The collapse of the price of platinum is severely testing the economic and social equilibrium of Rustenburg, the region of South Africa better known as the Platinum Mining Belt, an area where, quantitatively, more of the precious metal is extracted than anywhere else in the world.
The immediate consequence of the crisis in manufacturing is unemployment, but the crisis is also aggravating pre-existing problems such as low pay, unrest related to the presence of the extraction companies and their refusal to engage in any dialogue with the tribes to whom the land traditionally belongs and the impossibility for the local population to find work outside of the mines. Together, these all intensify tensions in a social fabric made up to a large degree by immigrants from other African countries. In this region the memory of the Marikana massacre – where on 16 August 2012 the police shot and killed 34 striking miners – is still fresh.
Moreover, general dissatisfaction related to the crisis has also caused an exponential increase of violence towards women, with an extremely high rate of sexual assault and rape. The NGO Doctors Without Borders reports that close to 50% of the women who live in the region have been subjected to various forms of abuse, including rape. For many of them, violence has become a part of the daily routine.
Text by Valentina Giulia Milani