Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN) is a self-governed
tribe of 300,000 people in the northwest province
of South Africa. Having migrated there more
than a thousand years ago, according to legend,
they initially settled in the Rustenburg valley
region. After a night in the forested valleys,
the following morning the hills were covered
in a thick dew, a clear sign of fertile land
and thus the makings for a prosperous community.
They settled in the area and called themselves
Bafokeng, or, people of the dew.
After an unstable period of war in the 19th
century, the Bafokeng entered into a policy
of land acquisition, as ownership of land now
entailed its purchase, and Afrikaner farmers,
called Boers, had claimed complete ownership
of the land. The then king, in an act of incredible
foresight, sent the Bafokeng to work in the
diamond mines in Kimberly to make money to buy
back their lands. With the help of missionaries,
they did so over a 20-year period, and later
discovered their farms were rich in minerals,
boasting the worlds second-largest platinum
deposits and other valuable platinum group metals.
Mining companies came to the area to demand
underground rights to the land. The Bafokeng,
however, own the surface rights, thus obliging
the mines to pay annual royalties to the tribe
and provide jobs, which has made them the richest
community in all of Africa today. While the
nation has never had corporate management over
their mines, the royalties have been immensely
profitable, making the RBN politically and economically
influential in South Africa. The kingdom eventually
formed Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH) to manage
its mining interests.
Royalties from the mines
have been immensely profitable, making
the RBN politically and economically influential
in South Africa
The kingdom likewise formed the Royal Bafokeng
Administration (RBA) to work as the principal
administrative and developmental structure for
the nation, whose tasks range from setting up
welfare systems for senior citizens to creating
youth development centers. Meanwhile, the Royal
Bafokeng Economic Board (RBEB) was created to
drive economic growth in the area.
The RBN has used the money to build schools,
houses, roads, clinics, sports complexes, electricity
and water reticulations and other infrastructures,
all of which are planned and designed by the
RBN with little help from the public sector.
Over the last 20 years the kingdom has invested
over $280 million.
In August of 2003, King Leruo Molotlegi was
enthroned as the 36th ruler, and he implemented
Vision 2020, an economic and social development
program designed to foster sustainable development.
Through ambitious, multi-level strategies and
an effective use of resources, the RBN hopes
to create more jobs and transform the economy
from resource-based to knowledge-based. We
want to move from a single resource, platinum,
to a diversified resource base that continues
to steward our natural assets but is underpinned
by education, the king says. Vision 2020
envisages the kingdom as self-sufficient by
the second decade of the 21st century and aims
for the economic empowerment of individuals
so that everyone will have the skills and the
opportunity to be en employer or employed.
Plans also include rebalancing the kingdoms
portfolio with a focus on more industry exposure
and diversification. This variation in assets
looks to generate a more stable cash flow to
meet the communitys growing needs. The
RBN is looking to expand into services, agriculture,
new financial projects, and cultural and heritage
the thrills of the exotic wildlife and
the RBNís remarkable culture, heritage
and hospitality, tourism is one industry
which is truly taking off.
Tourism is a potentially lucrative market
for the Bafokeng. First, they are conveniently
located close to the Pilanesburg National Park
and the Sun City and Lost City gaming and golf
resorts, which both draw visitors to the region.
As the RBN exploit their attractions, their
tourism numbers could increase significantly.
Similarly, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace
hosts provincial, national and international
events, and there is a boom in accommodation
construction. Training courses are under way
to prepare a work force specialized in hospitality,
and a heritage trail which covers key historical
landmarks in the area is also being established.
Today the RBNs 44 farms span 70,000
hectares and are sub-divided into 72 dikgoro,
or wards, which are regulated by a headsman
and his wife, proving that even after decades
of changes, the kingdom is still able to maintain
its traditional leadership structures and unique