By Rob Symons
Last night the Chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Sikosiphe ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe, was brutally murdered at his home on the Wild Coast. This has brought home in the harshest possible way the ugly reality confronting all those who oppose destructive mining activities in South Africa and in the rest of the world. Far from being misguided dinosaurs or reactionaries blocking development and progress, communities that say No to Mining are protecting our water resources and ensuring the sustainability of essential ecosytems essential for survival of life on this planet.
At the beginning of this month we heard of the tragic news of the assassination of Bertha Cáceres, an environmental activist in Honduras. Four activists in South America were murdered last week. At present Latin America holds the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of activist murders. However Africa is fast catching up. As the gimlet eyes of the mining bosses turn on to Africa, those who defend life will feel the effect of their implacable will.
Bazooka has led the Amadiba Crisis Committee for 10 years since it was formed to oppose the application by Australian company MRC Ltd, to mine the mineral sands of Xolobeni on the South African Wild Coast.
According to his friend, activist John Clarke,”he led the committee with extraordinary courage and conviction”. He was a man of peace, but extraordinarily effective in leading his community to protect their ancestral lands.
Communities living neighbouring the iMfolozi Wilderness where Ibutho Coal is applying for the Fuleni anthracite mining rights, and in Somkhele where Petmin is currently mining anthracite, are also facing intimidation. Community activists constantly live under the fear of death threats and there are currently strong rumours that hitmen have been contracted to kill key leaders.
After a recent march at Somkhele, the chairman of the MCPA, Bongani Pearce, suffered an attack on his office and had his vehicle torched.
It is all very well to focus on the thugs who carry out these deeds but we must not be blind to the horror lies behind them. The decisions taken in “respectable” boardrooms to increase shareholder value lie behind this onslaught. The philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase, “the banality of evil”. What she meant was that evil is not only done by direct intent but also by ordinary people who do not care to think of the consequences of their actions. Those shareholders, the fund managers, and the little old lady down the street whose pension is being cleverly invested to create a golden nest-egg, are the enablers of this evil. We need to think before we invest and hold those who we entrust with our money accountable and ensure they do the right and ethical thing by not investing in mining resources that irreparably damage the planet and foster violence and murder of innocent people.
On behalf of the Save our iMfolozi Wilderness Campaign and ICWA we express our condolences and support to the family of ‘Bazooka’, to his brave community, and to his extensive circle of friends. This is a tragic loss. We call on the police and the authorities to do everything possible to track down the perpetrators and bring them to trial for this heinous crime.