MAC: Mines and Communities

South African anti-mining activist assassinated in Xolobeni

Published by MAC on 2016-03-26
Source: Statements, Guardian, South Coast Herald (2016-03-25)

Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, the chairman of Amadiba Crisis Committee, was gunned down at his home in Xolobeni on South Africa’s Wild Coast.

A background movie on the struggle is available here, as is a book here.

A petition on the proposed project, involving Australian-owned mining company, Mineral Commodities Limited - who deny any involvement in the killings - can be accessed at: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Investors_of_Mineral_commodities_LTD_MRC_Stop_forced_mining_on_South_Africas_Wild_Coast/

For previous article on MAC see: South Africa's Wild Coast community renews mining fight

Our chairman brutally murdered

Amadiba Crisis Committee Press release

22 March 2016

We are shocked to tell the public that , Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe from Mdatya village in Amadiba, was brutally assassinated tonight outside his house in Lurholweni township, Amadiba area, Mbizana. 

Our beloved Bazooka made the ultimate sacrifice defending our ancestral land of Amadiba on the Wild Coast. 

He was murdered at about 7.30 in the evening. The hitmen came in a white Polo with a rotating blue lamp on the roof. Two men knocked at the door saying they were the police. Mr Rhadebe was shot with 8 bullets in the head. He died defending his young son, who witnessed the murder. His son and his wife are now in hospital.

After one year of threats and attacks, we have been waiting for something like this to happen: Ever since the shootings in Xolobeni 3 May last year, led by mining director Zamile Qunya, and ever since the Christmas shootings in Mdatya village. But since the four gangsters from the Christmas shootings were released on bail in January, police have been intimidating the Amadiba community and leaders in nightly raids, determined to look in the wrong direction. For one year the local police has refused to cooperate with the Umgungundlovu traditional authority of the coastal Amadiba area to stop the violence against our community which says no to mining.  

The Australian mining company MIneral resource Commodities (MRC) and all the criminals in high positions who are eager to cut their piece of our land and fill their pockets with blood money, shall know this: 

The Amadiba coastal community will not be intimidated into submission.  

Imining ayiphumeleli!

We appeal to democratic South Africans to support our community and stand by us in this terrible moment.  

Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC): 

Mzamo Dlamini 072 194 0949; Nonhle Mbuthuma 076 3592982

The Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority and the ACC are represented by Richard Spoor Inc. in Johannesburg and LRC in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg. For legal issues in the coastal Amadiba community struggle against mining: Henk Smith 0832661770, Thabiso Mbhense 0711099340 and Richard Spoor 0836271722.


Anti-mining activist killed in ‘blue light’ hit

TMG Digital

23 March 2016

A community group opposed to mining on the “ancestral land of Amadiba on the Wild Coast” said its leader was killed by hit men claiming to be police officers on Tuesday night.

“We are shocked to tell the public that the chairman of (the) Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC)‚ Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe‚ from Mdatya village in Amadiba‚ was brutally assassinated tonight outside his house in Lurholweni township‚” a statement said.

“He died defending his young son‚ who witnessed the murder. His son and his wife are now in hospital.

“Our beloved Bazooka made the ultimate sacrifice defending our ancestral land of Amadiba on the Wild Coast.”

The statement said the “hit men came in a white Polo with a rotating blue lamp on the roof” at about 7.30 on Tuesday night.

“Two men knocked at the door saying they were the police. Rhadebe was shot with eight bullets in the head.”

Tensions between factions for and against dune mining in the area have become increasingly violent. The ACC was formed to oppose the project.

“After one year of threats and attacks‚ we have been waiting for something like this to happen‚” the committee’s statement said.

“The Amadiba coastal community will not be intimidated into submission.”

When contacted by TMG Digital‚ Eastern Cape police said they would comment at a later stage.


Australian mining company denies role in murder of South African activist

Campaigners claim death of Sikhosiphi Rhadebe is an escalation of violence against opponents of a mine owned by Perth’s Mineral Commodities Limited

Joshua Robertson

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/australian-mining-company-denies-role-in-of-south-african-activist

25 March 2016

An Australian-owned mining company has denied any link to the murder of an activist leading a campaign against its plans to mine titanium in South Africa.

Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was gunned down at his home in Xolobeni on South Africa’s Wild Coast on Tuesday, in what fellow activists claimed was an escalation of violence and intimidation against local opponents of a mine owned by Perth-based Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC).

MRC, which has repeatedly denied inciting violence involving its supporters, said it was “in no way implicated in any form whatsoever in this incident”.

Mzamo Dlamini is a fellow activist who believes he is among the “prime targets” on the anti-mining Amadiba crisis committee following Rhadebe’s death.

Despite fearing for his life, Dlamini vowed to continue organising resistance to a project that campaigners said would force the relocation of an estimated 100 households and up to 1,000 people.

“The assassination affects us all,” he said. “There will be more Bazookas long after we have died.”

Six people associated with the mining venture were subject to court orders last May after a clash over land access, during which a TEM director fired a “warning shot” in the air.

Four people, including an alleged employee of another MRC mine at Tormin, are due to face court next month over alleged assault and intimidation, including with firearms, of mining opponents in Xolobeni in December. These allegations are yet to come before a court and there is no suggestion these or any other employees were involved in Rhadebe’s murder.

Unathi Ximbi, the defence lawyer engaged by TEM to act in the first case, is also representing the men in the second. He told Guardian Australia the company had neither arranged nor paid for their defence. Ximbi said he could not recall whether any of them were company employees.

Rhadebe was shot eight times in the head in front of his son, who told investigators the killers had posed as police.

Less than two hours before his death, Rhadebe called fellow committee member Nonhle Mbuthuma to check on her safety, telling her there was a “hit list” that included both of them and Dlamini.

MRC in a statement said it was “not in a position to comment with any authority on the incident” but any claims it was in any way implicated were “simply unfounded”.

“Despite our own internal enquiries, we are no further informed as to any of the specific facts surrounding this incident other than what has been reported,” it said.

