South Africa: Condemn the murder of Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, leading campaigner against the Australian-owned Xolobeni mine

‪Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe‬
March 24, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee and a leading campaigner against the Australian-owned Xolobeni mineral sands mine in South Africa was shot dead in his home on March 22. Below we republish statements by the Amadiba Crisis Committee and one signed by 82 civil society organisations condemning the assassination of Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe and asking for international support to ensure his murderers are brought to justice. There is also an online petition you can sign onto at the bottom.

Amadiba Crisis Committee 2016-03 22: Our chairman brutally murdered

We are shocked to tell the public that the chairman of Amadiba Crisis Committee, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe from Mdatya village in Amadiba, was brutally assassinated tonight outside his house in Lurholweni township, Amadiba area, Mbizana. Our beloved Bazooka made the ultimate sacrifice defending our ancestral land of Amadiba on the Wild Coast. He was murdered at about 7.30 in the evening. The hitmen came in a white Polo with a rotating blue lamp on the roof. Two men knocked at the door saying they were the police. Mr Rhadebe was shot with 8 bullets in the head. He died defending his young son, who witnessed the murder. His son and his wife are now in hospital. After one year of threats and attacks, we have been waiting for something like this to happen: Ever since the shootings in Xolobeni 3 May last year, led by mining director Zamile Qunya, and ever since the Christmas shootings in Mdatya village. But since the four gangsters from the Christmas shootings were released on bail in January, police have been intimidating the Amadiba community and leaders in nightly raids, determined to look in the wrong direction. For one year the local police has refused to cooperate with the Umgungundlovu traditional authority of the coastal Amadiba area to stop the violence against our community which says no to mining. The Australian mining company MRC and all the criminals in high positions who are eager to cut their piece of our land and fill their pockets with blood money, shall know this: The Amadiba coastal community will not be intimidated into submission. Imining ayiphumeleli! We appeal to democratic South Africans to support our community and stand by us in this terrible moment. Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC): Mzamo Dlamini 072 194 0949; Nonhle Mbuthuma 076 3592982 The Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority and the ACC are represented by Richard Spoor Inc. in Johannesburg and LRC in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg. For legal issues in the coastal Amadiba community struggle against mining: Henk Smith 0832661770, Thabiso Mbhense 0711099340 and Richard Spoor 0836271722.

Statement: 82 civil society organisations condemn the assassination of Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, chairperson of Amadiba Crisis Committee!

