Rocky Malebane-Metsing was born in Rustenburg in 1949, attending schools in the area until he matriculated.
After completing his schooling, Malebane-Metsing worked for local government. He began as a clerk before becoming a superintendant of public works in Tlhabane. Frustrated by the racial hierarchy, he left and from 1972 spent most of the next decade working at Rustenburg Platinum Mines.
But working conditions at the mines were even worse. When Malebane-Metsing began at the mines, he was unaware of contractual conditions, which made it a crime if one was absent from work. If an employee is deemed to have absconded, the mines would have the employee arrested. Workers were not allowed to leave the hostel.
Malebane-Metsing was a clerk in the finance department, and was promoted to the main office to work as a secretary of the mine. Eventually, before leaving, he was in charge of the printing offie.
Malebane-Metsing began to mobilise workers into unions, and urged miners to resist oppressive conditions. He was forced out in 1976, amid turmoil as youth protests spread from Soweto to the region. His political activity drew the attention of the security police. Being close to the Bafokeng King Lebone, the king advised him to join the party of homeland chief minister Lucas Mangope to deflect attention from him, and he joined in 1977.
He then returned to the mines, and his membership of Mangope’s party gave him a freer hand in mobilising workers, enabling him to visit villages in the area.
But unbeknownst to him, moves were afoot to declare Bophuthatswana an independent state, and the king subsequently refused to take his seat in parliament. Malebane-Metsing also refused to take his seat in parliament.
Mangope soon discerned Malebane-Metsing’s true intentions, and kept him under surveillance.
In 1983, after Malebane-Metsing made public pronouncements about plans to secede from Bop, Mangope declared a state of emergency in Malebane-Metsing ’s constituency, the Bafokeng area. Malebane-Metsing narrowly escaped a jail term, and the king was placed under houe arrest. Malebane-Metsing could not be placed under house arrest because he was an MP. He defied Mangope and continued to hold public meetings even though Mangope had banned all meetings.
Malebane-Metsing, who by now sat as an independent in parliament, decided that the only way forward was to launch a new political party. The Progressive people’s Party (PPP) was launched in 1985 and flourished over the next three years. In the 1987 election Malebane-Metsing was re-elected to parliament, and the PPP won six of 96 seats. Malebane-Metsing filed a petition in the Supreme Court to nullify the result, but was unsuccessful.
Malebane-Metsing staged a coup in Bop on 10 February 1988, but the coup was put down by the South African government. Malebane-Metsing escaped arrest and wen into exile. He joined Umkhonto we Sizwe in Lusaka, and travelled extensively in the region, mobilising the support of frontline states.
When negotiations between the ANC and the SA government began, Malebane-Metsing was sent to the UK to study public administration at Liverpool University. But he was more involved in the activities of the Anti-Apartheid Movement than in his studies, which he completed. He then returned to SA in 1991, and was elected to the NEC of the ANC. In 1992 he returned to Mmabatho, and was in the running to become premier of the new North West province after the ANC’s victory in the democratic election of 1994.
Malebane-Metsing has since had a turbulent relation with the ANC. He was appointed MEC for agriculture, but came into conflict with Premier Popo Molefe, and chose to resign from the legislature and the ANC. He returned to Rustenburg and engaged in community work.
In March 2001 Malebane-Metsing was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee for his role in mounting the coup in Bop, during which several people were killed and injured.
In 2007 he relaunched the PPP and was elected to the Rustenburg Council. He then rejoined the ANC in September 2007, and was appointed MEC for local economic development in 2009.
Once again, Malebane-Metsing resigned from the ANC in 2010, and now runs various businesses and is a part-time member of council.