“The company does not condone violence in any form and it is tragic that a man has lost his life regardless of the circumstances, which … are yet to be established.

“This company will not engage in any activity that incites violence.

“The company will cooperate fully with any investigations into this incident and takes this opportunity to extend its condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr Sikhosiphi Rhadebe.”

MRC’s executive chairman, Mark Caruso, did not respond to specific questions from Guardian Australia.
Why is it left to US NGOs to expose Australian mining's wrongdoing in Africa?

Dlamini said he had reservations about the polic investigation after committee members and mining opponents were targeted in repeat raids looking for weapons following provocation by pro-mining “thugs”.

“I don’t see [police] doing anything about it at all,” he said.

Dlamini called on Caruso to act by dismissing any employee of TEM or Xolco linked to violence and intimidation of the company’s critics.

“Bazooka has been brokering peace” Dlamini said. “He met his [Caruso’s] brother Patrick Caruso to discuss the problems, who said they did not support the violence.

“They made us to understand they did not want violence, they want peace and then to develop the area. But ... people here are being killed.”

Lawyer Henk Smith of the Legal Resources Centre, which has acted for landholders opposing MRC’s Tormin mine, said the killing of Rhadebe, a “principled democrat”, had likely ended the prospect of conciliation meetings between the miner and its opponents.

“I think the company has made a few statements condemning the violence but it comes after the event and the company has never taken any steps to encourage conciliation or mediation or consultation even a meeting,” Smith said.

“In fact the company shies away from meeting the community which as a result, there’ll be little chance of simply starting a process of meetings now.

“The company is in effect refusing to accept that it’s got to negotiate with the community and are relying on an interpretation of the law in South Africa that they must consult affected people about mitigation of environmental impact and their responsibility goes no further.

“For the rest, they’ve got [to] swallow what the company offers.”


Xolobeni family attacked

The ongoing violence is believed to be linked to the Xolobeni Mineral Sand dune mining controversy.

Judi Davis

http://southcoastherald.co.za/131027/xolobeni-family-attacked/

7 March 2016

RENEWED violence, in the form of a vicious attack on the homestead of a young family in Xolobeni on Sunday evening last week, has left the Amadiba community terrified.

“We never rest. People are once again sleeping in the bush and in the fields,” said Amadiba Crisis Committee member Nonhle Mbuthuma.

Members of the crisis committee, which was formed to oppose the Xolobeni Mineral Sands dune mining project in their area, believe the increasing aggression is connected to the widening gulf between the pro-mining and anti-mining factions within the community. The controversial bid by Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a South African subsidiary of the Australian mining company, Mineral Commodities, to mine 22km of Wild Coast shoreline, has fuelled discord between the two factions for more than ten years.

Ms Mbuthuma and her fellow crisis committee member Mzamo Dlamini claim the trouble started at about 8pm when shots were fired close to Mtentu village, one of the coastal Amadiba villages affected by the mining application. Some minutes later, a white bakkie parked close to the home of a young couple and their two-year-old child. The family was at home at that time.

According to the committee members, three men stepped out of the vehicle and started banging on the door without speaking a word. Three shots were eventually fired and windows were smashed. When the householder opened the door, prepared to defend his family, the three men stayed outside and smashed another window. The aggression lasted for nearly an hour, during which time not a word was spoken. The men left after firing a final shot. Strangely, no spent cartridges have been found at the scene of the violence. The husband and wife who came under attack are known opponents of the Wild Coast dune mining.

It is alleged that, while the attack was taking place, the ward councillor, Nokwamkela Mteki, and her brother, Kenneth Mteki, called the Mpisi Police Station, just a 15-minute drive away. However, according to the crisis committees, no police arrived until the following morning when two officers came to take a statements. The South Coast Herald has contacted the station and is waiting for a reply.

The most recent attack follows earlier shooting incidents over the December holiday period and an attack against Amadiba headwoman, Cynthia Duduzile Baleni.The four men arrested in connection with the violence, are out on bail and are due to appear in court in Mbizana on April 8.

Another development that is of concern to the Amadiba Crisis Development is that they have found out that consultant Pieter Badenhorst, who was appointed to do the necessary environmental impact assessment for the mining, has stepped down.

Neither the committee members nor their legal firm, Richard Spoor Inc, have been officially notified of this and they have been unable to ascertain who has been appointed to take over the assessment.

The South Coast Herald has contacted Debbie Ntombela of TEM asking about this, and is awaiting a reply.


We will die for our land, say angry Xolobeni villagers as dune mining looms

As leaders clash and government weighs an application for mining on the Wild Coast, anti-mining locals report a fresh outbreak of violence.

Tariro Washinyira

http://amabhungane.co.za/article/2016-02-12-we-will-die-for-our-land-say-angry-xolobeni-villagers-as-dune-mining-looms

12 February 2016

Christmas 2015 was a far from festive period for Kaizana Mbele* and his heavily pregnant wife. After repeated incidents of violence and intimidation in their remote Wild Coast village of Mdatya in late December, they ran for their lives.

Delivered by Kaizana himself, the baby was born on January 1 in a nearby forest. “My wife had complications and the baby is not doing well,” he told amaBhungane.

The terror spree started on December 19 when armed men parked their car away from the village, turned off the lights and came looking for the headwoman, Cynthia Duduzile Baleni. After failing to find her, they fired volleys into the air and drove away. The next night they returned and repeated the performance.

Eight days later, three villagers were ambushed by men wielding knobkerries and bush knives. One suffered a broken arm and a deep gash to the head; another was admitted to hospital with a broken leg.

Then, between midnight and 2am on December 30, an armed group went from house to house banging on doors, calling for certain individuals and firing guns.

Fear still reigns: a month later some villagers and their children continue to sleep in the forest or the nearby mealie fields.


The man spearheading the push for mining in Xolobeni, Zamile Qunya, said claims that most Amadiba residents are against mining are subjective, emotive and baseless, and have been disproved by a public participation process.

“Yes, there is some opposition, but the majority of Xolobeni community support mining,” he said.