We are shocked and outraged to learn of the brutal murder of the chairperson of Amadiba Crisis Committee, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe. As chair of the ACC, Bazooka Rhadebe was helping lead the struggle of Amadiba residents on the Wild Coast in opposing open-cast titanium mining by the Australian mining company MRC. According to Amadiba Crisis Committee: “The hitmen came in a white Polo with a rotating blue lamp on the roof. Two men knocked at the door saying they were the police. Mr Rhadebe was shot with 8 bullets in the head.” This is not the first case of intimidation or violence against those who have opposed mining in the area. Our hearts go out to Bazooka’s family and community. The assassination of Bazooka is a painful reminder that from abaHlali baseMjondolo to the Helen Suzman Foundation, there is an existing pattern of criminal attacks on civil society formations, especially those in townships, informal settlements and rural areas. For years, poor people’s movements in different parts of the country have experienced regular harassment, intimidation, detention and violence against their members. It is worst felt when the media are far away and the victims are poor, black or rural, and when major industries stand to make billions in profit. We cannot afford to remain silent in the face of any of these attacks. Every one of them is an attack on democracy itself. 1.    We call for the speedy arrest and successful prosecution of the killers of comrade Bazooka. 2.    We further call on the Human Rights Commission to investigate the systematic process of intimidation that has been orchestrated against those who have stood up against MRC and its lackeys in the area. 3.    We demand that the Minister of Mineral Resources suspends all mining  applications until there has been a full and independent investigation of Rhadebe’s murder! 4.    We demand protection for all members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee and their families! 5.    We call on all progressive forces to stand up in defence of democracy.  End the attacks on our activists and movements! We will not be bullied and intend to speak out even more strongly than before. The key thing when civil society is being intimidated is to show no fear.   Contribute to the Solidarity Fund: The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) urgently requires funds to assist Bazooka’s family, for transport, and for continuing the struggle and protecting activists in this dangerous moment. You can make donations to the following bank account. Please include the reference as ‘Bazooka Cause’. Please also forward this request for financial assistance on to your networks as well as funding agencies that may be willing to support the ACC. Sustaining the Wild Coast
First National Bank
Acc no: 62157997639
Code: 254005
Physical address: cnr Main Ave/Republic Rd, Randburg Reference: ‘Bazooka Cause’   What else can you do: Appeal to your networks and to the general public to contact the highest offices of the DMR and inundate them with demands to intervene to stop the mining right application process and to protect the anti-mining activists and communities. Here are the contact details of the highest offices of the DMR:   Minister of Mineral Resources: Mr Mosebenzi Zwane Tel: 012 444 3999 Fax: 012 444 3145 Email: (PA)   Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources: Mr Godfrey Oliphant Tel: 012 444 3956 Fax: 012 341 2228 Email: (PA)   Acting Director-General: Department of Mineral Resources: Mr David Msiza Tel: 012 444 3000 Fax: 012 341 2228 Email: / (PA) / (Director: Office of the DG)   #StandWithAmadiba #StandForDemocracy Endorsements:
ActionAid SA
African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)
Alternative Information & Development Centre, (AIDC)
Bench Marks Foundation
CEE-HOPE Nigeria
Centre for Civil Society (CCS)
Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
Centre for Human Rights, Unversity of Pretoria
Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC)
Coalition for Environmental Justice (CEJ)
Coastal Links
Colombia Solidarity Campaign, UK
Common Frontiers – Canada
Community Media Trust (CMT)
Democracy Works Foundation
Democratic Left Front
Economic Justice Network of FOCCISA/AMI
Ekogaia Foundation
Equal Education (EE)
Food Soverninty Campaign
Fossil Free South Africa
Global Afrikan People’s Parliament
Global Justice Forum
Health of Mother Earth Foundation
International Socialist Movement (SA)
Johannesburg Anglican Environmental Initiative (JAEI)
KeepLeft (Socialism from Below)
Khanyisa Education and Development Trust
Kingston University, London
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
Left Students’ Forum
Marikana Support Campaign
Media Monitoring. Africa (MMA)
Mineral Policy Institute
Ndifuna Ukwazi
Network of Eastern Cape Rural Organisations (26 organisations)
Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG)
OilWatch Latinoamérica
Open Secrets
Operation Khanyisa Movement (OKM)
Oxfam South Africa
Oxford Women for Justice and Peace
Pan Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe
Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG)
People’s Assembly
Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)
Right2Know Campaign (R2K)
Salva la Selva /Rettet den Regenwald
Social Justice Coalition (SJC)
Socialist Group
Socio Economic Rights Institute (SERI)
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Sustaining the Wild Coast
The Gaia Foundation
Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC)
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
Unemployed People’s Movement
Unemployed people’s organisation KZN
United Front
United Front Western Cape
War on Want
Women’s Legal Centre
WoMin African Gender and Extractives Alliance

