The first time I visited Rustenburg, like a typical nomad I asked people what made this place unique? The answer was obvious: the mines. “Is that all there is?” I murmered. Rustenburg is a city situated at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountain range in North West Province of South Africa, surrounded by various townships and semi-villages. Within these areas exist so many social contradictions. The city is considered a ‘Platinum City’ but the visible signs of poverty are everywhere. Old buildings, churches and other structures bear witness to the city’s Anglo Boer War heritage. And somewhere in the middle, Rustenburg is caught in the transition between the old and the new.
The urban landscape of Rustenburg has been changing since around 2010 and will continue to change for many years to come because of the platinum-fuelled growth of the two dominant monarchies in the area; Bafokeng – Bakwena (more frequently known as the Royal Bafokeng Nation) in Phokeng and Bakgatla Ba Kgapola in Maruleng. With a world class stadium and other sports facilities, hotels and residential complexes already built, both kingdoms have major plans in the pipeline to build state of the art shopping malls, in the near future. Rustenburg and the surrounding area are already transforming. The question that remains is that with the growing power and influence of these monarchies within the communities, what will the role of the government be in the next few years? Since the kingdoms seem to be doing the work of service delivery, bringing that ‘better life for all’. And what role are the kingdoms playing in the area beyond building urban infrastructure?
I asked these questions to a few people but got no answers. The questions were spurred by the need to understand why billion dollar, world class facilities are being built when people still live in mud huts and dilapidated houses in the same areas.
And yet, thanks to these Platinum-minted monarchies Rustenburg has what most dorps in South Africa want, growth and development, no matter how intangible or out of reach it may seem to the average person. A growing city with new opportunities. Like most places, there are many layers and secrets still to be uncovered.
*All images © Morrel Shilenge.