The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) rejected a lobby from the late North West cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs MEC Gordon Kegakilwe to block the release of developmental funds belonging to the Bakubung Ba Ratheo community, saying it would abide by the decision of the court on the matter.
A high court decision in June broke a 10-year-long deadlock between the IDC and the community, and ruled that R119 million worth of funds that could be invested in local development be released.
The release of the funds will be a welcome development for the 30 000-strong impoverished villagers near Sun City in Rustenburg.
The IDC said this week that it had kept the money in an escrow account since 2010 amid a dispute between the Bakubung royal family, the community, the provincial government and other interested parties “pending finalisation of the disputes or until ordered to release these funds by the court”.
“The IDC’s position has always been that it would only release the amount as directed by a court of law. This was because the IDC did not want to become embroiled in what was becoming an increasingly acrimonious and sometimes violent dispute,” said spokesperson Chimwemwe Mwanza.
The differences between the two Bakubung leadership factions go way back, and most recently reignited in 2007, when it emerged that a substantial portion of the community’s stake in the JSE-listed junior mining company Wesizwe, which is building a platinum mine on Bakubung land, had been successfully monetised – with the assistance of IDC funding – by one of the community’s financial advisers, Musa Capital.
This created newfound tangible wealth for the Bakubung, and the factions in the community then fought about money in the bank and investment accounts, and even over the chieftaincy.
The community’s affairs appeared to stabilise after the North West government’s decision to recognise Kgosi Solomon Mpuphuthe Monnakgotla as the legitimate heir, although some members of the royal family still differed.
Monnakgotla said on Friday that he intended to become a leader for everyone in the community – “my supporters and those who have opposing views”.
“I am working hard to uplift my village despite the challenges of poverty, bad education and lack of matching investment,” he said, adding that “the squabbles and power struggle within my extended family are a distraction and, quite frankly, not that important to the members of the community”.
“The community wants water, better living conditions for themselves and their families, and participation in the wealth creation that our region can provide.”
Mwanza said the IDC met with a delegation from the royal family in February, when it reiterated its position regarding the release of the funds once ordered to do so by a court.
The IDC also committed to alerting the royal family and stakeholders once it had been served with court papers so they would be able to join the litigation should they wish to do so.
On May 26, the IDC was served with an urgent court application brought by the Bakubung Community Development Corporation, in which the latter sought an order directing the IDC to release the funds in the escrow account.
“A copy of the application was made available to Ignatius Monnakgotla, a member of the Bakubung royal family, who indicated that they would oppose the application brought by the Bakubung Community Development Corporation,” Mwanza said.
He said Monnakgotla informed the IDC that he had spoken to the North West provincial government, asking it to intervene in the application.
Accordingly, Monnakgotla produced a letter from Kegakilwe “instructing the IDC not to release the funds in the escrow account”.
“The IDC advised Monnakgotla that it could not defy an order of the court and would release the money to a designated person. The IDC opted to abide by the decision of the court, which was consistent with the initial position it communicated to the feuding parties,” he said.
Kegakilwe passed away in hospital last month following a Covid-19-related illness.
Ignatius Monnakgotla said the lawyers they had roped in to oppose the application dropped them at the last minute.
He added that the funds had been released, but the North West government was “not interested” in the proposal to withdraw Kgosi Monnakgotla’s certificate so that the funds could be used appropriately.
The North West government said that Premier Job Mokgoro, as head of the provincial government, “recognises the autonomy of Monnakgotla as the rightful traditional leader of the Bakubung Ba Ratheo traditional community in line with the certificate of recognition issued in terms of the North West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act”.
North West spokesperson Vuyi Ngesi said Mokgoro had previously shared ideas with Monnakgotla on the running of the Bakubung Ba Ratheo traditional council, adding that more engagement was planned for the future.Kgosi Monnakgotla said that over and above the support from the government he appreciated external stakeholders like Sun International and the legacy and role the company had played, historically, in community development.
“Importantly, without the engagements with Wesizwe, Musa Capital and IDC, the same wealth that has created some divisions and misunderstandings in our community would not have been realised,” he said.
Moreover, he said, through these finances, they have been able to make significant strides towards their self-upliftment as the Bakubung Ba Ratheo community and hope that the wealth creates a better future and not further divisions.
City Press understands that Musa Capital, despite its parent company facing liquidation challenges with its major shareholder, the Public Investment Corporation, continues to work with the community.
*Note: This article was updated on September 1 to add in additional comments by Kgosi Monnakgotla.
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