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When the bulldozer came

For 70 years, the Bakwena people lived happiIy together. They Iived at Magopa near Ventersdorp in the Western Transvaal.

They bought the land from a white farmer in 1911. Since then, they built a clinic, a primary school and a secondary school. They built four churches Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and AME. The people lived together. But they could pray where they wanted to.

The people bought two water pumps. And they worked the fields. They grew mealies, sorghum and sunflowers. The land was good and the crops grew nicely.

The Bakwena were not rich. But they had cattle, donkeys and goats. The animals had plenty to eat.

And the land has something else ­ diamonds. The Bakwena people did not look for diamonds on their land. But they did let one man look for diamonds. His name is Frans Swanepoel.

Frans Swanepoel pays the tribe for the water he uses. People say he also promised to give the chief half the money from the diamonds. Swanepoel has been there since 1970 – and the people have still not got anything from him.

So the Bakwena people had their problems. But they lived in peace in Magopa. They had a home. And they were happy there.

Today things are very different in Magopa. The clinic is gone. The schools are gone. The churches have gone. The water pumps have gone. A bulldozer came and knocked them all down.

But worst of all, the people of Magopa are no longer together. The govern­ment moved some families to a place called Pagsdraai – 200 kilometres away in the “homeland” of Bophu­tatswana.

But most families still live in Magopa. They say they won’t move. The government says they wiII.

The problems started in 1978. In that year the people chose a new leader. His name was Jacob More.

The people soon knew they had made a mistake. In September 1981 they had a big meeting. At the meeting they chose a new leader. They chose an old man. His name is Shadrack More.

They told the magistrate In Venters­dorp about the new chief. In our country, people must always tell a magistrate when they choose a new chief.

The magistrate wasn’t happy. People say the magistrate said, “1 am the magistrate of this whole area and I say Jacob will rule till he dies.”

A few months later, the magistrate and a man from Pretoria came to see the tribe. They said the government was moving the people to Pagsdraai.

The government wanted the people to move because Magopa was a “black spot”. And the Bakwena people, like 3.5 million other people in this country, had to move.

The people at Magopa got angry. They said they would not go anywhere. But Jacob More and some of his friends said they would move.

The people had no more meetings. But Jacob More did. People say he met secretly with people from Pretoria and Bophuthatswana. They say they met in the Catholic Church.

They did not let the people go to these meetings. And when Jacob More and his friends went to see Pagsdraai, the people were not invited. The people did not know what was going on.

In June this year. Jacob More and a few people moved to Pagsdraai. And then the bulldozer came. The bulldozer knocked down all the buildings. The bulldozer also knocked down many houses. When some people came home, they did not find their houses.

WhiIe the buIIdozer was busy, the magistrate came for a visit. He told the people they had two weeks to leave. He said he was taking away the water pumps. People say he said they would not get their pensions in Magopa. He said they could only get their pensions in Pagsdraai.

And so many people have left Magopa. Already the white farmers have cut down the fences around Magopa. And their cattle eat on the land of the Bakwena.

But many people stayed behind in Magopa. They say they wiII not move. They stay behind in their broken village – with nothing but their broken hearts.

In September a man hanged himself. They say he hanged himself because he was suffering too much. The man hanged himself in Pagsdraai.

At Pagsdraai, the people only found hundreds of green tin sheds. These were the houses. And they found lots of smaIler sheds. These were the toilets.

They found nothing else. All they got were tin sheds and dry, dusty land. There is no water in Pagsdraai – not even one tap. They only get water when the water truck comes.

The people from Magopa are not happy in Pagsdraai. The nearest town is Groot Marico – 50 kilometres away. They dream of going back to Magopa. But they know it’s too late.

What does the government say? Mr Pretorius from the Department of Co­-operation and Development spoke to a Sunday newspaper. He said the people at Magopa knew what was happening since 1981. He said every­body In Magopa must move to Pagsdraai. He did not yet know how they will move the people. He said maybe they will have a meeting with the people at Magopa.

He said water is not a problem at Pagsdraai. But he also said the drought is very bad there. Mr Pretorius did not believe the man hanged himself because he was unhappy at Pagsdraai. He said the man hanged himself for “personal” reasons.

(This story was written from the files at the Black Sash and newspaper stories)


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