It’s up to you, Mantashe tells Xolobeni as he announces survey
If the community says no, there will be no mining. If the community says yes, mining will proceed, the minister vows
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe turned a deaf ear to vicious warnings that he should not set foot in the Xolobeni community in the Eastern Cape, visiting the area amid tight security on Wednesday.
Accompanied by King Zanozuko Sigcau, Mbizana mayor Daniswa Mafumbatha and several ward councillors, Mantashe announced that an independent survey would be conducted in Xolobeni, a battleground for mining rights.
Mantashe said this was in line with a 2018 judgment by the North Gauteng High Court that called for a thorough consultation with Xolobeni residents before the granting of mining rights. “On the basis of the outcomes of the survey, we will then take a firm decision on the way forward,” Mantashe told residents, according to a statement from his office. “If the community says no, there will be no mining. If the community says yes, mining will proceed. If mining goes ahead in Xolobeni it must be sustainable and co-exist with tourism, agriculture and other economic development initiatives,” he added.
It was Mantashe’s second visit to Bizana.
“Whichever right-owner is granted the licence to mine must also adhere strictly to the provisions in the MPRDA [Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act] and Mining Charter, including implementation of social and labour plans. The survey, which is intended to establish if mining will proceed in that area, will commence in the next few weeks.”
Last week, Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) leader Nonhle Mbuthuma told Times Select they would not allow Mantashe to return to their land and that he should stop campaigning for mining in Xolobeni.
She accused Mantashe of creating a chaos in September 2018 which led to the arrest of Richard Spoor, their lawyer. Spoor was charged with disobeying a police officer’s instruction, pointing a finger at an officer, inciting public violence, and common assault after protesting outside a meeting headed by Mantashe. He was released on a warning and is expected back in court on Friday January 17.
Mbuthuma could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
In April 2018, residents took the department of minerals resources to court in a bid to halt the mining development. A judgment, handed down on November 22, ruled that the Xolobeni residents had the right to say no to mining.
But Mantashe said he would not be banned by “some structure” in the community. After the meeting, the police and traffic officers from the Mbizana municipality could be seen kicking and manhandling one the people who attended the meeting, after Mantashe had left. Department liaison officer David Shabangu said they had not heard about any assault on attendees, and referred Times Select to the police.
Many people travelling to the event, at a local village sports field, were searched by the police.
Nkosikhona Mathumbu, interim chairperson of the Amadiba Task Team from Xolobeni, said they were supporting Mantashe and would not be “derailed” by a few individuals who had motives.
“The people of Amadiba are united in making sure that the mine and other developments in the area are supported. It is sad to see youth without a future yet when there are opportunities like this we are trying to push them away. We will vote in support of this mine,” said Mathumbu.
Sifiso Ndovela, of Youth for Sustainable Development in Xolobeni, said there was the prospect of three economic development projects in the area. “All these projects – agriculture, eco-tourism and sustainable mining – can and will co-exist in our community. As such, we feel that it is necessary to invite the department of agriculture to assist small-scale farmers with resources and access to markets, and also to invite the tourism department to secure an eco-tourism project in our area, and also to call the department of mineral resources to facilitate sustainable mining,” said Ndovela.
This would give residents jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities. “We will listen to anyone who is not opposed to development agenda because we want what is in the best interest of the young people.”
About 80% of young people in Xolobeni were unemployed and most of them were semi-skilled and skilled. “As such, we will not miss any opportunity that will bring jobs.”