Defend ing the will of the people
‘The government refuses to listen to the community’
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.