De­fend ing the will of the peo­ple

‘The gov­ern­ment re­fuses to lis­ten to the com­mu­nity’

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - MYR­TLE RYAN myr­

SINEGUGU Zukulu, 49, for more than a decade, has worked with the peo­ple of Xolobeni (the Amadiba com­mu­nity) in Pon­doland in the East­ern Cape.

He has been in­volved in an on­go­ing bat­tle to pro­tect their area from ti­ta­nium min­ing and the pro­posed N2 toll road.

He is a sup­porter of the Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee and vice-chair of the NGO Sus­tain­ing the Wild Coast (SWC). He stood firm when roads agency San­ral tried to pre­vent him from tak­ing it to court and won his ap­pli­ca­tion (in 2012) to pro­ceed with the case in the Pre­to­ria High Court last year.

Zukulu has ap­pealed not only on be­half of the Sigidi and Mdatya com­mu­ni­ties, but also the SWC and the South African Faith Com­mu­ni­ties En­vi­ron­men­tal In­sti­tute, so he is no en­vi­ron­men­tal min­now.

In 2006, a hitman was paid to elim­i­nate Zukulu be­cause of his sup­port for the Xolobeni peo­ple, who are op­posed to min­ing.

Ow­ing to the in­ter­ven­tion of a cousin (who has since been mur­dered), the hit did not take place, but the threat still hangs over Zukulu’s head.

“Gov­ern­ment re­fuses to lis­ten to the com­mu­nity, but con­tin­ues to im­pose its own agenda on peo­ple who say ‘no, no!’

“Many politi­cians come to lis­ten to the peo­ple, they prom­ise to come back, but never do. Why should some­thing which causes con­flict be re­ferred to as ‘de­vel­op­ment’? Why force the com­mu­nity to ac­cept what they do not want?” he asked.

“How many more peo­ple need to die be­fore the rul­ing party sees it is tear­ing peo­ple apart?”

De­spite ev­ery­thing, Zukulu re­mains up­beat. “Even if we fail to stop this un­sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, the world will know that there were peo­ple who the gov­ern­ment did not lis­ten to.

“We are rais­ing aware­ness about the con­sti­tu­tional rights of cit­i­zens, and many other com­mu­ni­ties, in many other places, are wak­ing up to the re­al­ity that the gov­ern­ment is not will­ing to lis­ten to its cit­i­zens.”

Zukulu said he be­lieved the low lit­er­acy rate among ru­ral peo­ple placed them at a dis­ad­van­tage, while talk about the Con­sti­tu­tion and leg­is­la­tion was be­yond their com­pre­hen­sion.

“They of­ten see the only door open to them be­ing through their tra­di­tional lead­ers.”

Zukulu was born in the ru­ral area in the East­ern Cape, the Transkei, where he still spends five days a week, re­turn­ing to Dur­ban for the week­ends.

His cam­paign is driven by a de­ter­mi­na­tion to help peo­ple who are un­der­mined.

“They need an echo of their voice to get their mes­sage out to the world and the South African pub­lic.”

This he tries to do through me­dia, films, lawyers and con­fer­ences.

“Fail­ure to do this would ren­der my own ed­u­ca­tion use­less,” he said.

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