Fed-up with living in close proximity to Somkhele mine, Mpukunyoni communities seek closure of the mine
By Tamlyn Jolly
FOR Mpukunyoni communities living around Somkhele mine, life remains tense after pro-mining community members clashed with anti-mining activists at a community meeting.
The meeting was last week called by Tendele Mining in response to complaints lodged with the mine by residents of the Luhlanga sub-village.
Their complaints allege that excessive mining dust is negatively impacting their health and livelihood, and blasting is damaging their homes.
As the meeting was about to start, Luhlanga sub-village Chairman, Mr Thungo, reportedly called for the assault of the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association Chairman, Bongani Pearce. A number of men descended on Pearce, punching him and hitting him with chairs. He later opened a case of assault at KwaMsane SAPS.
While Pearce was not severely injured, he said he fears for the safety of other MCPA members.
‘Anyone who complains about the mine becomes a victim,’ he said.
While this was the first physical assault on Pearce, he said he has been threatened by members of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council and people are being recruited to do ‘funny stuff’.
This is not the first time Pearce’s anti-mining activism has landed him in hot water.
After organising a march to the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council offices earlier this year, his vehicle was set alight in a suspected arson attack.
He attributes Thungo’s alleged animosity towards him to Thungo’s contract of transporting gravel from Somkhele Mine, whereas Pearce and his supporters seek closure of the mine.
Confirming the ‘issues arising between members of the Luhlanga community and attendees not from the Luhlanga area’, Tendele Mining said the meeting continued peacefully thereafter.
Tendele also said the gathering was part of a series of regular meetings with communities around the mine, for management to respond to issues raised by the Luhlanga community.
‘Every complaint is investigated by the mine, which has monitoring stations as part of its systems to ensure dust and airborne pollutants are within acceptable limits as prescribed by national legislation,’ said Tendele.
‘Additionally, a network of seismic monitoring stations enables mine management to identify potential threats to the stability of local dwellings.
‘To date, there has been no indication that cracks in houses are caused by blasting or other mining activity’.
Mpukunyoni community members are organising a march to Somkhele mine, as they seek its closure.
This article appeared in the Zululand Observer on July 1, 2016.