Daniel Friedman
3 minute read
26 Sep 2018
2:26 pm

WATCH: Police use ‘apartheid’ tactics to remove activists from Mantashe’s meeting

Daniel Friedman

A group representing Xolobeni residents who oppose open-cast mining in the Wild Coast attempted to engage in the 'pro-mining propaganda' meeting but were 'forcefully removed'.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. File image.

A group of activists called the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), who oppose titanium mining along the Wild Coast, say some of their members were forcefully removed from a public hearing meant to see Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe engage with them and coastal residents about mining in the area, and that other members were barred from entering.

According to the ACC, Mantashe arrived at the hearing on Sunday in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape with the amaMpondo king and a local chief, with the intention of, instead of giving the ACC and community members a chance to engage, delivering a “precooked meal” – an exercise in “pro-mining propaganda”.

The ACC is made up of residents from the Xolobeni community who have been fighting against the proposed open-cast mining on their land since the early 2000s.

A statement on their Facebook page alleges that there was “little allowance for real engagement” at the event.

The organisation, who said most of the Amadiba coastal community supported them, objected to having amaMpondo King Zanozuko Sigcau and Chief Lunga Beleni at the hearing because they claimed the pair had a financial interest in the mining company involved.

The ACC apparently showed their opposition to their presence by “protesting peacefully but loudly, singing songs and toyi-toying,” but said a “heavy police presence” dressed in “full riot gear” intimidated their members.

They also alleged that one of the community’s lawyers Richard Spoor was forcibly removed from the tent by these police after reportedly trying to speak to Mantashe as well as a police commissioner present to diffuse the situation.

Then, according to their Facebook statement, “stun grenades and tear gas were used to disperse the ACC supporters … they regrouped outside the tent and continued to sing and dance”.

The ACC also claimed that 400 people were bused in to “try and dilute” the ACC members.

The said they were thereafter barred from reentering the tent by police.

READ MORE: Xolobeni community in bid to stop mining along Wild Coast

“In other words, [the] meeting about mining did not include the very people it would affect,” the organisation said.

“They also say that the lawyer Spoor was arrested and that ACC members are heading to a police station to try and get him released. Sad, sad day that the residents directly affected by mining are treated with such contempt.

“But it is, of course, also clear from the previous meetings that Mantashe had in other mining-affected communities this week before this one [said] that he is not interested in actually engaging and listening to communities: he only wants mining, and to hell with communities who suffer from it and don’t want it.

“Your arrogance and distaste for communities asking for democracy is noted, Mantashe.”

An NGO, the Bench Mark Foundation, echoed the ACC’s views on the events in a statement: “The tactics employed by police at yesterday’s chaotic community meeting at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast are reminiscent of those used by the apartheid police.

“Responding with fury to police action against the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), the organisation said that Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, who organised the meeting, had shut out the genuine voices of those who stand to lose most from mining and used riot police and stun grenades to intimidate any opposing voices,” the statement continued.

Attempts to reach the department of mineral resources were unsuccessful at the time of publication of this article.

ACC barred from entering Mantashe meeting

This is what has just happened in Xolobeni today:The Minerals minister Gwede Mantashe was supposed to engage with the Amadiba Crisis Committee and coastal residents to hear their concerns about mining the Wild Coast. However he arrived with Zanuzuko Sigcau the claimant king of amaMpondo, and the mayor of Bizana to impose what was quite clearly a "precooked meal" – a pro mining propaganda exercise. The programme also indicated that it was about officials simply presenting to community, with little allowance for real engagement. The ACC objected to having Zanuzuko and Chief Lunga Baleni on the podium and in the program, because there is evidence that they have a financial interest in the mining company.There was a very heavy police presence, with full riot gear seemingly aimed at intimidating the ACC who were protesting peacefully but loudly, singling songs and toyi-toying against the mining.One of the community's lawyers, Richard SPoor, tried to approach the podium to try and talk to Gwede and to police commissioner Swartz to try and defuse the situation but was forcibly removed from the tent which only served to escalate the conflict. Stun grenades and tear gas were then used to disperse the ACC supporters (in other words, most of the Amadiba coastal community). They regrouped outside the tent and continued to sing and dance. The tear gas affected Nonhle Mbuthuma and other ACC members but no one has been injured. Some 400 people who were bussed in from outside to try and dilute the ACC members. The ACC members then tried to go back to the tent where the meeting was continuing but were blocked by police from entering (see video below). In other words, meeting about mining did not include the very people it would affect.Richard has been taken to Mpisi police station presumably to be charged with some or other offence, probably inciting public violence.Meeting now over. ACC members on their way to police station to try and have Richard Spoor released.Sad sad day that the residents directly affected by mining are treated with such contempt. But it is of course also clear from the previous meetings that Mantashe had in other mining affected communities this week before this one that he is not interested in actually engaging and listening to communities: he only wants mining, and to hell with communities who suffer from it and don't want it. Your arrogance and distaste for communities asking for democracy is noted, Mantashe.Full report to follow tonight.

Posted by Amadiba Crisis Committee on Sunday, 23 September 2018

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