Stay away, Mantashe, Xolobeni residents warn
Battle over mining in Eastern Cape area blows up again as minister vows to defy wishes of locals and return
It is set to be battle of wills, but for now residents of Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape are calling the shots to keep minister of mineral resources Gwede Mantashe at arm’s length.
This comes after Mantashe wrote a letter to the residents’ lawyer, Richard Spoor, inviting him and his clients, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), to a mining and economic development meeting in Xolobeni on January 16.
But despite residents saying they don’t want the minister there, Mantashe told Times Select he was going ahead with the meeting. “If we allow this to happen, it’s going to be a trend across the country.”
ACC leader Nonhle Mbuthuma said they won’t allow Mantashe to return to their land.
“Don’t come, minister Mantashe, we are saying that. We don’t want Mantashe’s third coming to our community ... He asked to meet our lawyers in advance and as explained several times, the mining minister is not welcomed by the community. [The department of mineral resources (DMR)] should stop the campaign for mining in Xolobeni, those in the ANC who need to worry can worry,” said Mbuthuma.
She said Mantashe created the chaos in September 2018 that led to the arrest of Spoor.
He was charged with disobeying a police officer’s instruction, pointing a finger at an officer, inciting public violence, and common assault after marching to and protesting outside a meeting headed by Mantashe. He was released on a warning and is expected back in court on January 17.
“On November 22, the Pretoria High Court ruled that our community has the right to say no to mining. Communities that have suffered from colonialism and apartheid must give ‘full and informed’ consent before DMR can approve mining on their land,” she said.
Mantashe said he won’t be banned by “some structure” in the community. “We have a meeting there next week and all the invited stakeholders will be there. We can’t be banned by a structure, no, that meeting is going ahead next week and I will see you there.”
In a letter Mantashe wrote on December 20 to Spoor about the ministerial community consultation meeting on mining and economic development, he said he wanted the Amadiba Crisis Committee to be part of it.
Mbuthuma said human rights organisations should tell Mantashe not to return to their area. “We appeal to all concerned about land and human rights to tell Mantashe to stop his ‘Third Coming’.”
The mining issue started more than 10 years ago in the area when a subsidiary of the Australian mining company Mineral Commodities (MRC) – Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) – applied for open-cast mining on a 22km-long stretch on the beaches.
Many households were to be affected by the mining, according to Mbuthuma, because graves were to be exhumed and relocated.
The overwhelming majority of these families have family graves in the area and are considered to be essential sites for family and community rituals.
In April 2018, the committee went to the Pretoria High Court to try to halt any mining in their area. They argued that Xolobeni residents must give consent rather than “merely be consulted” before a mining licence is issued in their area. The court ruled in their favour, ordering the DMR to “obtain full consent from the community before it issues a mining licence”.
At the time, former DMR minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced an 18-month moratorium on mining in the area.
In court papers, Mantashe said the state was the custodian of the country’s mineral resources and, while consultation is important, demanding consent could cripple the country’s ability to use mining to grow and transform the economy.
In her judgment, Judge Annali Basson ruled that a community must give full and informed consent before a mining right can be issued.
“The community must be placed in a position to consider the proposed deprivation and be allowed to take a communal decision in terms of their custom and community on whether they consent or not to a proposal to dispose of their rights to their land.”
But after the judgment the DMR said Mantashe remained committed to return to Xolobeni, to continue with engagements with the whole community in order to ensure finality in the matter of mining and development in the area.