S. Africa: Activists argue the system was used against them as form of intimidation as criminal charges are dropped
‘Case Against Activists Fighting Ikwezi Coal Mine in Newcastle Withdrawn’ 1 July 2021
The three [Zanele Kubheka, Sindi Kubheka and Buhle Kunene] were part of the eight activists that were arrested on the 12th of March 2021. They first appeared in court on the 15th March 2021. They were part of the community group protesting against the operations of Ikwezi Coal Mine in Dannhauser, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The initial two-day protest was sparked by the coal mining impacts in the community of Mbabane in Dannhauser, where Ikwezi operates a coal mine. The prosecution failed to present before the court visual CCV footage that was mentioned as evidence implicating the three on a charge of public violence directed at the police. The case has been dragging since March this year with four appearances and postponements. This resulted in financial, mental, and emotional implications for the three young women and their families. What is clear is that the violence of the system was used against the three and fellow activists as a form of intimidation. On the 12th March, the second day of a peaceful protest police fired rubber bullets at protesters two were injured and eight were taken into custody.
At the heart of the matter is the continuous violation and destruction of people's homes that crack due to mine blasting, loss of livestock due to contaminated grazing land and water, and the impacts on people's health as coal dust invades their homes daily. This reality motivated the community of Mbabane to demand justice. And for this, they were shot, arrested, imprisoned and charged. "I'm happy about the case being withdrawn, this means a lot to me and my family. I can now focus on my studies as I was at a point where I was even thinking about quitting my studies," says Buhle Kunene "There was no case against us from the beginning. The past few months have been really bad for me and my family. But this experience will not stop us from fighting for our rights. Now we can finally move on with our lives," says Sindi Kubheka
This is a victory for the community as the police were tardy in their approach and even possibly constructively trying to intimidate community people by not acting speedily and diligently with the charges. Of course withdrawal of charges does not mean acquittal, so there is still an element of intimidation present", says Simon Delaney, the groundWork supported attorney acting for the women activist.