Xolobeni in upheaval over third Mantashe visit

14 January 2019 | Economics

A war of words in has erupted Xolobeni between those opposed to the upcoming visit to the area by South African Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, and those who welcome it.

This comes as the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) on Thursday slammed the Xolobeni Youth for Sustainable Development for saying that Mantashe was welcome to visit the volatile Eastern Cape village.

An Australian company has been trying to mine the titanium-rich dunes of the Wild Coast coastline for 15 years, hampered by stiff opposition from residents worried about displacement from their homes and environmental degradation.

Mantashe is set to visit Xolobeni on Wednesday for the third time since he became minister, in a bid to discuss "economic development" in the area and meet with various stakeholders. The Xolobeni community has been at loggerheads with Mantashe's department while waging a 15-year long battle led by the ACC against the issuing of a mining licence to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC.

In December the ACC said Mantashe was no longer welcome in the community after the minister requested for a leave to appeal the court's judgment that confirmed the community's right to say no to mining in the area. This was after the community scored a major victory in November when the High Court in Pretoria ruled that in terms of the interim protection of informal land rights, the minister of mineral resources may not grant mining rights without the consent of the community and the people directly affected by that mining right.

But spokesperson for Xolobeni Youth for Sustainable Development, Mfundo Dimane, has gone against the ACC’s wishes, saying that it firmly supports development and that anyone who talks the language of development was free to enter their community. In its counter argument, the ACC said that Dimane is one of the four accused in the 2015 "Christmas shootings", when villagers returning from a mass-meeting opposing the mine in Mzamba were attacked, and is still facing those charges.

The ACC also said the stakeholders that Mantashe wants to meet was formed by the mining applicant and that Dimane's youth group was formed by MRC director and mining applicant, Zamile Qunya, as soon as he heard about Mantashe's upcoming visit. "We repeat that we appeal to all concerned about land and human rights to tell mining minister Mr Gwede Mantashe to stop his 'Third Coming'. Minister Mantashe must stop playing with the lives of people. We cannot afford a second Marikana in South Africa," the ACC said. -Nampa/ANA

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