An Australian mining company wants to mine 22 km of South Africa's Wild Coast for titanium without the consent of the affected community. The majority of residents of have repeatedly rejected the proposed opencast mine which will destroy one of the most beautiful sites in South Africa. MRC and their South African subsidiary TEM are using desperate measures. Their local allies are resorting to violent attacks on anti-mining residents with guns and machetes. On 22 March 2016 Sikhosipi Bazooka Rhadebe, Chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), was assassinated. The ACC is the affected community's committee spearheading the resistance against the mining project. Many residents need employment and better infrastructure, but don't want to compromise their land for a mine with a lifespan of only 22 years. They don't want their homes, ancestral graves, water supply, fishing stock or traditional way of life destroyed. They want sustainable development projects, including agriculture and eco-tourism, which cannot attract investment with the threat of mining. Together, let's tell investors that their investment is neither ethical nor stable. MRC's AGM is around the corner. Sign now to let MRC’s investors know it’s time to take their funds elsewhere.

madiba Crisis Committee: 2016-04-04:Three
thousand wanted to pay respect to our Bazooka Radebe at his funeral in Mdatya,
1500 sitting for 8 hours, the rest standing, coming and going. 30 civil society organisations were
present solidarity from all over the country. They were all ready to speak
against the injustice and violence caused by the mining application. Speeches
of the Inyanga land rights movement and other social movements, Bishop Jo Seoka
and Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa were warmly applauded. In the presence of
the AmaMpondo Queen and the Crown Princess Wesizwe, the Mbizana municipality
delegation stood up and left when the royal spokesperson from Quakeni, explained
why both MRC’s mining application and the coastal N2 Toll Road must be stopped
and the will of the coastal Amadiba community respected and followed.

We also want to add information the report in The Citizen about the attack on
journalists and locals that took place 17.30.

Let us first inform that the SAPS broke a promise made
to us and our legal team of tight security and cooperation with ACC marshals. There
was not one uniformed police at the venue when the program started 9.30 with over
2000 present. The funeral was boycotted! By 11 a.m., our lawyers called to a
police captain in Mbizana and got an apology. At about 14.00 two vans appeared
from Mzamba police station with some eight officers.

At about 5.30 p.m., two journalists from The Citizen and two ACC members were
viciously attacked on the road just outside Zamile Qunya’s family homestead. The
journalists were guided by the locals to the red dunes. They wanted to take
pictures of the Kwanyana block. People came out from the house armed with
spears, pangas and knobkerries. The attack started with a robbery of camera,
two cell phones and a note book. When the group found Nonhle Mbuthuma’s name in
the note book the beating started.

Three Mpisi police officers came and asked the group
to stop but they did nothing. The beating of the two on the ground did not stop
until officers from Mzamba and leaders from ACC arrived. The Mpisi
police then put two journalists and the local from ACC in the same double cab police
bakkie as three attackers. The attackers were there to “help the police”,
follow to the station and press charges against the journalists! The seriously
injured crisis committee member was placed in the open at the back, bleeding
heavily from stab wounds from a spear. A police sat into the journalists’ car
aiming to confiscate it too!

After violent discussions, the Mpisi police had to
stop the nonsense, let the wounded be rushed to hospital and release the car. The
disappointed attackers shouted “There is Nonhle Mbuthuma, kill her! Kill her!”

The journalist's camera, the cell phones and the note book remain illegally confiscated by the police.     

Two weeks ago Mbuthuma guided journalists from eNCA
on the same public road. Three hours later, Mpisi station commander Ntlangula
called her, ordering her to the Mpisi station next day, saying that “there were
complaints”. When called by our lawyers, Mr Ntlangula could not explain what
crime Mbuthuma was to be charged for. He said he only had invited her. She
declined the invitation. Obviously, Mr Ntlangula had learned nothing from this.

Qunya: Warlord and mining director

Mr Zamile Qunya told eNCA on Saturday that neither
he and nor anyone related to him have anything to do with one year of the increasing
violence and threats in the community. His nephew Mr Ntethelelo Madikizela led
the attack on Saturday, in which Mr Madikizela’s wife, Qunya’s mother and Qunya's older sister
participated. Other individuals are also identified and charges were laid during
the night at the Margate police station.

