Stop the titanium death dunes

Residents walk to a community meeting on proposed mining in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Residents walk to a community meeting on proposed mining in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Only one sure way to restore peace and security to Xolobeni: the government must set its face against mining - and soon.

This week the mounting violence and intimidation against people opposed to mining on the Transkei Wild Coast took a frightening new turn. The chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe,  was shot dead outside his house in the village of Mdatya in what bears the marks of an assassination.

The killers allegedly arrived in a white vehicle with a rotating blue lamp on its roof, suggesting they were posing as police officers. When Rhadebe opened the door, they shot him eight times in front of his wife and two sons.

It is customary in some quarters to ascribe the worsening violence in the Xolobeni area to “factions in the community” that are at odds over mining. This looks increasingly wrong-headed: the attacks appear to be exclusively directed at anti-mining activists on the crisis committee.

Christmas last year saw a pattern of brutal scare tactics in Mdatya that left many villagers sleeping in the bush and sent three of them to hospital.

  The imbizo at Mdatya in late December also strongly indicated that the mass of residents in the affected villages are not interested in mining and the kind of economic development it represents.

There has been a marked upsurge in violent incidents over the past year. Last May the committee won a temporary high court interdict against violence and intimidation, which was later withdrawn by agreement.

There is only one sure way to restore peace and security to this place: the government, which has long vacillated and now appears to be leaning towards corporate interests, must set its face against mining.

In March last year, the Australian company that is eyeing the titanium locked up in the Xolobeni dunes applied for a new permit to exploit all five blocks along the coast. The committee has lodged a formal objection.

To show that it respects the wishes of the majority of affected villagers, the mineral resources department should refuse the application – and do so as quickly as possible.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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