Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Xolobeni activist receives death threat

On 15 November, a threat was made via text message on the life of Nonhle Mbuthuma, a prominent anti-mining activist in Umgungundlovu in Eastern Mpondoland. According to the message, which she received from an unknown number at 10.40pm, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) spokesperson may be in grave danger.

The message, which listed Mbuthuma among other anti-mining activists from the area who have either been killed or died, made a number of open threats of murder against the 41-year-old.

Mbuthuma, whose native Sigidi has been one of the villages central to a series of legal victories against the proposed stripping of ancestral Umgungundlovu land for titanium, said she is taking the threat seriously. “We don’t know when they are going to strike, and how they are going to strike,” she said. “Those are the questions in my head at the moment.”

Assassinations have become part of the political currency in Umgungundlovu – often called Xolobeni after one of the villages in the area – since people living there started resisting the proposed mining. In early 2016, two men pretending to be police officers murdered Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe. He founded the ACC with Mbuthuma and others, and was chairperson of the organisation at the time.

The text message sent to Mbuthuma appeared to make reference to this bloody history.

“You are next,” read the message, before placing Mbuthuma on what looked like a hit list: “1. bazooka 2. sbu 3. nonhle.” The “sbu” in between Radebe and Mbuthuma was likely a reference to Sibusiso Mqadi, the ACC chairperson who died in Durban’s Albert Luthuli Hospital on 8 November after experiencing severe inflammation of his abdominal cavity. Early signs suggest it was unlikely the result of toxins, but other anti-mining activists remain sceptical and open to the possibility that Mqadi may have been poisoned.

‘The cowardice of people’

“I’m very stressed, I don’t understand why I have been harassed,” said Mbuthuma. “I thought that I will manage the death of S’bu [Mqadi], but this changes my mood completely. It makes me furious and angry. What makes me angry is the cowardice of people. If [the sender of the text message] can show up to show they are not a coward. If the mining is a good thing, why can’t you speak up?”

Resistance has long been a deadly business for the often-impoverished activists and communities who stand up to mining corporations. But the threat on Mbuthuma’s life comes at a time when defiance at a grassroots level appears to have become particularly dangerous. Less than a month ago, on 22 October, 62-year-old Fikile Ntshangase, who opposed the expansion of an anthracite mine in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was murdered.

In a rough translation, the message to Mbuthuma went on to say, “You are all going to be killed, including your man with the beard, because you and that man of yours with beard are witches.” While it remains uncertain who the bearded man might be, the final lines of the message could not be clearer: “You will run out of money for paying for security and we will get you. We are not going to be controlled by a bitch. Once you change your security, we will strike.”

The threat appears to be a reference to the private security guards that Mbuthuma and others in the ACC, like members of other social movements in the country, were forced to enlist after the murder of Radebe and other death threats.

New Frame is waiting on details regarding what steps are being taken after the threats were reported at the Port Edward police station. We can confirm that the South African Police Service, along with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, is investigating a case regarding Mbuthuma.

This article was first published on New Frame

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Dennis Webster
Dennis Webster has a research background in labour, land and housing. He writes about cities, farmwork and popular politics in rural areas.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Hawkish Reserve Bank sees South Africa edge towards a rates...

Analysts say the Reserve Bank could start tightening monetary policy as early as next month

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

More top stories

Hawkish Reserve Bank sees South Africa edge towards a rates...

Analysts say the Reserve Bank could start tightening monetary policy as early as next month

Lucas Radebe: ‘My football career began behind my parents’ back’

Soccer legend Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe is a busy man, but he made time in his hectic schedule to speak to Ntombizodwa Makhoba about his fondest childhood memories, how his soccer career began, and, as a father of eight, his legacy

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

Defend journalists and media freedom in Eswatini

Journalists are censored through cruel and illegitimate detention, torture and the removal of means to disseminate information to citizens crying – and dying – for it
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×