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Police accused of standing by while chrome mine is invaded

Case heads back to court this week, with senior police officials and politicians cited as respondents.
Police Minister Bheki Cele is among the officials deemed to be violating a previous court order and now faces a threat of imprisonment. Image: GCIS

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is accused of standing by while an armed gang invaded the Nuco Chrome mining property in North West Province on multiple occasions and made off with truckloads of ore for processing off site.

In May, the North West High Court evicted the group responsible and interdicted it from removing run-of-mine material, or from mining the site.

Despite this, the theft of material continued, with the police allegedly standing by.

Nuco went back to court earlier this month and came away with a contempt of court order with an instruction for those responsible to be imprisoned for 60 days.

Two companies cited as respondents – Bashiga ba Raphafana and Bashiga ba Raphafana Holdings – were ordered to pay R200 000 each as punitive sanctions for their contempt of court. The police were also ordered to comply with the previous court order.

Failure to act

Nuco is back in court this week seeking an order to compel the police to comply with the previous order, at risk of imprisonment for those officials deemed to be violating the order – which include the Minister of Police, the SAPS provincial commissioner, and the local station commander in Phokeng in North West province.

They are accused of failing and refusing to carry out the contempt order to assist the sheriff in executing arrests as ordered by the high court.

An incident sheet provided to Moneyweb shows seven separate incursions onto the mine property.

In all seven cases, charges were laid with the police in Phokeng in North West, but apparently nothing was done to stop the incursions or arrest the perpetrators.

‘Royal family’

The problem seems to have started when Elias Setuke had himself installed as traditional leader or ‘Kgosana’ of Lefaragatlhe village in North West, along with a retinue of followers who now call themselves the royal family.

In March, the recognised traditional leadership of the Bafokeng won an urgent interdict against Setuke and his followers to stop them “inaugurating, installing or in any way recognising” Setuke as traditional leader of the village.

Setuke and his followers, operating under the two companies cited as respondents, are accused of unlawfully entering the Nuco Chrome Mining property and removing run-of-mine material.

Fourteen respondents are cited in the court application, several of whom are said to  have threatened Nuco staff with firearms and physical harm.

In an affidavit before the court, Nuco director Linda Butler is asking for Setuke and three other respondents to be held in contempt of court, and for prison sentences for Setuke and one Oscar Ratsie – both of whom have already been the subject of a court order prohibiting them from entering the mining property or loading and removing run-of-mine material, or from processing it.

None of the 14 respondents has filed a reply to the court application by Nuco.

Invitation

Butler says the problems started when she received a letter from Andrew Pheto of Pheto Development and HR Shared Services on June 9, 2020, purporting to act on behalf of the Setuke family.

The letter was an invitation to set up a meeting and discuss possible collaboration with landowners and community members regarding to the Kookfontein Mining Project, which forms part of Nuco.

She says this was a clear attempt by Setuke and his followers to insinuate themselves into a new mining project and claim rights and ownership for themselves.

A search of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) database shows that the two companies bearing the name Bashiga ba Raphafana were registered shortly thereafter.

There are an estimated 2 928 tonnes of chrome ore (with platinum group metals) on stockpile at Kookfontein, which Butler says Setuke and his followers are attempting to steal.

If Nuco processed this material it could expect to generate approximately R658/t or R1.025 million profit before tax, says Butler.

No fear of police

Based on court evidence, it seems the group has no fear whatsoever of the police, who have failed to intervene despite multiple cases being filed of mine property invasions and theft of material.

The reason for the police inaction is a mystery, says Butler, but the reasons will hopefully be fleshed out in court this week.

The local sheriff was told by police in Phokeng that they needed a legal opinion on the matter before they could render any assistance.

Moneyweb reached out to Pheto, who says he is still acting as an advisor to Setuke and his followers, but says he was unaware of the impending court action. We also reached out to Setuke via phone and message but had not received a reply by the time of publication.

Unlawful loading

On May 28, the company employed to provide security at the mine was notified that a 17-ton truck with an additional 17-ton hopper was unlawfully loading ore.

The truck was followed and intercepted, and then driven to the SAPS in Phokeng. The next day it was scheduled to be driven to a location for unloading of the material. On the way there, the mine security company was confronted by Ratsie and his 13 bodyguards. The truck was eventually allowed to proceed to the Bafokeng Civil Works site for unloading, but this time was met by Setuke and his bodyguards. They demanded the release of the truck back to the driver.

Butler claims in her affidavit that Setuke and his bodyguards used threats of violence, by wielding firearms to intimidate members of the SAPS escorting the truck.

