At last, police are taking Xolobeni violence seriously, says activist

Amadiba Crisis Committee secretary “happy with progress”

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Photo of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe
Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, seen here negotiating with police in 2008, was assassinated  on 22 March.

For the first time, the police are taking the situation in Xolobeni seriously,  says Amadiba Crisis Committee secretary Nonhle Mbuthuma.

Mbuthuma said the committee was “happy with progress” on the investigation into the death of committee chairperson Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was assassinated on 22 March.

Rhadebe led opposition to the mining of titanium in Xolobeni by a subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities (MRC). Activists in the area believe his death was linked to his position on mining. There have been several violent incidents linked to the mining dispute.

Mbuthuma handed a long statement to police on 11 February warning that community members feared for their lives, and describing months of violence against opponents to the mine, and raids by police. In one case, at least one of the attackers was identified as being not from the community but from the Tormin mine in the Western Cape, owned by MRC’s partner MSR. She said police had refused to cooperate with the traditional authorities to stop the violence.

“We are glad about the improvement in the police attitude,” Mbuthuma told GroundUp today, “We have been receiving lots of phone calls from the Hawks asking for more information on the case.”

She said for the first time the police were taking the matter seriously.

Colonel Sibongile Soci of SAPS Eastern Cape media relations confirmed that the investigation into the murder of Rhadebe had been handed over to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks). Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the matter was “receiving serious attention”.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has promised to investigate the human rights situation in Xolobeni following submissions by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in February about South Africa’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The LRC’s submissions were considered at a UN meeting in Geneva in March.

At the meeting Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, gave an undertaking to the committee that the issue would be investigated, said Ministerial spokesperson Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.

A meeting would be arranged with the LRC, he said. “In the meantime, we requested a report from the National Director of Public Prosecutions.”


TOPICS:  Human Rights Mining

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