Zululand Observer - Monday
Murder link to mining corruption?
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.
`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