The truck was handed over to Setuke’s men. Immediately after this incident, the mine’s security employee, Kopral Dibobo, was forced off the road while driving back to the office. He took refuge in a funeral that was taking place and managed to hide from his pursuers.

Butler says there are currently about 50 people illegally occupying the mining property and theft of material has occurred since the aforementioned court orders were granted.

Attacks

“To have to go to court to get the SAPS to act against criminality and to have to go back to have orders to compel granted and still have no joy is a costly exercise. We have also been hampered in starting operations. Not only has our security team been attacked, but of late the teams that have been sent in to fence off areas have also had to delay operations for fear of being attacked.

“The run-of-mine ore continues to be stolen and even when trucks have been intercepted, the Phokeng police have released the loaded trucks and given them back to the criminals.”

Says James Lorimer, the DA’s shadow mines minister: “It’s interesting to note that after literally years of inactivity the police are beginning to show interest in this case.

“Clearly the latest contempt application that would see the minister and the police commissioner jailed for not enforcing previous orders against the mine invaders has got police nervous.

“One has to ask whether it takes a threat to jail the minister to get police to act,” says Lorimer.

“Meanwhile in all this multi-year saga, the Department of Mineral Resources has played no role in defending the lawfully held mining rights, other than a negative role, in delay, obfuscation and possible collusion with the people trying to steal them.”

Read: Another citizen group takes its local municipality to court

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Sounds like some palms are greased so some people should look the other way?

And here I thought the police must protect everybody against crooks? There have been a lot of criticism against the police lately. They are being compared to SAA and Eskom. A failed entity.

And to top everything we are supposed to hand all firearms to the police because it is their job to protect us. Just like in the above case they will stand around and watch crimes being committed while they “wait”for legal opinions.

To be expected when we love on a banana republic with a corrupt and incompetent police force.
Who really cares what a court directs? Old Zupta and the RETties certainly don’t. And note that there is no follow up/sanction.

The police rot and incompetence goes deep indeed.

The police literally supply criminals with guns.

In some cases, the police literally have criminal records themselves and yet are still police.

Utter stupidity from this government.

I thin it was this shadow government and their “police” force that stole Cyrils laptop and left him brain damaged?

It is difficult to determine who stole Cyrils Ipad because there are so many persons in parliament with dodgy reputations. It could have been any one of the parliamentarians because many of them have been accused of serious crimes. The VIP protections crowds inability to prevent the theft of the Ipad mirrors the polices inability to prevent law abiding citizens guns from being stolen- hence the supposed reason for the amendments to the firearm control act.

what does one actually expect from a bunch of incompetent people – from a once top class organization to a currently sub standard organization in 3 decades – to me their attitude is: as long as i have my free gun (that is lost so often) and i can drive around in my government police vehicle – blue light one so much better, ( sorry for all the dents), i am as happy as can be, whilst only a small percentage of them remember / understand that the police’s main purpose and aim in life is to serve the public.

Just another reason why no sane international company or person wil invest in RSA.

Can’t really blame the police. If the police are tough on “striking” miners (also read criminals with pangas and other weapons) then they are blamed and charged. Heaven for bid the police would have to defend themselves and shoot one of these miners.

All in line with ANC policy

Richmond Municipality Plantation was stolen by local thugs and crime syndicates over a period of a year leading to a loss of nearly R2000000 per annum to the Richmond Municipality coffers, impacting directly on the rate payers that contribute. The same is going down with the Pietermaritzburg Municipal Plantation. The police are doing nothing, and no doubt involved. Very sad and regressive. Similar stories playing out all over, not only the mining industry.

The police is too scared to act. The mining mafia will go after any cop that offers resistance.
Cele in any case is a charlatan of the highest order.

Plunder and Pillage is the way and has always been historically how locals make a living??

There was a brief interruption when others were in charge but it is all going back to the local way.

It will end with nothing left just a few waring factions fighting about the last few scraps.

Go for it. The end is coming closer and closer.

ANC scorched earth policy in action and full view of the “World” to see.

And as for why the minister of police is staying mum on his reasons for not acting, well as we all know he likes to keep things under his hat, and that’s why he wears it everywhere, even to bed!

I’m surprised they weren’t sitting

A rational person will expect nothing else if the political elite is debating expropriation without compensation in parliament. How can the judiciary discriminate against this crude attempt at black empowerment while the president corrupted the law to empower himself?

If you want people to respect the law, you have to make the law respectable.

Just like the police stood by whilst the Capital was invaded by white supremesists on the 6th January n Washington! Police stand by if instructed to do so. Find who gave the instruction and you will have your answer! Good luck with that!

Good to know the different warring tribes have their own militia – that apparently the police are powerless to act against.

End of comments.

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