JOHANNESBURG – The Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) on Tuesday came out in support of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) action group and called on Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe to stay away from Xolobeni.
Mantashe is set to visit the volatile Xolobeni community in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday in a bid to engage the community on mining and economic development prospects in the area.
The ACC has banned Mantashe from Xolobeni and said he is not welcome in the area as the community has been at loggerheads with his department over a 15-year long battle against the issuing of a titanium mining license to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC.
Safcei – a multi-faith NGO focused on environmental, social and economic justice – has been a longstanding supporter of the ACC in its struggle to ensure the community’s right to say no to mining.
Francesca de Gasparis, Safcei's executive director, says Amadiba are a rural community who live well off their land and the ocean and have a deep respect for their ecological and cultural heritage.
"However, should government plans for mining not be stopped, their way of life – which goes back more than 300 years – will be severely compromised, along with the Pondoland centre of plant endemism," De Gasparis said.
"Instead of mining, the government should be listening to this community and others in the area who have said no to mining and no to the toll road, and already have plans in place that would create jobs and allow a continuation of their way of life in harmony with nature.”
In November, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that in terms of the interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, the minister of mineral resources may not grant mining rights without the consent of the community and the people directly affected by that mining right. Mantashe is appealing this ruling.
With the majority of the community – 68 of the 72 households and homesteads in the Xolobeni community – participating in the litigation opposing the planned titanium mining, concerns are mounting as to by what means vested interests will go to change people’s minds and secure the progress of this mining project.
Bishop Geoff Davies, Safcei patron and former Anglican Bishop of Mzimvubu, said for nearly two decades the people of Xolobeni have resisted imposed and inappropriate "development" that threatens their land, traditional livelihoods and natural heritage.
"Their celebration over winning the right to say no to mining has been short lived, because Minister Mantashe will not take no for an answer and is determined to override the court decision. All over the world, indigenous communities are struggling to hold onto their lands and livelihoods in the face of corporate and government greed," Geoff said.
"If the South African government is serious about respecting people’s land rights, we call on Minister Mantashe to do the right thing and listen to the will of the people. By imposing your own selfish will, is not only irresponsible, but wicked."