Blood will be spilt – crisis committee
Villagers vow to thwart new toll road on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, saying they were never consulted
Villagers opposed to proposed titanium mining in Xolobeni have vowed to block plans by government to construct the controversial multibillion-rand N2 Wild Coast Toll Road in the Eastern Cape. Nonhle Mbutuma, spokesperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, accuses the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) of “bullying” the community and “forcing the road down our throats” and not doing proper consultation.
The crisis committee, which was established to oppose mining in Xolobeni, is also instrumental in the fight against the proposed more than 400km road between East London and Umtamvuna River on the KwaZulu-Natal border.
Mining in Xolobeni is on an 18-month moratorium declared by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane in September last year, following strong opposition by the community.
“If we agree to the road, it means we also accept mining. We know that they are only building this road because they want to transport minerals from Xolobeni to a smelter in East London. Otherwise, how do you explain government’s obsession about the road going along the coast, where mining is also going to take place?” Mbutuma said.
The committee has invited new Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma to a meeting at the Umgungundlovu Great Place to discuss the planned road and to raise their concerns.
Mbutuma claimed that Sanral had not properly consulted villagers from five affected villages: Sigidi, Mdatya, Xolobeni, Mpindweni and Mthentu, and that people did not know whether they were going to be removed and, if so, how much compensation they were going to get, and the logistics of moving the graves of their loved ones.
“All we see is Sanral and the ANC government forcing us off our land. We are ready to fight and defend our land. Blood will be spilt.
“If they don’t want to listen to us, they will build that road in the air, not on our land. If they are sincere about giving us roads, they must fix the existing ones and not take us for fools by bringing mining through the back door, building a road only meant to guarantee successful mining to the detriment of the community,” Mbutuma said.
Cormac Cullinan, a legal representative for the Amadiba Crisis Committee on the toll road matter, said a case to oppose the project was still ongoing at the Pretoria High Court.
“The people are still very much against the road. There is also a case that started in 2012 to set the environmental authorisation of the road aside. The case mainly says that the environmental authorisation should not have been granted because local people were not consulted properly and their views were not taken into account.
“Another reason is that when you do an environmental impact assessment, you are required to consider all the viable options and choose the least environmentally damaging. They did not assess the option of upgrading the existing inland routes where the N2 is,” he said. Cullinan said the other reason that made the road project suspicious, according to the community, was its proximity to the proposed mining area.
In the villages, those opposed to mining have been at the forefront in opposing the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road, while supporters of the mine agree with the road construction.
Last year, tensions reached boiling point in Xolobeni, resulting in the murder of Bazooka Radebe, who was known to be an activist opposed to mining and the N2 toll road.
Those close to him believe he was murdered by a pro-mining group.
Sanral said that they were continually consulting with the community and all relevant stakeholders and there was overwhelming support for the project.
“Sanral has undertaken extensive consultation, particularly since December 2015, and has received support for the project from numerous stakeholders, including provincial, district and local elected leadership and officials, regional and local business chambers, as well as traditional leadership.”
The national road agency said an independent survey in 2015 by the Human Sciences Research Council found a 98.8% support level for the project among over 3 000 respondents from across the Pondoland area.
Regarding the court case, Sanral said all the original applicants had withdrawn and questioned Cullinan’s mandate in representing the communities.
“Cullinan and Associates claims to represent the communities of Mdatya and Sigidi, and is disputing that they have withdrawn, but has failed to produce any evidence of a formal mandate from these communities despite being requested to do so by the high court,” said Sanral.
The roads agency has also denied any links between the proposed mining of the Xolobeni sand dunes and the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road. During his state of the province address this month, Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle said government was moving ahead with plans for the development of N2 Wild Coast route from East London to the Umtamvuna River.
“This project includes the construction of two megabridge structures on the Masikaba and Mthentu rivers, as well as seven additional river bridges and three interchanges.
“Sanral estimates that the tender for both bridges will be awarded and contractors will be on site during the first quarter of the 2017/18 financial year,” Masualle said.
All we see is Sanral and the ANC government forcing us off our land. We are ready to fight and defend our land. Blood will be spilt
RAISING CONCERNS Xolobeni residents are against any mining taking place on their land