Cape Town – An anti-mining group on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast has reacted with shock to the murder of its chairperson on Tuesday evening.
Amadiba Crisis Committee chairperson Sikhosiphi "Bazooka" Rhadebe was shot multiple times in his upper body, Eastern Cape police spokesperson Lt Khaya Tonjeni told Fin24 on Wednesday.
“Mzamba SAPS can confirm that a case of murder is under investigation following the shooting incident reported yesterday at Plangeni, Lurholweni Township, Mbizana at about 21:30,” said Tonjeni.
The murder was termed "an assassination" by committee members Mzamo Dlamini and Nonhle Mbuthuma. “Bazooka made the ultimate sacrifice defending our ancestral land of Amadiba on the Wild Coast,” they said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“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 eight bullets in the head. He died defending his young son, who witnessed the murder. His son and his wife are now in hospital.”
The murder comes amid escalating violence in the area, which the committee alleges is linked to Australian mining company MRC’s decade-long bid to mine Xolobeni for the space-age titanium mineral.
MRC chairperson Mark Caruso was not aware of the incident when contacted by Fin24 on Wednesday. “I am not in a position to comment with any authority as I am uninformed of any of the facts surrounding this incident, save other than to say that we do not condone violence in any form. It is tragic that a man has lost his life regardless of the circumstances, which in all fairness, despite, the article, are yet to be established.”
While the anti-mining group said it “will not be intimidated into submission” by MRC, Caruso said: “The company is in no way implicated in any form whatsoever in this incident. Statements to the contrary are simply unfounded. This company will not engage in any activity that incites violence.”
Open letter to public protector
In response to the murder, social worker John Clarke told Fin24 on Wednesday that he will be writing an open letter to the Public Protector following a lack of investigation by police into a previous case relating to Rhadebe, who allegedly had refused to accept a bribe over mining rights.
“As a result of the investigation going cold, a man has now lost his life,” he said, adding that he had been tasked by the Amadiba Crisis Committee in his role a social worker to ensure justice was served.
The murder comes after the community blocked MRC from drilling in the area. “There was a recently planned drilling programme to deliver fresh drinking water, (which) was withdrawn in an attempt to hose down any potential violent confrontation between pro and anti-mining lobby groups,” Caruso told Fin24 on Wednesday.
However, Clarke alleges the fresh water drilling was an attempt to scan for minerals.
“That was clearly a pretense,” he said in a Fin24 opinion piece. “Reliable sources have told me that the company is desperate to update their now 15-year old analysis of the composition of the heavy mineral deposits and are actually needing to drill more core samples to reassure increasingly nervous shareholders that the game is worth the candle.”
FULL OPINION STORY: Wild Coast titanium remains ‘unobtainium’
Caruso told Fin24 in January that MRC subsidiary TEM had submitted a mining rights application to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) on March 4 2015. This process involves the submission of a scoping report within 44 days of the application, which was accepted by the DMR, he said.
“The company must undertake an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and submit an EIA report inclusive of specialist reports and an Environmental Management Plan (EMP). This is currently being undertaken and is due for submission on or around April 2016,” said Caruso.
“Accordingly, the DMR is yet to receive the full EIA and EMP. This process is being hindered by the anti-mining groups championed by John Clarke.
“There is a prescriptive process, which involves public participation (PP) by all interested and affected parties, (IAPs). This allows all IAPs to be heard in public forums and their comments recorded and submitted with the EIA.”
FULL STORY: Court battle linked to Wild Coast mining rights heats up