“That is recorded in the public participation process. The rest is emotive hearsay by self-interested, external anti-mining lobbyists who oppose the project on environmental grounds, but who offer no alternative and seem to want to condemn the Amadiba Pondoland to lack of development.”

Qunya said at least 10 families have voluntarily moved from the proposed mining area because of underdevelopment.

“There is no running water, no transport, schools or clinics. People there are not yet civilised. They still follow old traditions like polygamy. People are dying from HIV and Aids; they have no information. If our people are not educated there will be no change.”

Qunya said neither he nor any of the companies linked to him condones violence.  The same applies to Lunga Baleni, the chief of the Amadiba Tribal Authority, which covers the uMgungundlovu tribal area – the epicentre of resistance to the proposed mining.

Qunya said the chief was chosen by the tribal council to be the lawful custodian of the Xolobeni Empowerment Company’s 26% empowerment shareholding in the Australian-owned company that seeks to mine in the area. He said the December violence was related to a dispute over a municipal ward that the leader of the anti-mining Amadiba Crisis Committee, Nonhle Mbuthuma, wanted to contest. Mbuthuma described this as “a lie”.

"... they are poor and they do not wear shoes"

Qunya accused the committee of confusing people by telling them that mining is “bad for the community” and of “causing chaos so that they get more funding”. “If there are no donors involved, how come they can afford a lawyer like Richard Spoor?”

Asked why the turnout for the January 22 imbizo was so large if the residents were happy with mining, he put this down to intimidation on the committee’s part.

He said the participants seen by amaBhungane were “civilised”, “but the rest of the village are not; they are poor and they do not wear shoes”. He said Xolobeni is far from the area where mining would take place and that no prospecting would occur where people are living.

“Scientifically, it is wrong to say people will be moved. The environmental impact assessment [EIA] will determine this. When we came up with the idea of mining, no one was settling in that area. According to legislation passed during Bantu Holomisa’s time [as Transkei leader], we must not build houses within one kilometre of the coast.”

Asked why Xolobeni residents were moved to work at the West Coast operation of MSR Tormin, of which he is a director, he said the relocated workers are benefiting from learnerships.

“I took 33, but my target is 50 people. They are trainees in laboratories, the separation plant and mining. We must be equipped with skilled people from Xolobeni when mining starts.”

Qunya said the EIA is under way and is due for submission in about April.

"Amandla! Ngawethu"

Behind the violent outbreak lies a decade-long battle over whether dune mining should take place on this ecologically sensitive stretch of coastline.

Baleni has been the ceremonial mouthpiece for the anti-mining resolutions of five coastal villages most affected by the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project. The ambush victims were allegedly leading anti-mining activists.

Reacting to the violence, the Pondo queen, MaSobhuza Sigcau, called an imbizo at Komkhulu (the Great Place) last month. About 500 people from the Amadiba region, which includes the Xolobeni, Mdatya, Mtolani and Sigidi villages, attended the gathering, which amaBhungane witnessed.

The politically charged atmosphere was clear – before the imbizo started, women led a struggle song, Noma kubi siyaya: No matter how hard it is/ We will succeed. Then came the chant and response: “Amandla! Ngawethu [Power is ours]!”

Most had walked many kilometres to attend the meeting, which took place in the open because the hall could not hold them all. The elderly and middle-aged outnumbered the young people in attendance; chairing the meeting was the 75-year-old Mdatya leader, Zadla Dlamini.

Metres away lay the Wild Coast. The slope to the sea is forested with wild fruit trees; fields of green mealies fill the valleys.

"These gangsters used to be good children before they were offered money"

The women seemed to be at the forefront of the anti-mining campaign; whenever one spoke, the crowd clapped and ululated.

The speeches were angry. Said one of the elders: “These gangsters used to be good children before they were offered money.” Another added: “They will kill us first before they start mining. We are Pondo; we are prepared to die for our land. Even in the past, our ancestors chose land and ignored a bag of money they had been offered for this same land.”

A woman said: “My tears won’t fall on the ground for nothing. You can bring your machine guns. I am prepared to die for my land; I am not going anywhere.”

Afterwards, the older residents eagerly gathered to talk to Amadiba Crisis Committee secretary Nonhle Mbuthuma. Not a single voice spoke up for dune mining at Xolobeni.

Mbuthuma said the police were invited to the imbizo but failed to appear. Instead, at 4am the previous night they launched the largest operation in local memory, raiding two villages for firearms.

Villagers told the imbizo that the police officers barged into their houses without warrants but failed to find guns or other dangerous weapons.

It is an allegation that Brigadier Mtutuzeli Mtukushe, cluster commander of the stations in Mbizana, Ntabankulu and Mount Ayliff, denies. “One firearm with ammunition was found and some dangerous weapons. We also found lots of dagga plants.” The raids were a routine crime prevention operation and warrants were used, he said.

He insisted police do not take sides in local quarrels, because it is difficult to separate victim from perpetrator.

"... try to prevent further violence"

In one respect police action has met with the crisis committee’s approval – four men, Xolile Dimane, Thembile Ndovela, Mdlele Bhele and Mto Bhele, were arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with the December violence.

Anti-mining activists claim that two of the most prominent local mining advocates, Zamile Qunya and Amadiba chief Lunga Baleni, appeared at the police station an hour after the arrests in a bid to bail out the suspects.

Qunya is the founder of the Xolobeni Empowerment Company (Xolco), the empowerment partner of Australia-owned Mineral Commodities (MRC), which is pushing for mining on the Wild Coast. Baleni became one of Xolco’s directors in 2014.

Qunya is a director of MRC’s other South African operator, Tormin, the controversy-plagued dune mining operation on the West Coast.

The Amadiba Crisis Committee considers it significant that one of the suspects, Dimane, was a Xolobeni man employed at Tormin who had returned home to the Eastern Cape for the Christmas holidays.

Qunya denied organising bail for the suspects, saying that he went to the police station “to gain an understanding of what had happened and to try to prevent further violence”.

He also said he had no connection with Dimane other than the latter being a Tormin employee.

