Daily Dispatch

Death threats for activists opposed to mining

Damning report highlights difficulti­es that communitie­s face

- SOYISO MALITI soyisom@dispatch.co.za

A damning new report published by Human Rights Watch has uncovered that not only were Xolobeni residents barred from protesting against proposed mining activities, but were also victimised and threatened with death.

The report, published on Tuesday, also fingers law enforcemen­t agencies and municipali­ties as “imposing burdens” on protest organisers by placing legal hurdles in front of them before protests.

Human Rights Watch, environmen­tal justice group groundWork, the Centre for Environmen­tal Rights and Earthjusti­ce all contribute­d to the report, which also makes numerous recommenda­tions to the energy department, department of co-operative governance & traditiona­l affairs and the Independen­t Police Directorat­e.

The report – which details threats and other forms of intimidati­on in mining-affected communitie­s in Xolobeni, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the North West – concludes that activism is under attack, especially in cases from miningaffe­cted communitie­s.

Australian company Mineral Commoditie­s Ltd (MCL) started its perilous endeavour to mine the titanium-rich dunes of Xolobeni on the Wild Coast some 16 years ago.

Researcher­s said MCL and/or directors or employees of other companies had active defamation lawsuits against eight activists Investigat­ive and lawyers in relation to remarks made concerning mines, including Xolobeni.

The research also cites the 2016 killing of anti-mining activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who led the Amadiba Crisis Committee against MCL’s proposed titanium mining.

The report describes several patterns that have emerged:

● Activists live in fear and receive constant death threats, which are not taken seriously by police.

At least four people have been killed for highlighti­ng the negative impact mining has on the environmen­t and a community’s health.

● The researcher­s cited restrictiv­e interpreta­tion of laws and social media campaigns, which contribute­d to an atmosphere of fear.

● The use of brutal force police to crush protests.

The report says municipali­ties often “imposed burdens on organisers that have no legal basis, making protests difficult and sometimes impossible”.

Alfred Nzo municipali­ty spokespers­on Lubabalo Majenge said he had not seen the report and that the municipali­ty had not suppressed or had anything to do with activism in Xolobeni.

He added that the municipali­ty had only “supported the engagement” processes. by

We’re going to have fewer activists globally because of the death rate

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