By Sheila Berry
The Human Rights Day celebration on 21 March 2017, at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast, was supported by a crowd of 1100 people from all over South Africa, who gathered in solidarity with the amaPondo people. The event was to commemorate the ruthless assassination of community leader, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe, a year ago, on 22 March 2016, outside his home, when two men, posing as policemen, shot him seven times in the head. The police have yet to find his murderers. Radebe, a well-known soccer player, was Chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and an outspoken anti-mining activist.
For more than 12 years, the Xolobeni people have strongly opposed proposals by the Australian company, Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC) and its SA subsidiary Transport Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM) to mine 22 kms of titanium rich dunes, the heart of a protected area. The people are adamant they do not want mining on their land but want to use it for tourism and agriculture. Research supports the community in their stand that local sustainable tourism creates more jobs and is economically more lucrative than the mine, with its maximum life of 22 years.
The same Australian mining company appeared in the Western Cape High Court, in February 2017, for alleged illegal activities and massive environmental damage at its Tormin dune mining operations on South Africa’s West Coast. The Amadiba Crisis Committee are questioning the government’s support for a mining company with such an appalling track record, rather than acknowledging the rights of SA citizens to make decisions about their own land.
The Xolobeni people are also opposed to the planned coastal route of the N2 toll road with its massive bridges that are environmentally, and cost-wise, completely inappropriate for SA with so many other pressing problems. In addition to impacting on their land, the toll road will enable mining in the Xolobeni area.
The recent film “This Land” was shown at the commemoration. It is directed by Miki Redelinghuys and documents the challenging journey of Rev. Mbhekiseni Mavuso that ultimately leads to the victory of the Makhasaneni community against Jindal’s iron ore mining application.
The gathering was presided over by Bishop, the Right Rev Dr Jo Seoka, Chairperson of Bench Marks Foundation, who stood with the Xolobeni people in their stand against mining that would devastate the land they inherited from their forefathers that rightfully belongs to future generations. He exhorted those present to continue their opposition to mining and the devastation it brings to the environment and to affected communities.
Other organisations represented at the commemoration included aMadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC), Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC), MACUA, WAMUA, Bench Marks Foundation, groundWork (Friends of the Earth SA), UMCO, Marikana Support Campaign, Legal Resources Centre, Richard Spoor Inc, Alternative Information and Development Centre, OXFAM, Global Environmental Trust and Save our iMfolozi Wilderness Campaign. Also present from Cape Town, was the environmental lawyer, Cormac Cullinan, who has a long association with the Xolobeni struggle.