"... the sense of the place"

Conflict over mining in what has become known as Xolobeni – the most mineral-rich of the five planned mining blocks – has been smouldering for at least 10 years and periodically bursts into flames.

The sequence of events has been extensively reported: the grant of an old-order prospecting licence in 2002; the launch of Xolco in 2003; the escalation of residents’ suspicion into outright rejection and sabotage in 2006 and 2007; the granting of a full mining licence by then-minerals minister Buyelwa Sonjica in 2008; the suspension of the licence four months later after locals confronted the minister at a company-sponsored celebration; and the withdrawal of the licence in 2011 after residents lodged an appeal.

With the ups and downs of the permit process has come outbreaks of violence and deaths that residents perceive as suspicious (see “A history of violence amid shifting sands” below).

In March last year, the company applied for a new permit to mine all five blocks. The application is still pending – residents who are against the mining have blocked the required environmental impact assessment.

Much is at stake: the Xolobeni operation, with a lifespan of more than 20 years, promises to be richer and longer-lasting than its West Coast counterpart.

The lease area is sizeable – 22km long and 1.5km wide, covering 2 867 hectares. It is estimated to contain 139-million tonnes of titanium-bearing minerals, including ilmenite, zircon, leucoxene and rutile, mainly used in pigment manufacture.

The envisaged $200-million capital investment would include the construction of a mineral separation plant and smelter, and up to 300 permanent jobs would be created.

But an Eastern Cape government study from the mid-2000s raised questions about the environmental hazards.

Water requirements would be high and there was no firm plan to address security of supply, it said, and company documents made little mention of the planned tailings dam and its “significant” impact.

Other concerns were the possible relocation of homesteads, the effect on estuaries, increased road traffic and the effect on “the sense of place”.

The report concludes by asking: Is tourism a more viable alternative?

"They will mine around people’s houses. Also, this is a proclaimed marine protected area ..."

The company insists no one will be uprooted; the action committee dis-agrees. According to committee secretary Mbuthuma, about 200 households face displacement and the farmland on which villagers depend will be devastated.

She added that it is unclear how villagers would be compensated and where they and their livestock would move.

“They will mine around people’s houses. Also, this is a proclaimed marine protected area – mining cannot take place here.”

The anti-mining activists believe that ecotourism and agriculture are viable alternatives and that mining would rule out a tourism trade.

Significantly, of the 25 or more conditions set by the minerals department during last year’s scoping exercise, 18 relate to water use. The requirements include a permit from the water affairs department to draw water from estuaries and a full-blown hydrological study.

Mbuthuma said the national department seemed to have turned a deaf ear to the community’s pleas. She said that, during a visit to Komkhulu in July last year, a senior departmental official said that “mining must occur where there are minerals”.

“We told him we are prepared to go to court to defend our rights. Section 24 of the Constitution gives us the right to a safe environment and sustainable economic development.”

"It is Xolobeni today and tomorrow somewhere else ..."

There are other signs that the sands project enjoys official favour. The mineral resources department has approved the company’s scoping report for the latest permit application. And the local municipality, Bizana, is moving to rezone the coastal area from conservation to mining in its development plan.

Traditional politics form a background, including a tug-of-war between the pro-mining chief Baleni and his anti-mining subordinate, headwoman Baleni.

Local leaders said that, twice last year, the chief tried to dismiss her and shut down the coastal traditional authority, demanding that she return the keys of the meeting hall. The villagers are said to have blocked the move.

The action committee’s Mbuthuma claimed the chief was a strong opponent of mining until he was made a director of Xolco, which holds a 26% share in the sands project. She said the mining group expected Baleni to use his position to persuade residents to support the mining.

Baleni, who now lives in Port Edward, initially agreed to an interview on January 20.

On the day, his spokesperson said the chief was no longer allowed to speak to the media and could not meet amaBhungane as they were en route to East London.

The rift reaches further up the traditional hierarchy. Villagers say they do not recognise Zanozuko Sigcau as Pondo king because he was “imposed” by the Eastern Cape government and supports mining. But they have some powerful backers, including Queen MaSobhuza and Crown Princess Wezizwe Sigcau.

The princess told amaBhungane: “This is not just a Xolobeni or Amadiba battle – it is a Pondoland battle. It is Xolobeni today and tomorrow somewhere else, and we are going to put a stop to it.

“We’re mobilising chiefs and village heads to sensitise them before the Xolobeni land problem spreads.”

"When shall this stupidity stop?"

Many Xolobeni residents insist that, because they have land, they are not poor and do not need mining to develop the area.

The view is summed up in an angry action committee statement in response to South African National Roads Agency claims, in support of Wild Coast highway development, that Xolobeni is one of South Africa’s poorest regions: “When shall this stupidity stop? How can we be poor when we have land? We grow maize, sweet potatoes, taro, potatoes, onions, spinach, carrots, lemons and guavas, and we sell some of it to the market. We eat fish, eggs and chicken. This agriculture is what should be developed here.

“It is not falling apart like in many other places in Eastern Cape. We have cattle for weddings and traditional rituals. We have goats for ceremonies. We are not a part of the ‘one out of four South Africans who go hungry to bed’. We have a life. Poor infrastructure is not poverty.”

Struggle is built into the Pondo DNA. Typifying the defiant outlook of anti-mining villagers was Mthandeni Dlamini (23), who comes from a household of seven and walked 10km to attend the imbizo.

Land and livestock are very important to him and his siblings, as their sole inheritance when their parents died in 2013.

“I am a black man, fourth generation of the Pondo tribe; my umbilical cord is here. For 23 years the only life I know is here in Amadiba,” Dlamini said. “I feel the land belongs to me.

“It should not be assumed because I am new-generation, I want to change my way of life. Traditional healers from the area use the trees to cure our ailments; we have cemeteries at home where we worship our ancestors.

“I enjoy walking on the coast. I need fresh air and we have tourism going on here. But it is always about whites – they want to drive us out like stray dogs. If we bark we’re told to shut up, go away.

