle.  The staff are multicultural and for a workday they were having a pretty rocking time.

Events at the Castle

Its a busy castle, even though newly finished   Kathy tells me about the recent events they have hosted at the Ebenhaezer  Castle:

–       a blarney festival, with a large contingent of Guinnes swiggers coming up from Johannesburg.  As might be expected, it was not a subdued affair

–       local Afrikaans rapper Snotkop (translation: Snot Head)

–       a motor show for Renault

–       a medieval festival complete with stiltwalkers, Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts

–       Oom Paul Kruger School’s Matric Dance

–       Fairy Princess for a Day, a charity event Step It Up put on with the Red Cross where little girls came to the castle ad were princesses for a day

And this is nothing compared to what the Queen of the Castle has up her royal sleeve:

–       antique fairs

–       smart weekday suit and tie evenings with Chamber music

–       parties on weekends (they recently held a Halloween party)

–       chilled out beer and boerewors roll vibes during the rugby and other televised sport

–       loads of bookings for weddings

–       facilities for company conferences and meetings and

–       an exciting yearly Platinum Festival to be held in March or April, with several different stages, along the lines of the popular Artklop and Klein Karoo Kunsfees (KKK) festivals

People say there is nothing to do in Rustenburg.  Looks like someone is busy changing all that.

Spring Picnic Concert at the Lebone II College Amphitheatre, Friday 2 November 2012


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The Lebone II Spring Music Picnic

One of the aims of Western Limb is to celebrate the musical talent of the Rustenburg platinum mining area area by recording and uploading performances to our youtube channel.

Our first music recording: The Lebone II Spring Music Picnic

This Friday, 2 November 2012, the fabulous folks at Step It Up Productions will be filming and recording performances from the Lebone II Spring Music Picnic.  Recordings of the performances will be uploaded to the Western Limb youtube channel.

You can see the poster here:

Lebone Spring Concert

And here is some footage of the fantastic Lebone II choir in action:

Lebone II – The College of the Royal Bafokeng

Lebone II College is the college of the Royal Bafokeng Nation.  The school was designed by Activate Architects and is a model of environmental sustainability, and an open learning environment that reflects the principles and spirit of the Royal Bafokeng Nation.  Activate Architects submitted the winning design in a competition set up by the Royal Bafokeng Nation.  The video below shows you some of the design features of this amazing school.

Concert to be held in the Lebone II Amphitheatre

The Spring Concert will take place in the magnificent Lebone II amphitheatre, which is the heart of the College.

There will be entertainment by:

–       the Lebone II junior, intermediate phase, chamber and college choirs

–       the Royal Bafokeng Youth Choir

–       the Hoerskool Rustenburg Choir

–       the Grenville High School Choir

–       the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls Choir and

–       members of the National Choir Academy.

All the details

Date: Friday 2 November 2012

Time: 6pm

Venue: Lebone II Amphitheatre

Tickets: R50 for adults and R30 for children under 18 (tickets available at the door)

There is curry and rice or pap available for R35 a plate – see the attached poster for ordering details.

Its all for a good cause – the Anti-Rhino Poaching Project of the Honorary Rangers Association

All money raised on the night will go to the Honorary Rangers Association for their Anti-Rhino Poaching Project.

If you are in the area head on down there for a feast of food and music.

Travels around the Western Limb – Phokeng and Kulumane’s grave


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Sunday 21 October 2012


Arriving in Rustenburg

I arrived at OR Tambo airport from London on Sunday 21 October 2012.  My folks collected me from the airport.  They were on their way back from a road trip to the Eastern Cape.

I was full of questions on the drive home about stuff related to the Western Limb.  I asked about about maps, about local arts, about entertainment venues, about film and video in the area.  Having been closely involved in the area as the General Manager of several platinum mines in the area, he knows the area extremely well.

