By Andy Higginbottom
For several years the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa has been at the forefront of community-based mobilisation to protect land and sea from the destruction of multinational capital. They now face a serious assassination plot that must be stopped (see ACC statement below).
The AmaMpondo (Mpondo) people are indigenous small farmers on the beautiful Wild Coast, facing the Indian Ocean. They were a centre of resistance to British colonialism and the apartheid regime, as memorialised by the celebrated historian and ANC leader Govan Mbeki.i
In recent years the AmaMpondo have fought off two major incursions, the first destructive project was by a London financed Australian mining company MRC, that sought to plough up 22 kilometres of Xolobeni sands for heavy minerals.ii The destructive project was halted by a successful action in the Pretoria High Court that deemed that the government should not have given the go ahead without consent of the community on its ancestral land. iii
The Amadiba’s second successful resistance campaign was a coordinated effort with environmentalists and other communities to block oil multinational Shell from its invasive soundings just off the coast.iv Both campaigns had at their heart the self-organisation of the community aided by legal actions.v
The ACC has long faced hostility by the sell-out minority who want to cut a deal with the corporations for their own narrow interests, but on every occasion it is the majority will of the community to protect their way of life that has prevailed.
Opposition to the alliance between the corporations and the state is highly dangerous for community leaders. A former ACC chair Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Radibe was assassinated at his own front door in 2016.vi
Sikhosiphi Radibe with police, shortly before his assassination. Photo ACC.
His successor Sibusiso Mqadi (“Sbu”) died on 7 November 2020 after a short illness. Then ACC spokesperson Nonhle Mbuthuma received an SMS saying: “Bazooka was number one, Sbu was number 2 and you Nonhle you are number 3. We are coming for you.” vii
ACC spokesperson Nonhle Mbuthuma received a death threat in 2020. Photos GARN – Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
Meanwhile the Amadiba community is engaged in another campaign, which is to get the government road agency SANRAL to reroute its proposed N2 highway away from a coast hugging route where it would inflict the most environmental harm, to an alternative route more inland.viii
“Residents protest against a new road being built in the beautiful West Coast area” ix
The national and local government ANC politicians have been consistently hostile to the ACC as a thorn in the side of the deals they want to make in the name of so-called development, intervening vocally at their stage managed “consultation” events.
Community members protest at SANRAL fake consultation
But matters have escalated once again, and there is a renewed, direct threat to the known representatives of the ACC, as reported in their media statement below.
As well as the love and respect of her community, Nonhle has been internationally recognised for her fearless role as a community and environmental defender, gaining widespread support including from the London Mining Network and Marikana Solidarity Collective. x
ACC’s statement refers to AbM. Abahlali baseMjondolo is a grass roots social movement of landless and homeless shack dwellers. Abahlali have lost no less than twenty-four of their activist comrades to assassinations. They call for international solidarity and are working “with a broad array of forces to build a united front against political assassinations.”xi
Plot to kill two leaders in Amadiba, Mbizana, EC.
“We have received very disturbing information in January from a whistleblower, of the planned assassination of Nonhle Mbuthuma and Thwesha Silangwe, community leaders in Amadiba A/A in Mbizana (EC).
Both leaders have been working to move the N2 Wild Coast Highway from the Amadiba coast to its inland. Nonhle is spokesperson of ACC. ACC is engaged in discussions with Sanral about the route of the N2. ACC is assisted by professional road engineers, spatial and social planners in proposing an alternative inland route.
We have got concrete information that Nonhle and Thwesha must be killed because of the discussions between the ACC and Sanral.
To move the N2 some 15 km from the coast is seen to be blocking a lucrative coastal “town” which would make politically connected cadres very wealthy. Politicians also still push for open cast titanium mining in Xolobeni, despite 20 year of community opposition and the application declared unlawful in Court in 2018.
That is why an atmosphere is being systematically created to legitimise the killings of Nonhle and Thwesha.
A part of the atmosphere is to hide and confuse that the discussion is about where the N2 is best placed in Amadiba. The discussion with Sanral is not about “stopping the road”.
On 28 November in Jama village by the Mtentu river, the government held a N2 meeting. Finance Minister Godongwana, Transport Minister Mbalula, EC Premier Mabuyane and others spoke. ACC has a recording of the speeches. The Premier as usual promoted mining in Xolobeni and drilling for oil and gas in the ocean. But one speech stuck out.
The Mayor of Alfred Nzo District Municipality had to admit community concerns. Then he prepared the audience for something sinister.
“If it is a must to disagree and it results in someone getting hurt, let us support the Chief no matter what is happening. It must not be said that in the Chief’s time, in our time, when we were leading as the people of this area, that there were things that did not happen. Because we will be held accountable. When things are like this, Premier, there are things one has to stand for. If it is necessary that a person standing for the truth must die, then that person must die.” [Loud reaction: “Eih!” “It is shit now!”]. If there is a reason that we don’t support the Chief; we are not saying that people don’t have things to talk and complain about, but it should happen in the right way. [But] there is one thing I can say, Premier. There are a lot of people arguing here, who are not us. We are conflicted by people who are not born here, who are not even black. Whether you are a white person, going with this one or that one. But the thing that makes us argue in this community, it has made us feel guilty for one thing. Because the day that we are gone, when we have died as people of this area, we have become cowards. In our time, these things happened. The coming generation suffered, because good things didn’t happen.”
We listen to this in a time when there are political killings everywhere. Most times the perpetrators are not apprehended, like in the case of constant killings of AbM leaders, Cde Lindokuhle Mnguni being the third murder in 2022 only. There was the 2020 killing of Cde Fikile Ntshangase who opposed the expansion of a coal mine in KZN. Many local government councillors have been killed in faction fights or when they threaten to expose corruption.
Ms Babita Deokaran was killed last year for bravely exposing corruption in the Gauteng Health services. Three weeks ago Mr Mboneli Vesele was cold bloodily assassinated. He was the bodyguard of Sakhela Buhlungu of the Fort Hare University. On 21 January, human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, was murdered in Eswatini.
Profiteering and greed by corporations continue to destroy our livelihoods, but dishonest politicians continue as usual: “Don’t let anyone stop this project!”, forgetting that there is no development without honest engagement with the communities. A dictatorship approach is at the core of the so-called “failed state”.
They talk about drilling for oil and gas in the ocean. They don’t care about the ecological disaster, loss of livelihoods and the climate crisis hitting us all. They don’t partner with communities. They partner with transnational companies. They try to use traditional leaders as “deciders”, repeating the strategy of the apartheid government.
The plot to kill two leaders in Amadiba comes when the killing of ACC’s late Chairperson, Bazooka Radebe in March 2016 remains unsolved. It also comes in the face of numerous death threats ACC leaders have had to endure over the six years since Bazooka’s assassination.
The life of an activist in Southern Africa has become very cheap and assassins are easily hired.”
Amadiba Crisis Committee
January 30th, 2023
ACC is on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/amadibacrisiscommittee/
i See Govan Mbeki The Peasants Revolt at https://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/mbeki/peasants-revolt/ch09.htm and Afravision – Govan Mbeki at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5sn3sWARvg
ii Follow the Money – From Pondoland to London Wall
iii Xolobeni community scores huge victory against mining
iv Campaigners force Shell to halt oil exploration on South African coast https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/dec/28/campaigners-force-shell-to-halt-oil-exploration-on-south-african-coast
v A victory for the planet: Wild Coast communities prevail over Shell in oil and gas exploration case
vi Wild Coast: Bazooka Rhadebe’s murder probe ‘sabotaged’ by police
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-03-23-wild-coast-bazooka-rhadebes-murder-probe-sabotaged-by-police/ and Sikhosiphi Radebe https://assassination.globalinitiative.net/face/sikhosiphi-radebe/
vii Defend Nonhle and All Defenders of Mother Earth!
viii Xolobeni vs SANRAL The N2 Wild Coast toll road — Nonhle Mbuthuma of Amadiba Crisis Committee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC4PVUuytn8
ix ‘Sanral’s false promises’: Protesters block construction of R1.6bn bridge https://www.news24.com/citypress/news/sanral-made-false-promises-protesters-block-construction-of-r16bn-mega-bridge-20181030
x Frontline Defenders Award Finalist 2017 https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/nonhle-mbuthuma; Gaia Foundation https://gaiafoundation.org/south-african-earth-defender-nonhle-mbuthuma-comes-to-london/
xi Building International Pressure Against Repression https://abahlali.org/node/17576/#more-17576