“But our minds are always regarded as black; no one wants to hear our voices. The white-owned mining company wants to drive us away from the coast. But today I’m declaring: there won’t be mining in Xolobeni or any other section of Amadiba.”

A history of violence amid shifting sands

The December outbreak was not the first violent episode that villagers perceive to be associated with plans to mine the dunes at Xolobeni, though the evidence is flimsy in some cases and contested in others. Incidents include:

Mining will be a boon, says empowerment partner

The man spearheading the push for mining in Xolobeni, Zamile Qunya, said claims that most Amadiba residents are against mining are subjective, emotive and baseless, and have been disproved by a public participation process.

“Yes, there is some opposition, but the majority of Xolobeni community support mining,” he said.

“That is recorded in the public participation process. The rest is emotive hearsay by self-interested, external anti-mining lobbyists who oppose the project on environmental grounds, but who offer no alternative and seem to want to condemn the Amadiba Pondoland to lack of development.”

Qunya said at least 10 families have voluntarily moved from the proposed mining area because of underdevelopment.

“There is no running water, no transport, schools or clinics. People there are not yet civilised. They still follow old traditions like polygamy. People are dying from HIV and Aids; they have no information. If our people are not educated there will be no change.”

Qunya said neither he nor any of the companies linked to him condones violence.  The same applies to Lunga Baleni, the chief of the Amadiba Tribal Authority, which covers the uMgungundlovu tribal area – the epicentre of resistance to the proposed mining.

Qunya said the chief was chosen by the tribal council to be the lawful custodian of the Xolobeni Empowerment Company’s 26% empowerment shareholding in the Australian-owned company that seeks to mine in the area. He said the December violence was related to a dispute over a municipal ward that the leader of the anti-mining Amadiba Crisis Committee, Nonhle Mbuthuma, wanted to contest. Mbuthuma described this as “a lie”.

Qunya accused the committee of confusing people by telling them that mining is “bad for the community” and of “causing chaos so that they get more funding”. “If there are no donors involved, how come they can afford a lawyer like Richard Spoor?”

Asked why the turnout for the January 22 imbizo was so large if the residents were happy with mining, he put this down to intimidation on the committee’s part.

He said the participants seen by amaBhungane were “civilised”, “but the rest of the village are not; they are poor and they do not wear shoes”. He said Xolobeni is far from the area where mining would take place and that no prospecting would occur where people are living.

“Scientifically, it is wrong to say people will be moved. The environmental impact assessment [EIA] will determine this. When we came up with the idea of mining, no one was settling in that area. According to legislation passed during Bantu Holomisa’s time [as Transkei leader], we must not build houses within one kilometre of the coast.”

Asked why Xolobeni residents were moved to work at the West Coast operation of MSR Tormin, of which he is a director, he said the relocated workers are benefiting from learnerships.

“I took 33, but my target is 50 people. They are trainees in laboratories, the separation plant and mining. We must be equipped with skilled people from Xolobeni when mining starts.”

Qunya said the EIA is under way and is due for submission in about April.

* Name changed because the person feared reprisals


Murder deepens the mining nightmare for rural communities

By Mbhekiseni Mavuso & Brendan Boyle

http://www.customcontested.co.za/live-hills-makhasaneni-woke-one-morning-mid-2011-hear-see-big-machines-arriving-drill-fields-backyards-graveyards-grazing-land-wetlands-rivers-t/

24 March 2016

Pondoland - “Bazooka” to his friends and Sikhosiphi Rhadebe to the mining investors he had opposed for a decade, the chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, who was murdered outside his own front door on Tuesday evening, was just the latest casualty in a growing number of community activists viciously targeted for their views.

Rhadebe was shot at least five times after he answered the door to people who announced themselves as police while a blue light flashed from the roof of their car. His wife and child were inside their home when he died.

Police have confirmed that they are investigating a charge of murder. Australia’s Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), whose insistence on overcoming local resistance to their mining plans for Rhadebe’s Wild Coast home, has yet to comment on his execution-style killing.

Rhadebe had for years led local opposition to MRC’s plan to mine the dunes around his home for titanium. While he and other activists insist that mining would permanently destroy their lives and lifestyle, a small group of locals argue for the mine to get the go-ahead in the apparent hope that they, and perhaps others, might be enriched in the process.

Their story is told in the multi award-winning documentary The Shore Break and in acres of newsprint. This Mail&Guardian report tells their story in detail.

Tension has been rising for months in the area. Just two weeks ago, shots were fired into the home of another member of the Amadiba Crisis Committee soon after a protest against the proposed mine.

Similar acts of intimidation have been reported in North West, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal this year. Cars and trucks have been burned in KwaZulu-Natal, protesters including women have been wounded by police rubber bullets in Limpopo. In North West, one activist has had his home vandalised, others have been assaulted. Threats of death are frequent.

In the hills near Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal, veteran anti-mining activist Mbhekiseni Mavuso wrote the following account on his mobile phone while hiding out in a rural area after threats were relayed to him on Monday and Tuesday.

Mavuso is a member of the Makhasaneni Committee, which seeks to force Indian mining company Jindal to consult with community members and not just traditional leaders about their plan to rip open the green hills in search of iron.

This is Mavuso’s story:

We who live in the hills of Makhasaneni woke up one morning in mid-2011 to hear and see big machines arriving to drill in our fields, backyards, graveyards, grazing land, wetlands and rivers. It was the beginning of a nightmare that goes on to this day.

We approached a traditional leader who is a headman in our village to ask if he knew anything about this horrible operation. He said he knew nothing. We managed eventually to stop those machines and called for a mass meeting at which Inkosi S T Zulu was invited to tell us whether he had knowledge of these land disturbers.

He admitted that he did, and that he had agreed to it, but he said he was sorry and he promised to tear up all the signed documents related to prospecting and access to our land. In that meeting, Inkosi Zulu suggested that the community should elect four people to come to his office to witness the destruction of the agreements.

The community did as he suggested and delegated four members to witness documents being torn up, but that never materialised. Instead, when they got there, Inkosi Zulu accused them of trying to assassinate him at Makhasaneni.

