Gauteng and NW Province

New coastal mining threat

Fiona Macleod

President Jacob Zuma’s office was this week drawing into the heated debate over mining the Wild Coast, after Australian company Mineral Commodities launched a new application for prospecting rights in the mineral-rich protected area.

John Clarke a social worker representing local communities and environmental organisations, sent a detailed report to the ongoing mining debacle to Collins Chabane, the minister in president’s office responsible for performance monitoring and evaluation, asking him to intervene.

The report, documenting how several government officials had thwarted the Amadiba community in their fight against plans to mine heavy minerals in the dunes of the Wild Coast over the pst decade, was also sent to six other Cabinet ministers.

“The report is a stinging indictment of the ANC’s ambivalence over mining policy due to vested interests, the erosion of the rule of law and traditional leadership system because it has been the only governance system that has served local land rights,” Clarke said.

The report also alleged the intimidation of anti-mining residents and the deliberate sabotage of a closely knit community to further commercial goals.

“The whole community is against mining. Out of the 300 people at our meeting maybe 10 would have supported it because of jobs, but they were silent,” said Mzamo Dlamini, chairperson of the Amadiba crisis committee, a conflict resolution structure set up under the traditional leadership system.

The amaMpondo royal house said mining was a short-term economic activity with long-term negative impacts, whereas ecotourism could have an unlimited lifespan.

“Mining the Wild Coast is simply absurd. It can be linkened to the slaughter of rhino for their horns; the destruction of endangered species of life for the short-term commercial profit of greedy foreigners,” said amaMpondo King Justice Mpondombini Sigacau.

Xolobeni is the second-most species-rich floristic region in Southern Africa. It is part of a protected area and commercial mining or prospecting can only take place with the written permission of both the ministers on environmental affairs and mineral resources.

Clarke’s report included allegations about pupils in a junior school in Xolobeni that were beaten by the police in September 2008 in apparent frustration over Shabangu’s withdrawal of the mining rights. Three policemen allegedly lined them up and hit them with sjamboks.

“Each and every child in the school was beaten. The majority of learners were from homesteads in the affected area and knew that their parents were overwhelmingly opposed to the award of mining rights, and felt obliged to obey their parents,” he said.

Clarke said these incidents had been reported to the Human Rights Commission, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the public protector and the Cape Law Society, with mixed results but scant progress.

Mail & Guardian
June 15 to 21 2012

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