Zamile Qunya is a director of the Australian MRC’s
mine at Tormin north of Cape Town. He led the shootings in Xolobeni 3 May last
year when a bullet from his pistol grazed the head of a man. Mr Madikezela was
also a part of that attack last year.

case is now by the Mzamba police. Unfortunately,
the investigating officer from Mzamba is also a witness to the murder
threats. Our lawyers are concerned that
there will be no investigation and no measures taken whatsoever. There
are so far no arrests of the attackers.  This is the
routine in our community’s struggle. Also the Mzamba police seems to
beliveve that they can keep the journalists property and material
confiscated.The journalist and our member remain admitted at the hospitals in Margate and Port Shepstone.

Crisis Committee:

Mzamo Dlamini 072 194 0949; Nonhle Mbuthuma 076

Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority and the ACC are represented by Richard
Spoor Inc. in Johannesburg and LRC in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg.

For legal
issues in the coastal Amadiba community struggle against mining: Henk Smith 0832661770,
Thabiso Mbhense 0711099340 and
Richard Spoor 0836271722.


Death is something we were expecting: Interview with Amadiba Crisis Committee

On 22 March 2016, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, chairperson of the, Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) was assassinated at his home by two assailants who shot him eight times in the head. ACC, a South African community organisation has been subjected to sustained harassment from local authorities and a mining company, for its campaign to oppose titanium mining on the ancestral land of local communities in the pristine Eastern Cape Province. Prior to the assassination, Rhadebe had contacted other members of the organisation warning them of a hit list that his name was on. CIVICUS speaks to Mzamo Dlamini, deputy chairperson of the ACC.

1. Tell us more about the late Sikhosiphi Rhadebe

Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was born in 1965 to a very poor family. He only attended junior school and did not complete senior schooling. Around 1995 he went to Johannesburg to work as a labourer in a gold mine. He saved a bit of money and soon returned to Xolobeni and opened a small shop. Soon after he bought a van that he used to stock the shop, and also as a taxi for extra income. He was very hardworking and did not have the means to employ a driver so he drove the taxi himself. He was also a good mechanic and could fix broken down vehicles which allowed him an extra income. So he was a businessman and over the years his business grew and he had about 10-15 taxis and a scrapyard for repairing vehicles. He loved his family and his community. He was well-known for his friendliness.

2. How did he become involved with the Amadiba Crisis Committee?

He was actually the founder of the organisation. Bazooka loved poor people because of his own background. He wanted them to be respected, especially elderly members of the community. In about 2005-2006, the issue of mining development in our area really became a problem. A local company, Transworld Energy and Minerals and its black economic empowerment partner Xolco, who are the South African subsidiary of the Australian mining company Mineral Commodities, were prospecting the land. Xolco invited Sikhosiphi Rhadebe to become a business partner as he was prominent in the community. But Sikhosiphi Rhadebe found the business to be dishonest. It was not disclosing to the community the extent of the damage that would arise from the mining activities so he rejected the offer to join them. At the time, the villagers opposed the mining venture but we were not organised. Rhadebe then came to the villagers, who briefed him on their concerns and he agreed to join their side. He said he would fight with the ordinary poor villagers against the mine. His stance was that the wishes of the community must be respected and the mining business should be transparent. His approach was peaceful and he sought to find a middle-ground between the community and the mine.

By 2007, the situation was heating up. So in that year we decided to organise and form the Amadiba Crisis Committee to formally engage the royal household, the police, the mining company and the local municipality and other relevant stakeholders. We chose him to be the chairperson. However, Bazooka became the target because the ACC was slowing down progress for the mine. He did a lot to neutralise tensions by reaching out to the mining business and encouraging them not to threaten the community members who were against the mine. But he was a media-shy person and so there was not much reported by the media on his efforts.

3. Tell us more about your struggles with the mining company.

In 2008, the mining company secured the mining licence from the Department of Mineral Resources. After we held some huge protests, the minister came to us to say she was concerned by the opposition and apologised to us for not being aware of the resistance in the community. Later the licence was revoked. However, the company still held prospecting rights which expired last year. They were not able to progress due to the opposition. They have now put in a new application for Kwanyana area which has the most minerals.