Instead of seeing Inkosi destroy the agreement that had given away our land, our Induna advised us to apologise to Inkosi Zulu. We even gave him a sheep so as to make peace with him. He came on 26 August 2012 to accept our apology. He came with his brothers (Royal Family members) and with Directors of the Jindal mining company and its BEE partner Sungu Sungu.

We were told that the mining company would resume its operations. We were also told that we had no rights on the land and that we should not disturb the work. The visitors went further to say we must withdraw the restitution claim lodged with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in 1998 and allow the Royal Family to take it over.

We had no choice but to allow the company to operate.

As Makhasaneni residents, we are against the mine because we were not consulted. So we established a committee to oppose the mine. We drafted some guidelines to control mine operations and activities and got the mine to sign before resuming its operations. We called it an MOU and it was signed on 22 September 2012. The company resumed its operations on 1 November 2012.

The company breached all the guidelines in that MOU. Our livestock died – we assume because of the chemicals being used; workers were not paid on time; the mine brought workers from other provinces; and they drilled without getting our consent.

We stopped them again on 5 March 2013 and, so far, they have been unable to resume. We used those guidelines to frustrate them.

But since we stopped the company from mining, we have been intimidated. We have had death threats from people claiming to represent the company and from people claiming to be members of the Royal Family.

Some of us have survived attacks by hired hitmen. In many meetings we are accused of opposing development and ANC-led government. We have religiously reported all these incidents to the police and other structures, but we did not get assistance. The chairperson of the Provincial House of Traditional leaders promised at one stage to intervene, but again nothing came of it.

Now let me talk about recent developments:

On 3 March this year, Induna MK Dludlu was summoned to appear before a representative of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Royal Committee and the Traditional Council. We advised Induna Dludlu not to attend. They said he had boycotted a boundary demarcation meeting and taken land under his authority and divided it among Indunas who are in favour of the mine.

Three days later, on 6 March 2016, Inkosi Zulu phoned me to tell me that there is a plot to demote and dismiss Induna Dludlu. Inkosi Zulu said he was not a part of it, but his brothers were.

Then, on 12 March I narrowly escaped attack by two people I recognised as members of the Entembeni Royal Family. Fortunately, I became suspicious when I saw these men monitoring the taxi I was travelling in. I jumped out before it got full and hired a private car to quickly take me home while my wife stayed in that taxi. They did not notice me getting in that private car. When they came to get me they realised I was no longer there.

On that same day Sthembiso Joel Dubazane managed to escape an attempted ambush when two men driving a Colt van with registration number NES 14XX tried to force him off the road from Empangeni to Melmoth. He reported it to the Melmoth police, who said they could not help him.

On 19 March 2016, Induna Dludlu was called to a meeting with officials from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and with an attorney helping with his restitution claim. He attended the meeting with two members of Makhasaneni Committee, John Simelane and Sipho Dludla. In that meeting, our Induna was told to choose between withdrawing a restitution claim or being killed with the entire committee.

We know the identity of the person who made the threat. He writes for a local newspaper. The lawyers advised our people not to speak. Induna Dludlu was accused of conspiring to claim the chieftaincy. The lawyers present managed to mediate when things got very heated, but our people were told they would suffer the same fate as other people, whom they named, who have died in strange circumstances and who have seen their homes burned to the ground.

There was a threat to attack Induna Dludlu’s delegation that very night. There was even an argument about who would get to kill Induna Dludlu, with one of the Royal Family brothers demanding that he should have that right.

A veteran KwaZulu-Natal activist helped me to get the police to patrol the area throughout the whole night. We think they agreed because she is of a difference race to us.

Induna Dludlu and two other members who were threatened were advised to go to the police station and lay a charge or apply for a protection order. They went on Tuesday this week. After being made to wait for three hours, they were attended to and a case was opened, though they were not given a case number.

It is true that we oppose what others see as development, but we do so because we have not been properly consulted on plans for our region. Those in favour of mining, who probably stand to benefit personally if it goes ahead, claim for themselves the sole right to take decisions about our own development. When we oppose their wishes we are called “anti-development” and opponents of programs of the democratic government. We are called “anti-democracy”.

We are not against development, but the arbitrary decisions imposed on us mean that we are victims, not beneficiaries of development. And now, under laws passed since 1994, we have graduated also to being “victims of democracy”.


‘Bazooka’ funeral mob attacks The Citizen’s journalists

Sibanda and the two activists were caught by a group of men and beaten with the blunt edge of a machete, knobkerries and bare hands.

Citizen Reporter

http://www.citizen.co.za/1059659/bazooka-funeral-mob-attacks-journalists-anti-mining-activists/

3 April 2016

Two of The Citizen’s journalists and two anti-mining activists were beaten at the funeral of slain anti-mining activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast at a remote village near Mbizana on Saturday.

Rhadebe died in a hail of bullets two weeks ago when he was attacked by hitmen, apparently for his continued resistance to Australian mining company Mineral Resources Limited (MRL) wanting to mine the titanium-rich sand dunes near his home village of Xolobeni.

The angry mob – armed with knobkerries, machetes, a spade and rocks – approached The Citizen photojournalist Nigel Sibanda, who was taking photos of the sand dunes in the distance, his colleague Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni and two members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), and began throwing rocks at them and chasing them brandishing weapons.

Sibanda and the two activists were caught by a group of men and beaten with the blunt edge of a machete, knobkerries and bare hands, leaving Sibanda and one of the activists critically injured.

Sibanda’s camera was taken away. Hlatshaneni, who was in their car, was intimidated and forced out of the car by the rest of the group, who hit her in the head and on her shoulder with a spade and asked what she was doing there.

Among the attackers was a woman believed to be in her 80s, wielding a machete. She is the mother of the man rumoured to have ordered Rhadebe’s death, allegedly one Qunywa.

The company’s numerous attempts to obtain and make use of a license to perform open-cast mining in the area has torn the community apart, with some coming out in support of the mining, to the extent of threatening those who were not.

