24 Mar South African Community Leader Murdered
compiled by Ashley Fataar
Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) is a South African company. It is a subsidiary of the Australian mining company, MRC Mineral Commodities. For several years TEM has been trying to mine titanium. Titanium is a metal that has both military and commercial uses. They want to mine it in a 22 kilometre stretch of coastal shoreline along the Eastern Cape province’s northern-most coast. TEM was granted mining rights for one of five areas in Xolobeni in July 2009. There were many objections to it on the basis that mining would destroy the ecology of the area and the livelihoods of the people who live there. On this basis the mining rights were revoked in November 2011.
In early 2015 TEM re-applied for the mining rights. The local community in the area and environmentalists were outraged. Realising that the local community would not move from their refusal to have their land turned into a mine, representatives from TEM decided to ignore democratic processes and use violence.
In May representatives from TEM (including company directors) visited the area supposedly to have door-to-door “discussions” with community members. It was discovered during this visit that they were in fact armed with machetes, clubs and guns. In the process of these “consultations” a 61 year old woman was stabbed in the arm and two men were shot and injured, one on the side of his head. Following a court application, an interim interdict was issued in May 2015 barring directors of MRC’s from bringing firearms into the coastal Amadiba communities.
The following month a community meeting reinforced the popular decision that no mining activity would be allowed in the land that they have lived on for centuries. But TEM was not prepared to accept this. The Amadiba Crisis Committee, which was formed to stop the mining venture in the area stated that the mining lobby had tried to access the proposed mining dunes by force – typically by trying to drive through road blockades mounted by the community – and that people are defending their land and livelihood.
TEM’s parent company MRC then began a campaign of lies. In November 2015 MRC began feeding lies to its share-holders in Australia. It claimed that a school had been built in Xolobeni for the community when in fact the local municipal council had blocked the building of the school claiming it was too expensive.
In a December 2014 report the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism stated that “Surrounding communities are unanimous in their opposition to the mine, as it would require moving communities away from the area, destroying their livelihoods in the process, and potentially causing irreparable damage to the surrounding environment and curtailing any hopes of developing a viable ecotourism industry in the region over the medium to long term.” Yet MRC falsely claimed that the environmental impact assessment report was successful, i.e. no environmental damage would occur.
In further misinformation, MRC has claimed to have consulted the Chief (Lunga Baleni) and his family, when in fact the Chief was appointed as a director of Xolco – a partner of TEM. Lunga Baleni is not a Chief of Amadiba coastal but of Amadiba inland, a neighbouring area. According to the Amadiba Crisis Committee, MRC’s CEO Mark Caruso of MRC has support from friends and business partners at high levels of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and in the ANC. His connections have allowed him and the MRC to continue to operate in complete defiance of the law.
Realising that physical attacks were not enough, TEM then began with death threats. Early one Sunday morning in December 2015 shots were fired from a car towards the house of the Head Woman of the coastal Amadiba community, Cynthia Duduzile Baleni. On 18 December, a man with binoculars asked for the location of the Head Woman’s house and waited for her until dusk. The second shooting took place at about 01.00 on 21 December. A group of men were then observed searching for the Head Woman at her homestead. They went into the hastily evacuated houses and then fired two shots in the air, obviously in an effort to chase people out from where they were hiding.
In investigations, police discovered that Lunga Baleni was one of those who had taken part in a shooting in May 2015 when they tried to break through a community blockade. Baleni has also attempted to dismantle a community authority structure that has been in place for 70 years. Cynthia Baleni is the head of this authority.
Lunga Baleni has also issued several public threats to the Amadiba coastal community that violence would be used to ensure that MRC is able to mine. He is able to do this because TEM has openly stated that it only recognises Lunga Baleni’s authority. Further to this, Baleni now also represents SANRAL, a company that operates toll roads. The plan is to also open the area up to eco-tourism. Either way Baleni wins.
When death threats did not work, TEM then carried out the threats and moved on to more devastating measures. The chair-person of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, and a community leader opposed to the mining, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, was murdered in the early evening of 22 March 2016.
Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe’s assassins drove up to his house in a car with a blue light. Two people got out and knocked on the door’s house. They stated that they were policemen. When Siphokazi opened the door he was shot eight times in the head. His wife and young son, who witnessed the murder, are both in hospital with gunshot wounds.
Australian mining company MRC, its South African subsidiary TEM and the South African government, police and ruling party are all involved in this case. The Amadiba coastal community has released a statement stating that they still refuse to be intimidated into submission and appeals to democratic people to support their community and stand by them in this terrible moment.
This report was put together by Ashley Fataar from Amadiba Crisis Committee press statements and reports in the South Coast Herald
Solidarity and Support
The campaign for justice needs support please contact:
Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC):
Nonhle Mbuthuma +27763592982
Mzamo Dlamini +27721940949
The family of Siphokazi require assistance please make a donation to:
Bank: First National Bank
Branch Code: 254005
Account Number: 621 579 976 39
Account Name: Sustaining the Wild Coast
Reference: Bazooka Cause
* Payments from outside South Africa require the Swift Code: FIRNZAJJ
Phone calls or emails of protest can be directed to:
Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, Minister of Mineral Resources
Phone: +27 12 444 3999
Fax: +27 12 444 3145
Email: email@example.com (Personal Assistant)
Mr Godfrey Oliphant, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources
Phone: +27 12 444 3956
Fax: +27 12 341 2228
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Personal Assistant)
Mr David Msiza, Acting Director-General, Dept of Mineral Resources
Phone: +27 12 444 3000
Fax: +27 12 341 2228
Email: email@example.com (Personal Assistant)
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 +27832661770, Thabiso Mbhense +27711099340 and Richard Spoor +27836271722.