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Dispossession in South Africa is associated with the period of colonialism and apartheid. As a result, not much consideration is given to how previously marginalized black communities continue to be dispossessed by coal-mining activities in democratic South Africa.
In a paper that formed part of my Ph.D. research, I investigated what communities lose because of coal mining. The research was conducted in Ogies, a town that lies 29km south-west of Witbank (Emalahleni), in Mpumalanga province.
Relocations - Result - Coal - Mining - Companies
I found that the relocations continue as a result of coal mining companies buying up land owned by white farmers. Black farm dwellers and labor tenants are given short shrift because the mining companies see houses—and graves—as mere movable structures and, therefore, replaceable.
Dispossession is historically thought about only in relation to land. But this framework is limited, given that relocation affects more than people's homes. It happens to the graves of their families too. In my research I refer to this as loss of the intangible—families lose their spiritual security, identity, heritage and belonging. Household and grave relocations feature as an aspect of dispossession in my work.
Paper - Relocation - Families - Goedgevonden - Farm
In my paper I traced the relocation of 120 families between 2012 and 2016 from Goedgevonden farm, Tweefontein farm and other farms in the vicinity of Ogies, 112km east of Johannesburg. Families were moved to make way for the Goedgevonden open-cast colliery mine, which is owned by the global mining giant Glencore.
As part of the relocation, at least 1,000 graves were relocated from Tweefontein farm. The graves belonged to former migrant laborers and labor tenants who came from various parts of South Africa and from other countries such as Mozambique and Swaziland. Most of the deceased people's relatives live in the surrounding black townships such as Phola and Witbank. Others left a long time ago. This meant that some graves were...
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