South African Anti-mining Activist Leaves Legacy Of Fight-back

image007Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe will be remembered as a man of principle who chaired the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and fought to hold back titanium mining in South Africa’s Xolobeni coastal dunes.

“Our beloved Bazooka made the ultimate sacrifice defending our ancestral land of Amadiba,” the ACC said in a published statement. Rhadebe, who said his name had appeared on hit list, was gunned down last week by two men who approached him dressed as police.

The ACC had successfully blocked efforts by Minerals Commodities Ltd of Australia and its South African subsidiary to get a mining license after the company failed to obtain an environmental impact survey or a social impact plan.

Xolobeni is about 18 miles south of Port Edward, adjacent to the Mkambati Nature Reserve. The Amadiba Tribal Authority is the traditional landowner with local authority vested with them. Although the Xolobeni sands harbor rich mineral resources, the anti-mining lobby has always maintained eco-tourism would be a much more lucrative and sustainable option for the area.

Opposition to the mine began in 2003. In July 2008, the mining company was granted the right to mine one of four blocks in the Xolobeni project area but after a protracted legal battle, the mining rights were withdrawn.

Amadiba Chief Lunga Baleni, who favors the mine, announced in February that drilling would begin and that force would be used if the community tried to interfere. Over 200 residents waited for the drillers, but they failed to arrive.

After Rhadebe’s killing, 82 civil society organizations issued a letter condemning the assassination. “For years, poor people’s movements in different parts of the country have experienced regular harassment, intimidation, detention and violence against their members. It is worst felt when the media are far away and the victims are poor, black or rural, and when major industries stand to make billions in profit,” they wrote.

They are demanding the arrest of his killers, the protection of ACC members, a Human Rights Commission investigation, and for all mining license applications to be suspended until the murder is investigated.

“The Australian mining company MRC and all the criminals in high positions who are eager to cut their piece of our land, and fill their pockets with blood money, shall know this: The Amadiba coastal community will not be intimidated into submission,” said the ACC statement on Monday.

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