Zululand Observer - Monday

Murder link to mining corruption?

- Dave Savides

MINING−related issues that include corruption accusation­s are behind a number of high profile murders in the region. At least one noted activist is in hiding, in fear for his life as he stands for the rights of communitie­s threatened with imminent displaceme­nt from land reportedly earmarked for mining. That´s the stated view of respected human rights defender Mary de Haas, who says what has happened at Mpembeni is now threatenin­g to transpire in the Lake Cubhu area near eSikhaleni. `In leading opposition to attempts to move Mpembeni residents for mining−related reasons, Vumani Shandu enjoys the support of many residents whose rights are threatened,´ De Haas said on Thursday. `In Mpembeni, kwaDube near Richards Bay, an unknown number of families were persuaded to vacate their lands and move elsewhere to make way for mining operations, allegedly with minimal compensati­on. `Recently, residents around Lake Cubhu have been told by persons associated with the Traditiona­l Authority that they will need to move for `oil´. `They have seen what has happened to those who moved for RBM operations, and they are determined to oppose relocation, and losing their homesteads, gardens and grazing,´ states De Haas.


`Vumani Shandu was among those who, in early July 2018, were planning a public protest. `However, after two men ˘ one a close associate and the other a relative ˘ were shot dead, and fearing for his safety, he went into hiding out of the area. `The murder of Geshege Nkwenyana on 10 July was followed by the assassinat­ion of Mthuthuko Dladla three days later. Both men were killed while returning to Mpembeni from Richards Bay. `Further killings followed: Khaya Ncube died on16 September and Keke Ngwane was shot dead at the Esikhawini mall in the middle of the day on 26 September. `Wiseman Hadebe died in a hail of around 15 bullets at Ngwelezana, while waiting for a lift to work; he had left Mpembeni after a close associate had been killed and he had been warned he was also a marked man. `Mandlankos­i Makhoba, chairperso­n of the local Small Business Associatio­n, was shot dead on 13 December. `There have been at least three other attempted murders. When Hadebe, a train driver and member of a respected local family was killed, the Empangeni SAPS fed what Mpembeni residents claim is `fake news´ to the media. `Allusions were made to a supposed `shootout´ and a `rumour´ that the deceased had been involved in gangsteris­m,´ says the political analyst and Violence Monitor author. `On 10 October, Vumani Shandu miraculous­ly survived an assassinat­ion attempt in the area in which he is in hiding. `Shortly before Christmas he received an anonymous text message threatenin­g to kill him and/or his family. The eSikhaleni SAPS are to be commended for deploying patrols in the vicinity of the family home.´ De Haas says various Mpembeni residents claim the only reason they have been given when told they must move is that it is for `oil mining´, sometimes naming an overseas country. `For the past six months all attempts to find out what the plans are for the area have drawn a blank. `There have been no responses to letters to the office of the National Minister for Mineral Resources, the KZN Premier, the MEC for Finance, sundry Parliament­ary Portfolio Committees in Cape Town and those sent to the provincial Head of Department and MEC for CoGTA,´ claims De Haas.

No answers

`Government department­s have been told how serious the situation is, yet they remain silent while people continue to die. `Piecing together informatio­n from various sources, it seems that corruption lies at the heart of these killings. `Some of those who have died knew of gross corruption relating to tender allocation, and alleged serious corruption in the Traditiona­l Authority. `It is believed that the proposed new mining− related activities will bring further, extremely lucrative, business opportunit­ies for those who have already cornered the tender market −which may be the motive for the eliminatio­n of people who are opposing moving to make way for them. `The killings are, without doubt, the work of trained hit men and strange vehicles seen in the area have false number plates. `The lives of Vumani Shandu ˘ who continues to duck and dive for cover in different locations ˘ and his family are in grave danger. `This situation, including the shroud of secrecy which envelopes it, cannot be allowed to continue,´ says De Haas.

Violence Monitor calls for ‘cloak of secrecy’ to be lifted

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