As chairman of the ACC, Rhadebe was apparently under constant threat by a known group of villagers who stood to benefit from the prospecting operation.

The company’s South African subsidiary TEM obtained a license to mine the land again last year after their first license was heavily contested for almost two decades.

One of the women who was demanding answers from Hlatshaneni was heard saying: “They want to tell people we killed Bazooka -, that is why they are here”.

An ACC activist managed to call the Mbizana police, but the first policemen to arrive at the scene had heard about the incident elsewhere.

The three police officers failed to attempt to arrest anyone even though the mob continued its attack, but forced Hlatshaneni to walk back to the mob after she hid again in the car and explain to them why she was there.

It was then that more ACC members arrived in a truck, accompanied by more Mbizana police.

Sibanda, Hlatshaneni and one of the activists were loaded into the first group of police vans, where they were forced to sit with three of their attackers who were “accompanying” the policemen.

The victims were eventually taken to Margate Netcare Private Hospital, where Sibanda and one of the activists were admitted with critical injuries. Sibanda’s legs were not broken, as it has been reported by Sunday media.

No arrests were made and two cases of assault and aggravated robbery were opened by Margate police.

Sibanda’s camera is, inexplicably, still with police.


Respect communities’ right to say “NO”

Bench Marks Foundation media release

14 April 2016

South Africa’s Communities’ right to say no to mining and to decide on its own development must be respected and all intimidation stopped, says the Bench Marks Foundation in a memorandum handed to the Australian High Commissioner, Mr Adam McCarthy today.

The memorandum was handed over by the organisation’s chairman, Bishop Jo Seoka, during a picket in front of the Australian High Commission building in Arcadia, Pretoria by the Bench Marks Foundation in support of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (a committee consisting of over 300 households and residents living in the area affected by mining by Mineral Resource Commodities).

The picket is the first action in a rolling campaign by the organisation aimed at highlighting the lack of adherence by mining companies, particularly Australian-owned Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC) and Transworld Energy’s (TEM) actions in Xolobeni, situated in the Bizana Municipal area of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, to the fundamental principle of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). FPIC is endorsed by the World Bank and United Nations.

Bishop Seoka said the Australian High Commission should also endorse this principle and use its influence to ensure that the communities’ right to say “No” is upheld. He highlighted the memorandum’s demands that the Australian government provide support to the police to investigate who is behind the killing of the activists who have been opposed to mining in the area as well as to join the organisation in keeping a watchful eye on human rights violations in the area in question.

The Australian High Commission was called on to ensure that all Australian corporations doing business in South Africa commit themselves to respecting human rights and the principles of FPIC. This must include the right of communities to choose development paths best suited to their and their land’s needs and sustainability.

According to the Xolobeni community, the area is well-suited to tourism and the community wants to continue developing the tourism potential of this beautiful area. This is a more sustainable approach as opposed to mining which not only destroys the environment, but also has a very short-term benefit for the selected few.

“The actions by MRC and TEM and the words spoken by the executive chairman of MRC, Mark Caruso, and his brother Patrick Caruso, to the communities in the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape are deplorable,” says Seoka.

“Patrick Caruso said the following during a meeting in 2007: ‘there is always blood where there are these types of projects (mining) and in my [Patrick Caruso] experience, you cannot have development without blood’.

Seoka also raised Mark Caruso’s remarks in an email as reported by the Sunday Times.

“Mark Caruso emailed the community the following: ‘
From time to time I have sought the Bible for understanding and perhaps I can direct you to Ezekiel 25.17: And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee’.

“Caruso also wrote: ‘I am enlivened by [the] opportunity to grind all resistance to my presence and the presence of MRC and [the South African subsidiary of TEM] into the animals [sic] of history as a failed campaign’.

“Already five major activists in this area have died over the last eight years for their right to say no. How many more people must die before something is done?”

Says Seoka: “The Department of Minerals and Resources have yet to show that it stands for justice and genuine people-centred development instead of get-rich-quick schemes that will destroy the ecology and livelihoods as well as the culture of communities.

“We hope that our plea to the Australian High Commission will be taken seriously and that they will come aboard to stop the blatant disregard of communities’ wellbeing”.

The Bench Marks Foundation is an organisation that monitors multinational corporations to ensure that they meet minimum social, environmental and economic standards and promotes an ethical and critical voice on what constitutes corporate social responsibility.

For more information on the Bench Marks Foundation, go to www.bench-marks.org.za.

ENDS

Bench Marks Foundation Contact:
Mr John Capel,
Executive Director
011 832 1743 or 082 870 8861
Email: jcapel[at]eject.co.za

Bench Marks Foundation Media contact
Chantal Meugens
083 676 2294
Email:
chantal[at]quo-vadis.co.za

--

The Australian High Commissioner
Mr Adam McCarthy

Physical address:
292 Orient Street
Arcadia
Pretoria 0083
South Africa

Postal Address:
Private Bag X150
Arcadia
0001

14 April 2016

Dear Mr McCarthy

RE: Australian Mineral Resource Commodities proposed mining in Xolobeni- Wild Coast Eastern Cape Memorandum

We stand in solidarity with the Umgungundlovu Community and their organization, the Amadiba Crisis Committee, and commit to do so until justice has been done.

On 03 March 2015, Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC) along with its black economic empowerment company, Transworld Energy (TEM), applied for mining rights over a portion of land some 22 km long and 1,5 km wide along the Eastern Cape coastline in the Bizana Municipal area.

The proposed mining area will affect at least 2,867 hectares. The environmental degradation that will occur through mining will negatively affect the community in this area. As a result, the community fear losses to their livelihoods, culture, and communal way of life.

Since 2006 the community has resisted mining in their area and in 2008, managed to overturn a decision by the South African government to mine this area. Yet MRC and TEM are persistent and continue to push their agenda.

