Xolobeni vil­lagers are ‘tired of be­ing abused’

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

The new chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the SA Na­tional Roads Agency Lim­ited (San­ral) was met with re­sis­tance over the planned N2 Wild Coast toll road dur­ing a meet­ing with the Xolobeni com­mu­nity, which is op­posed to the de­vel­op­ment.

Skhum­buzo Ma­co­zoma vis­ited the com­mu­nity at its head woman’s homestead in Um­gun­gundlovu Great Place on Thurs­day in a bid to ne­go­ti­ate an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion to the con­tro­ver­sial toll road af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor, Nazir Alli, failed to meet with the vil­lagers.

Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee (ACC) spokesper­son Nonhle Mbuthuma, who at­tended the meet­ing in Xolobeni, said: “We are tired of be­ing abused. First, they wanted to move us off our land be­cause of min­ing. We fought against that. Now they are say­ing we must move our homes, graves and mealie fields for a road we did not ask for. We are go­ing to fight that too.

“They have di­vided our com­mu­nity so badly that it’s not only or­di­nary peo­ple who find them­selves on op­po­site sides, but even amaMpondo roy­alty – some want the min­ing and the road, but oth­ers are against this de­vel­op­ment.” Ma­co­zoma lis­tened to vil­lagers’ con­cerns that the toll road was be­ing built for the ben­e­fit of a pro­posed ti­ta­nium min­ing op­er­a­tion that the com­mu­nity had ve­he­mently op­posed. Gov­ern­ment even­tu­ally put the project on ice.

The Mbizana vil­lages of Mpindweni, Mthentu, Sigidi, Mdatya and Xolobeni are op­posed to the N2 Wild Coast toll road be­cause they be­lieve it is not meant for their up­lift­ment, but will in­stead fa­cil­i­tate the min­ing of the red sand dunes in Xolobeni, which are rich in ti­ta­nium. They be­lieve the road is meant to ship the min­er­als off to ei­ther the East Lon­don or Dur­ban har­bours. The 560km road will stretch be­tween the Gonu­bie In­ter­change in East Lon­don and the Isipingo In­ter­change in Dur­ban.

An 18-month mora­to­rium on min­ing in Xolobeni was or­dered by Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane in Septem­ber af­ter fierce op­po­si­tion by vil­lagers and months of vi­o­lence, dur­ing which ACC chair Ba­zooka Radebe was killed. His sup­port­ers be­lieve he was mur­dered be­cause he led the Xolobeni com­mu­nity’s protests against the min­ing and the toll road.

Mbuthuma said the vil­lagers told Ma­co­zoma that San­ral should sus­pend all op­er­a­tions or move the road 20km away from their vil­lages, but he did not agree.

“When we raised these things with San­ral’s chief, he said he was go­ing to con­sult with his bosses. But he is the chief ex­ec­u­tive. They think we are fools,” she said.

Mbuthuma said all that was left for them to do was to de­fend their land “with what­ever means nec­es­sary”.

San­ral spokesper­son Vusi Mona said they viewed the meet­ing at­tended by Ma­co­zoma in Xolobeni as pro­duc­tive. While the com­mu­nity was very clear in their re­jec­tion of the project, the meet­ing helped him un­der­stand its con­cerns and per­spec­tive on the project.

“It is San­ral’s view that there is a mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­in­for­ma­tion on var­i­ous planned projects in the Wild Coast area and how they re­late,” he said

“The plan­ning and prepara­tory works to com­mence with con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties re­main on track. Na­tional Trea­sury has now con­firmed the fund­ing model for the green­fields road sec­tion and the pro­cure­ment process for the megabridges is at an ad­vanced stage,” he said.

Mona said work on the project would go ahead as planned un­less gov­ern­ment said other­wise, but San­ral re­mained op­ti­mistic that gov­ern­ment would find a way to en­sure that its in­ter­ests and that of the Xolo­beli peo­ple were aligned.

Nonhle Mbuthuma

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