Angelina and the Moffat Mission Station

We arrived at my parent’s home.  In a promising omen for the music recording side of Western Limb, Angelina, who is a cleaner for my parents, had on a programme of great gospel music on Soweto TV to soundtrack her work.  We had a sandwich and then took Angelina, my folks’ cleaner, back to her house in Phokeng.

On the 20km drive from Cashan, where my parents live, to Phokeng, I asked Angelina about gospel and choral music and her involvement and the church.  Angelina loves signing and sings in several church choirs.  She grew up in Kuruman.  Kuruman is the site of a historical mission station established in 1816 by Robert and Mary Moffat of the London Missionary Society.  Robert Moffat and a team of Tswana translators translated the bible and Tswana and printed it in the Mission’s printing machinery.  It was the first entire bible printed in Africa.  The printing machines are still used today.  Angelina’s grandmother worked at the mission station.  Angelina now lives in Rustenburg and is part of the Rustenburg chapter of the mission church, and returns regularly to Kuruman.  In a few weeks, she is sitting a bible studies exam.

Glenda Williams – Moffat Mission Station, Kuruman

Nkulumane’s grave in Phokeng

Before returning home, we stopped in at Nkulamane’s grave, son of the great chief Mzilikazi (translation: The Great Road). Mziikazi was a Zulu chief who split away from King Shaka with hos followers and went inland.  I had always associated Mzilikazi with the Matabele people based around Bulawayo and the Matopo Hills where Cecil John Rhodes is buried, as this is where he and his followers eventually settled.  I did not realise that Mzilikazi and his followers were so active in the Rustenburg area as well.

In fact, Mzilikazi spent several years in the area around Rustenburg, where he established three military strongholds.  One  on the Apies River north of Pretoria, one north of the present day Hartebeespoort Dam, and one in Phokeng itself.

Mzilikazi only moved north of the Limpopo River into present day Zimbabwe after several battles with the Voortrekker families who were moving into their area with their trains of oxwagons, rifles and deadly marksmanship.  In Zimbabwe, he rejoined a group Matabele from whom his followerd had separated several years earlier.  This group had installed Nkulumane as Chief.  It seems that Nkulumane came with his followers to the Rustenburg area and found a home among the Bafokeng, as a result of a succession disupute, though different sources give different reasons why he left for the South.

Nkulumane’s grave site is in a yard a few blocks away from the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace that hosted several matches in the 2012 FIFA World Cup.

Robert Moffat and Mzilikazi admired one another and were good friends. Moffat visited Mzilikazi’s royal complex every few years.

‘Ain’t we walking down the same street together on the very same day’

What was surprising was the connections between two seemingly unrelated events – taking Angelina home and going to find an old grave site with no real information about the person who lay there.  This is one of the wonderful things about collaborations.

There is an interesting interview at the end of the 25th anniversary reissue of Graceland album.  Paul Simon talks about how he and the South African musicians Ray Phiri, Bakithi Kumalo and Vusi Khumalo came up with the music for the song Graceland, imitating each other, and reaching into their memories for connections to make a surprising, beautiful and enduring song that connects two things that don’t seem to be all that related, namely Graceland and Sun Records and South African rock and pop.

I went to with my Dad to take Angelina home to Phokeng because I was on the lookout for footage for the Western Limb site.  And I would not have known about Angelina’s Kuruman connection if I hadn’t been asking after music and choirs from the area.   And after a long flight I would almost certainly have taken a pass on going hunting for an old grave site. It was only in putting together this blog post that I made the connection between the conversation with Angelina about her life and the Moffat Mission Station and Nkulumane’s grave site.

Four days later, I drove out to my uncle Robert’s and Aunt Glenda’s farm Mount Serene (which has a converted train carriage as accommodation  in the Magalisberg, the range of mountains that rings the Western Limb  to interview my uncle.  We had a look at some of my aunt’s watercolours, and there is a lovely painting of my uncle and my mom standing outside….the Moffat Mission station in Kuruman.