South Africa: Communities protest Ikwezi coal minePublished by MAC on 2021-03-17
Source: Ground Work (2021-03-16)
Nine environmental activists where arrested.
The communities of Kliprand Farm, Cloneen, Kàlvlakte, Jan Farm and Dragan Farm of Dannhauser in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal Province, are protesting against the Ikwezi Coal Mine andits Kliprand colliery, which has continuously refused to take responsibility for the impacts from its mining operations.
Ikwezi Mining, the Australian company which operates the opencast coal mine in the area, is being accused of bullying people.
Nine environmental activists have been taken into police custody in Dannhauser, KwaZulu Natal. They were charged with contravening a court order; public violence; and assault of a police officer. The nine were part of a peacefull protest.
Eight activists arrested during a mine protest to appear in court for a bail hearing
15 March 2021
Eight of the nine activists arrested during a protest against Ikwezi coal mine on Friday, will today appear before the Magistrate Court in Dannhauser. Sindi Kubheka, Robby Mokgalaka, Themba Khumalo, Isaac Shabalala, Zakhele Mthanti, Zanele Kubheka, Buhle Kunene and Sipho Shabalala will all stand before the Court for a bail hearing.
The eight were part of a two-day protest where police fired rubber bullets, one activists sustained serious injuries others sustained just minor injuries and nine were taken into custody. The protest by community members and activists started on Thursday and on Friday, the second day of protest the people were confronted by police.
It is not clear why police decided to fire rubber bullets as this was a peaceful protest and this horrible incident took place while community representatives and mine personnel were busy in talks for a suitable venue to engage with the protesters. The protesters were not armed, did not show any signs of violent behavior, nor were they trespassing. And the law clearly states that, police use approved rubber rounds to disperse crowds only in extreme circumstances, if less forceful methods have proven ineffective.
“What happened in Dannhauser cannot be viewed in isolation from the incident that claimed the life of a bystander Mthokozisi Ntumba in Braamfontein during a student protest. The police brutality that we keep witnessing is a serious threat to our democracy and the rights of people to protest and express their concerns and views. While police misconduct and brutality is not acceptable in any way or form, this senseless behaviour seems to be directed or targeted at a specific racial group – blacks”, says Bobby Peek from environmental justice group groundWork.
One activist, Thoko Nkosi was later released on Friday after it was established that she had not been apprehended by the police but by the mine security guards. Local activists will stage a picket outside the Dannhauser magistrate court tomorrow morning calling for the unconditional release of those arrested.
Dannhauser Ikwezi Mine Protest: Nine Activists Arrested
12 March 2021
Just two days after bystander Mthokozisi Ntumba was killed when police opened fire on student protesters in Braamfontein, activists in KZN protesting peacefully against the Ikwezi mine were confronted by excessive force from SAPS members.
Nine environmental activists have been taken into police custody in Dannhauser, KwaZulu Natal. They were charged with 1) contravening a court order; 2) public violence; and 3) assault of a police officer. The nine were part of a group peacefully protesting against the Ikwezi coal mine. Eight were finally charged and held in custody until a court appearance on Monday, 15th March 2021.
The planned two-day protest started on Thursday morning and the group continued their peaceful protest into Friday when they were confronted by police. While community representatives were busy negotiating with the mine personnel, police fired rubber bullets at the group who were peacefully demonstrating. The police also used force to pin down and arrest the activists, among them four women, who were part of the protest.
Sindi Kubheka, Robby Mokgalaka, Themba Khumalo, Isaac Shabalala, Zakhele Mthanti, Zanele Kubheka, Buhle Kunene and Sipho Shabalala are all behind bars at the Dannhauser police station. The protesters, including the nine arrested, did not damage any property, were not trespassing, nor were they in any way violent during the protest.
It is clear that the South African Police Services do not understand how to undertake public safety policing and violence is their only response. At the protest the police made use of excessive force when it was not necessary. They abused their powers and denied affected community activists their right to protest and their voices to be heard. The unnecessary use of force and arrest on black protesters in this country is a continuing trend.
This abuse by police and the failure of government to act to protect people has been documented in a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch, which focused on the impact of mining on people in South Africa. This report called on the Department of Police, including the National and Provincial Commissioners, to:
Ensure that law enforcement authorities respect and protect the right to protest, including by not using unlawful measures of crowd control beyond what is strictly necessary to prevent harm to people or excessive harm to property; and
Ensure that community rights defenders and others opposing mines are not arbitrarily arrested or detained, including by complying with of the Constitutional Court's decision prohibiting the arrest and criminal prosecution of conveners for failing to give notice of a protest to municipalities.
This report also warned of the violence in Somkhele which sadly led to the murder of MamFikile Nshangase.
Today it was clear that the police were pre-empting the situation and came to the second day of the protest in armored vehicles. The community fearing violence decided to sit down, but still the police used violence against them after a rock was allegedly thrown at the police.
At the Dannhauser police station and Magistrate's Court, the police delayed in processing the charges and as a result bail could not be granted, which means the activists will spend the entire weekend in jail.
Enough is enough: Communities in Newcastle Protest Ikwezi Coal Mine
11 March 2021
The communities of Kliprand farm, Cloneen, Kàlvlakte, Jan Farm and Dragan Farm of Dannhauser in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal Province, are protesting against the Ikwezi Coal Mine about its Kliprand colliery which has continuously refused to take responsibility for the impacts from its mining operations. The Australian company which operates an opencast coal mine in the area is accused of abusing and bullying communities.
The community is mainly concerned with the following:
People’s health is being affected at Kliprand Farm by coal dust caused by the mine and trucks.
Blasting at the mine is damaging houses.
There is no open democracy as the Social Labour Plan (SLP) is not a public document and does not serve the needs of local people.
The mine brings no benefit to local people as labour is outsourced.
Community livestock are dying in numbers because they are grazing grass covered with coal dust.
The mine management refuses to engage with community members.
This two-day protest was preceded by a protest which took place last December and where the community handed over a memorandum to mine management. All the issues raised in that protest are yet to be resolved and there has not been any engagement with the community.
“Enough is enough, we’re not going back to the regime where mines exploited our resources, destroyed our land and left us dumps, contaminated water and sick people. Ikwezi mine must take responsibility for their harm on our well-being and the environment.” Themba Khumalo, Secretary of Sukumani Environmental Justice
"The problem with our system is that corporates are allowed to do as they please. Mining companies violate the rights of the poor with impunity because they are bigger than the law.” Robby Mokgalaka, groundWork’s coal campaigner.
On 01 June, 2018, the Department of Mineral Resources suspended Ikwezi Mine's license owing to its unlawful failure to comply with the social and labour plan despite having had the mining rights for six years, and how the mine transgressed the approved environmental management programme by tampering with graves.