S. Africa: Mining Company’s actions may have lead to the death of an environmental activist
‘The killing of Somkhele environmental activist Fikile Ntshangase: A joint statement’ 23 October 2020
“I refused to sign. I cannot sell out my people. And if need be, I will die for my people.” Tragically, grandmother Fikile Ntshangase’s words became a reality when she was gunned down in her home at Ophondweni, near Mtubatuba, on the evening of 22 October 2020. Mama Ntshangashe was the Vice-Chairperson of a sub-committee of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO). MCEJO has been challenging the further expansion of a large coal mine at Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd. One of the court cases brought by MCEJO is scheduled for hearing in the Supreme Court of Appeal on 3 November 2020.
Tendele’s coal mining operations have caused untold destruction of the environment and the homes and livelihoods of the residents of Somkhele. (Photographs and video footage available.) Over the past few months, tension has been rising in the community over the proposed expansion of Tendele’s operations, and MCEJO’s opposition to that expansion. Recently, Tendele was pushing for an agreement to be signed between MCEJO and Tendele to the effect that MCEJO would withdraw its Court challenges of Tendele’s expansion of its coal mine at Somkhele. Mama Nsthangase refused to sign the “agreement”, which certain of her fellow sub-committee members signed, purportedly doing so on behalf of MJECO.
… We mourn the senseless tragedy of Mama Ntshangase’s murder, and condemn her killing. We call on the South African Police Service to act swiftly to arrest and prosecute her murderers. We call on Tendele to stop its campaign of dividing and fomenting violence in the affected community of Somkhele, and to provide funds for Mam Ntshangase’s funeral and for maintenance for her orphaned grandson. We stand by all defenders of land and environmental rights, and will act to defend their Constitutional rights to life, dignity, free speech, access to justice, access to food and water, and an environment not harmful to health or wellbeing.