The Umgungundlovu Inkosana’s Council, the Amadiba Crisis Committee, and 300 households and residents living in this area have asked their lawyers to challenge the corporation’s decision to mine in various courts of law. The community, as can be seen from the attached background section (Annexure A), are certain about their rights as proud and independent Africans with a long lineage of opposition of resistance to colonial, imperialist as well as Apartheid attempts to dispossess them of their land.

They value their land for its connections to their ancestors, and the continued nurturing it provides them through fruit and vegetables and grazing land for their cattle. At the moment this is a self-contained sustainable community. They are fighting for a development path that will not enrich some foreign or local corporation at the cost of the community, but to keep their land and their heritage for all their people now and in the future. It is worth noting that MRC will only employ between 42 to 600 people (it is not likely that as many as 600 people will be employed as it is an open cast mine relying on very few workers and mostly machinery) but the impact of mining will affect several hundred people’s livelihoods.

The community and its leadership are guided by the fundamental principles of FREE PRIOR AND INFORMED CONSENT (FPIC), which they believe permits them to refuse mining on their land. This is endorsed by the World Bank and United Nations on business and human rights. We ask that you endorse this and use your influence to ensure that the community’s right to say “No” is upheld.

Far from the assertions of their detractors, the community is committed to sustainable use of their natural resources and the cultivation of their land for the benefit of their people. Of importance is that only a few executives and shareholders will gain from the destruction of the land, yet the community will lose what they treasure. The community is keen to continue forming and developing the tourism potential of this area. This is a more sustainable approach for the area.

The Bench Marks Foundation has conducted numerous studies on mining investment. In all of these studies our findings are that communities do not benefit from mining but instead suffer the consequences of this invasive sector. This includes damage to their livelihoods, health and all the social problems brought on by the addition of outside labour.

All the community wants is that their right to choose their own development path be respected by all the local and foreign mining corporations, the government of the day inclusive of all its agencies, and in particular the SAPS.

One of our greatest concerns is how MRC and TEM have blatantly gone about trying to gain this right and have ignored the impacted community’s opposition to mining.

On 22 March 2016 Sikhosiphi 'Bazooka' Rhadebe, Chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), was assassinated. The ACC is the affected community's committee spearheading the resistance against the mining project in the Amadiba area.

The community and their allies believe that this death, and those of other leaders (in particular three others who died under mysterious circumstances), did not happen out of the blue, and that the corporation as well as the authorities, have a case to answer to in the court of international public opinion.

The government (in particular the Department of Mineral Resources and the criminal justice system) must answer why unlawful and blatant violations of the constitution continue on a daily basis. The community does not believe that the government acts in the interests of the weakest members of society, but rather in the interest of its strongest: the corporations.

We believe the corporation and its leaders - in particular the Caruso brothers - have used inflammatory language or even hate speech in this regard. This is not in keeping with the letter and spirit of our democracy.

According to the Amadiba Crisis Community in 2007, after the killing of community activist Scorpion Dimane, the community met Patrick Caruso (Mark Caruso’s younger brother) in Mdatya. This encounter in 2007 lives in all our memories.

The community members asked Mr Patrick Caruso: “Don’t you understand that this project leads to bloodshed in our community?”

Patrick Caruso replied: “Well, there is always blood where there are these types of projects.”

Community: “So you mean that you want to get rich by spilling our blood?”

Patrick Caruso: “In my experience you cannot have development without blood.”

The community recalls that it was then that the murdered chairman of the ACC Mr Bazooka Rhadebe, stood up marking the end of the meeting.

He also added: “OK, we can now close our books on this one.”

Furthermore, the Sunday Times reported that the Executive Chairman, Mark Caruso of Minerals Commodities, threatened the community via an email about three months ago. Caruso threatened to "rain down vengeance" on anybody who opposed him.

The following lines were taken from the email:"From time to time I have sought the Bible for understanding and perhaps I can direct you to Ezekiel 25.17, "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

Furthermore, the newspaper article quotes his e-mail where he invites his detractors to continue their "campaign" against the mine:

"I am enlivened by [the] opportunity to grind all resistance to my presence and the presence of MRC and [the South African subsidiary of TEM] into the animals [sic] of history as a failed campaign

Not satisfied with these insults, during the Redi Thlabi Show on Radio 702 which began before 11 am on 7 April 2016, where impacted community members, affected parties from the Department of Mineral Resources, the MRC and the Amadiba Crisis Committee were invited to talk about what is happening in the area, Mark Caruso continued with his insensitive stance on the topic.

The DMR refused to participate, whilst Mark Caruso represented MRC and TEM, and Mzamo Dlamini, deputy chairperson of Amadiba Crisis Committee represented the affected community.

Despite the inaccuracies of his version, Caruso appears to lose control when asked by Dlamini if he would continue supporting the killings of leaders opposed to mining. Caruso replied in a manner which we find totally insensitive and disrespectful to South Africans. Kindly refer to the podcast link inserted below. From about 22:44, Mark Caruso’s response can be heard. This has been transcribed below for your convenience.

“…It is important to note that I am not being disrespectful to South Africans. “Depending on which statistics you want to point to, that South Africans experience about 30 000 to 80 000 deaths of murders and shootings per year ... and that we should be singled out is libelous and defamatory”

With this context and the conflict explained, we humbly request:

1. That your government join the affected Amadiba community and those who have joined their cause internationally to ask your countrymen to leave the community alone and desist in mining, especially since the community has so strongly stated and shown their opposition to it;

2. That your government provide all support to the police to investigate who is behind the killings of activists opposed to mining in the area;

3. That you will ensure that all Australian corporations doing business in South Africa commit to respect human rights and the principles of FPIC including the right of communities to choose other development paths instead of mining; and

4. That your embassy will join us in keeping a watchful brief on human rights violations in the affected community referred to in this document.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Rev Dr Jo Seoka John Capel
Chairperson Executive Director
Bench Marks Foundation


Copies of this memorandum will also be sent to:

1. Minister of Mineral Resources: Mr Mosebenzi Zwane

2. Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources: Mr Godfrey Oliphant

3. Acting Director-General: Department of Mineral Resources: Mr David Msiza

 

 

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