08/11/2010 CEO of Royal Bafokeng Platinum during their listing on the JSE board in Sandton JHB. Photo: Leon Nicholas

The Royal Bafokeng nation celebrated the inclusion of its platinum assets on the JSE yesterday in what was expected to be the biggest post-apartheid mining listing, their ancestors must have smiled from their graves because their sacrifices have paid off handsomely.

The Royal Bafokeng nation, which has been living on 1 400ha of land in the North West province since the 17th century, has a colourful history. About 160 000 Bafokeng live in an area 150km north west of Johannesburg.

The Royal Bafokeng nation has retained its unique cultural identity and traditional leadership structures and is led by a hereditary kgosi (king), currently Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi.

The name Bafokeng means “people of dew” or “people of the grass” because according to oral tradition when they settled in the Rustenburg valley there was overnight dew holding a promise that the land would be fertile.

However, the Royal Bafokeng’s road to the prosperity that they enjoy today has not been without ups and downs.

During the advent of the diamond mining industry in South Africa during the 1860s, Afrikaner farmers who wanted to escape British rule settled in Rustenburg valley. They ignored the traditional rights of ownership enjoyed by the Bafokeng and started to survey and register farms.

Kgosi Mokgatle, the great, great, great, great grandfather of the current kgosi, realised that ownership of traditional Bafokeng land was likely to be seized.

It has been widely reported that in the 19th century he ordered young men from the community to walk to Kimberly 484km away to work and earn money that was accumulated in a central community fund. The leader asked for Lutheran missionaries to assist the Bafokeng and buy up farms in the area.

About 900ha, or two-thirds of the land currently owned by the Bafokeng, was acquired in this way over a 20-year period. Today, the Bafokeng continue to acquire land in the area.

Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) chief executive Steve Phiri said yesterday that the listing was a proud moment for the Bafokeng community.

“The Bafokeng sent their young men to mines in order to raise money to buy their land back. It was a hard struggle and little did they know that one day the company would list on the JSE,” he said.

Percy Takunda, a mineral analyst at Imara SP Reid, said the listing attracted a lot of appetite among investors. “The share price opened at higher than the ruling price of R60.50 this morning.

“It seems like there is an appetite among investors and the market is very excited,” he said.

The listing will be a springboard for growth for one of the richest tribes in the world, comprising 300 000 Setswana speaking people with an array of mining assets.

The Royal Bafokeng nation owns 13 percent of shares in Impala Platinum, it is the majority owner of the new Bafokeng Rasimone platinum mine with 67 percent of shares, 29 percent of Merafe Resources, and 65 percent of SA Coal Mining.

The nation also owns a 2 percent stake in Vodacom.

Financial assets make up the smallest asset class in the investment portfolio.

Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH) owns 25.1 percent of Zurich Insurance Company South Africa. Zurich is the third-largest short-term insurer in South Africa.

A minerals analyst commended the listing of RBPlat. “It’s positive, they have a good empowerment model and a lot of people should admire the work of the Royal Bafokeng,” he said.

RBPlat board member Kgomotso Moroka said the board members were pleased with the listing.

“We are happy with the listing, it has been hard work to get to this point, and we are pleased with the risk confidence of investors,” she said.

The community also has its finger in the manufacturing pie, with 20 percent ownership in Astrapak, the country’s largest plastic packing group, 51 percent in Bafokeng Concor Technicrete, a joint venture with Concor Technicrete (with 49 percent), one of the largest manufacturers of precast concrete products in the southern Africa region.

The Royal Bafokeng nation also owns 12.4 percent in Metair Investments, with seven operating subsidiaries and two associate companies manufacturing products primarily for the automotive industry.

The community invested as much as R600 million in World Cup projects, building a high altitude training centre to attract England to Phokeng, a dusty village in the heart of the platinum mining belt. The Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg hosted six World Cup games and the community became a brand for hosting one of the most popular soccer teams.

RBH was established in 2006 to manage and develop the commercial assets of the Royal Bafokeng nation, a result of the merger between Royal Bafokeng Resources (established in 2002) and Royal Bafokeng Finance (established in 2004).

RBH functions as a community-based investment company whose investment activities are aimed at generating the income required for the funding of sustainable projects that will benefit the Royal Bafokeng community.

RBH chief executive Niall Carroll said the company was delighted.

“This is the first step in a long road that lies ahead. The company will be stronger, but it’s now up to our chief executive to put in more hard work,” he said.

The aim of RBH is to become a leading community-based investment finance company. It strives to improve the economic wellbeing and quality of life of all stakeholders by investing in businesses that will generate exceptional economic returns in the long term so as to enable the company to contribute directly to the sustained upliftment of the Royal Bafokeng community.- Dineo Matomela