So. Africa: How human rights activist has championed her community's resistance to mining despite threats from pro mining groups

Author: Sheree Bega, IOL (So. Africa), Published on: 10 February 2019

"Xolobeni activist defies death threats to protect her ancestral land"

Wherever she goes, Nonhle Mbuthuma expects to feel the cold metal tip of a gun pressed against her head. The land and environmental rights campaigner knows she could pay the ultimate price in her unwavering fight to protect her unspoilt, ancestral land from mining. “I don’t feel safe at all,” says Mbuthuma, a founder of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), of the threats she receives from pro-mining interests. “My voice is now the loudest. I’m seen as a ‘nuisance’ because I’m protecting my forefathers’ land and my children’s land.” Since 2007, Mbuthuma has helped lead the long-standing resistance of the coastal villagers of Xolobeni, a cluster of villages nestled in the dramatic, rugged cliffs of northern Pondoland on the scenic Wild Coast, against titanium mining on the coastal dunes.

… In November, Xolobeni residents clinched a landmark victory against the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources, a subsidiary of Australian miner Mineral Commodities (MRC) when the North Gauteng High Court ruled that in terms of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA), the minister of mineral resources may not grant mining rights without the full consent of customary communities… “I’ve been told my name is on a hit list. Things are getting worse. I’m waiting for something to happen to me... We will fight for this land. It’s part of our identity,” she says, resolutely. MRC says the historic Right to Say No judgment is in conflict with the current Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), “which provides for consultation, not consent, that is vested in the competent authority”.

For the past five years, Clarke has sought a case study from anywhere in the world that shows an equivalent rural community like the Amadiba ending up “being better off collectively” in terms of overall quality of life after they have been resettled to make way for an opencast mining operation, such as is envisaged on the Pondoland Wild Coast. “So far I have not found a single instance anywhere in the world. By contrast, I have found countless examples of the opposite. Are the Amadiba going to be the first ... “The question is what will happen after the dunes are mined out. Can eco-tourism fill the economic void? Will agricultural productivity be restored? There are very high biodiversity values and substantial ecological capital on the Wild Coast, so it is a no brainer that eco-tourism would be a much more ‘justifiable’ and lucrative money spinner for an indefinite term far into the future. “So why is Minister Mantashe all over the Xolobeni headlines rather than Minister Derek Hanekom for Tourism and Minister Zokwana for Agriculture?”

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Related companies: Mineral Resource Commodities (see Mineral Commodities) Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources