| EASTERN CAPE

Two years later, still no arrests for murder of Xolobeni activist

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Bazooka Rhadebe was gunned down outside his house in 2016

Photo of Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe
Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe negotiates with police officers in 2008. Rhadebe was assassinated in 2016 Photo from John GI Clarke’s Facebook page
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Almost two years since the murder of Xolobeni activist Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, no-one has been arrested.

Rhadebe was shot eight times outside his house in Lurholweni township in Mbizana, Eastern Cape, on 22 March 2016. He was the chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) which has been fighting to prevent mining from being carried out in Xolobeni.

The assassination happened after a year of threats to those opposing the mine.

A month before Rhadebe’s death, on 11 February, ACC member Nonhle Mbuthuma handed a long statement to police warning that community members feared for their lives, and describing months of violence against opponents to the mine.

The Xolobeni community opposes plans by mining company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources, a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC, to mine titanium in their area.

On 11 April 2016 Colonel Sibongile Soci of SAPS Eastern Cape told GroundUp the investigation had been handed over to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks). And Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told GroundUp that the matter would be receiving “serious attention”.

Mbuthuma said then that it seemed the police were taking the matter seriously.

But, she told GroundUp this month, the investigation seemed to have ground to a halt. The Hawks were not communicating with Rhadebe’s family or with the ACC. She said the family was losing hope. “His family keeps asking us whether we have heard anything from the police and we tell them that we also get the same answer: that they are still investigating,” said Mbuthuma.

“We feel like the case is deliberately blocked by certain people.”

The ACC had hired its own private forensic pathologist and its own investigator, said Mbuthuma. The investigator had gone to the crime scene and had found ballistic evidence which the police had missed. This had been handed over to the Hawks.

But the stolen car used during Rhadebe’s assassination had already been returned to the owners, she said.

“The car that was used in the murder we know was hijacked from a tourist. But what we do not understand is why it was released two days later to the owners, without any forensics being done,” said Mbuthuma.

Eastern Cape Hawks spokesperson, Captain Anelisa Feni told GroundUp that the case was still under investigation and no further information would be released at this stage.

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TOPICS:  Xolobeni