The river as an artefact: Interpreting the Groot Marico and its people in the 21st century
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The catchment of the Groot Marico River in the North West Province has for centuries been a highly desirable tract of land for human settlement purposes. In many respects the river and its valuable water supplies, situated in a semi-arid region of South Africa, is an artefact that has been changed by human hands in the course of long history. Recently local residents were once again made aware of how important the river is for their existence when a mine prospecting company started exploring the catchment region for potential deposits of nickel. Geologists had been surveying the region for probably as long as three years before the local residents were told that the search was on for mineral deposits in a region that had become a desirable place of weekend residence for professional people from Gauteng. Civil society was mobilised to take strong stand against the 'evil' agents of mining activities. Once local residents organised themselves into activist groups, they sought support from previously disadvantaged people resident in the local informal settlement at Groot Marico, to support their case. For a number of understandable reasons the locals were not of the same intent as local property owners. They saw job prospects in the area. Only once the activists started explaining to the people and brought them into the ambit of negotiations, did the previously disadvantaged people realise what they stood to lose. This paper deals with aspects of an ethnic class divide in the local community. It is argued that in order to get all the residents to appreciate the river as an important artefact that needs to be protected and used responsibly, there is a need to develop a space of social learning where different forms of communication strategies are used to make people aware of the importance of the river and that it needs to be nurtured and protected for posterity.
- Faculty of Humanities