The village of Ga-Selala, located in the Tubatsi Municipality of the Limpopo Province of South Africa is comprised by some 1700 households with an average of approximately seven persons per household. The village is poor with almost no paid employment and insufficient natural water supply for basic needs. Water is brought in tanker lorries and stored in a reservoir whence it is pumped to standpipes. The pump is powered by a diesel engine though, on occasion, the diesel runs out before the due delivery of fuel by the Municipality in which Ga-Selala is located. There are, however, large reserves of platinum in the district and there is already some mining activity. However, because the existing mines are in areas belonging to the chiefs of other villages, there is scant economic benefit from mining activity to the residents of Ga-Selala. Officials and elected members of the municipality are intending further development of mining in the district for the economic benefits will bring to such villages as Ga-Selala.
The benefits anticipated by the municipality officials include the provision of employment opportunities for the villagers, expenditure by miners brought in from other parts of South Africa and Mozambique on rent and meals and perhaps wider opportunities for education. However, the cost could be high to the point of being catastrophic. Although there is clearly a significant incidence of HIV/AIDS related illness in Ga-Selala, the incidence of infection amongst miners is significantly greater. Moreover, it is common in the village for both men and women to have three to six sexual partners. It follows that increased incidence of HIV/AIDS is a likely outcome of mining development in the area in the ownership of the chief of Ga-Selala.
An important question in relation to the mining development policy therefore concerns the effects of HIV/AIDS on the sustainability of the village. Sustainability here has a precise meaning turning on the social support networks of the village.
Commonly important social networks amongst the black population in South Africa include networks based on kinship, church membership, savings and funeral clubs as well as the ubiquitous sort of friendship networks linking individuals with common tastes, interests and opinions. These social networks support systems of borrowing and lending food, helping to care for the ill, support for funeral expenses (which for cultural reasons are enormous in relation to incomes). One question to be addressed is whether the effectiveness of these social support networks is undermined by HIV/AIDS and, if so, what will be the effect of mining development in the district on HIV/AIDS incidence and therefore on the social support networks and the viability of villages such as Ga-Selala.