The problem is that to get the licence, the company needs the community to give its consent and to carry out some environmental studies. They have not been able to do this because we have blocked the area to those wanting to carry out such studies. This led to violence on 3 May 2015 where some community members who support the mining company shot at members of the ACC leading to some injuries. The police have done nothing about the illegal firearms being used against us even though we have told them who was distributing the firearms to the community. After the shooting, community members even took bullet cartridges to the police but they did not even open a case for us. They said they prefer negotiations to resolve the matter without charges being pressed. Similar shootings happened again in December 2015 and the police failed to act meaningfully.

4. Why does Amadiba Crisis Committee oppose the mining venture?

We are residents of this area and we are well-informed of the dangers caused by open-cast mining. The nature of open-cast mining ─ which is how titanium is extracted ─ is such that it raises a lot of dust into the air which causes respiratory problems among others.

Open cast mining also contaminates water sources. Besides that, open-cast mining requires a lot of water and our community relies on streams for water provision. So we cannot afford to share this already limited water with a mine that will require large volumes for its operations. The mine is also unable to tell us where it will get water from which means they want to draw it from our sources.

The mining activities would also mean we must relocate from our homes to unknown places. The mining company has said it will not pay for the relocation of anyone. Also of big concern is that the mining company says it has identified only three graves in the area that need to be relocated but this is untrue. We have hundreds of graves here. Our people are buried here. The graves will just be desecrated.

Also, the land they want to mine provides pastures for our livestock. We survive on farming so all this would be destroyed by open-cast mining.

The mining company has promised to create 200 jobs over 20 years. But what are 200 jobs? They’re nothing compared to the eternal destruction of our resources. Our area is poor and people are unskilled and uneducated. So it means the jobs will be given to outsiders. How do we locals benefit from that? Sand that will be mined will be transported to Durban or Richard’s Bay for processing so it means our area will not even benefit from the processing of the minerals. We would rather welcome tourism investment which does not harm the resources or take anything away from us.

5. Do you and other members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee feel safe following the assassination?

We are not safe. Especially myself and Nonhle Mbuthuma (secretary of the ACC) as well as community members. Sikhosiphi Rhadebe as we know is the fifteenth opponent of this mining venture to die an unnatural death. Other headmen, sub-headmen and ACC members have died in mysterious ways. They include a well-known local leader known as Balashelele who was also a vocal member of the ACC. We are deep in rural areas so these things are not reported by the media. For a very long time we have heard rumours that there are intentions to get rid of the leadership of the ACC. So death is something we are expecting because of the hostility. We cannot do much about it.

6. What can civil society organisations do to support the Amadiba Crisis Committee?

First we need to push for a proper investigation into the killing of Sikhosiphi Rhadebe. We are not going to retaliate. The murder case has been taken over by the country’s top investigations directorate, the Hawks. So we need to watch it carefully and publicise this to ensure we get justice for Sikhosiphi Rhadebe and what he stood for.

We were amazed by the solidarity of South African civil society who came out in our support by condemning the killing of Sikhosiphi Rhadebe and who attended his funeral in their huge numbers. It was humbling.

The ACC has also resolved to continue the work that Sikhosiphi Rhadebe was spearheading. The best tool for us is publicity. We are not in an urban setting so most of what we do goes unreported. We do not have the resources to match the propaganda levels of the mine. For example after the burial, a journalist and a photographer and two members of the ACC who were showing them the area were attacked and are hospitalised. This has not been publicised much.

We also need assistance with devising a legal strategy to fight the mine’s applications. We need to get the law to work for us because at the moment we do not really know if we can approach the court and under what circumstances.

• Contact Mzamo Dlamini and the Amadiba Crisis Committee on…