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27 Jan 2021

Ground Up (South Africa)

S. Africa: Five accused to appear in court on charges relating to attacks on human rights defenders in Xolobeni

‘Trial will shed light on Wild Coast violence’ 22 January 2021

A trial related to an outbreak of violence over the Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project looks set to expose deep and bitter divisions in the Amadiba community on the Wild Coast. Even close family members have been caught up on opposite sides of the cycle of violence, and to date, there have not been any notable prosecutions. But this could change after 11 February when five accused stand trial in the Bizana Magistrates Court on charges ranging from attempted murder, assault to do grievous bodily harm, vandalism, housebreaking and theft. Their victims were allegedly people opposed to the mining plans, including Tholozani Dlamini, who now suffers from a crippled leg.

The mining plans are spearheaded by the Australian mining company, Mineral Commodities Ltd. It describes the Xolobeni Project as “one of the largest undeveloped mineral sands resources in the world”. The sand dunes along the proposed mining area – a 22km stretch of pristine coastline stretching from the Mtentu Estuary in the south to Mzamba mouth near Port Edward in the north, are said to contain more than 9,000,000 tons of ilmenite, titanium-iron oxide mineral, as well as rutile, zircon and leucoxene. For more than ten years the mining plans have been strongly supported by South Africa’s ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, several businessmen, black empowerment partners and the political elite in the Bizana district municipality. They argue that it will bring economic upliftment and huge benefits to people in the Amadiba district - one of the poorest regions of South Africa where people are largely dependent on subsistence agriculture.

…In the meantime, the Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project has been put on hold following a ruling by Judge Annali Basson of the Pretoria High Court stating that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, could not grant mining rights without first obtaining the full and formal consent of the people in the community. Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, subsequently lodged an application for leave to appeal, but has yet to pursue this. Mantashe also said the department would conduct a comprehensive survey to establish how many people living in the area were in support or opposed to the mining. The department has yet to respond to GroundUp’s queries, submitted in November last year, on the status of this proposed survey.