The South African Federation of Trade Unions fully supports the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) which is fighting a long battle to prevent the government from issuing of a mining license to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC, to mine titanium and other minerals on ancestral lands belonging to the Xolobeni community in the Eastern Cape.
The ACC has angrily contradicted a claim by Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe that the ACC had invited him to come and meet with the broader community in Xolobeni, supposedly to engage the community on mining and economic development prospects in the area
But the ACC deny that it had made any such invitation. They have banned Mantashe from Xolobeni and said he was not welcome in the community which has the been at loggerheads with his department over mining rights for 15 years.
The community fears that he wants to come to persuade them to change their minds, after their historic court victory in November 2018, which ruled that the Mineral Resources Department must get complete formal approval from the Xolobeni community before granting mining rights in the area. Mantashe has give notice of his intention to appeal against this ruling.
ACC leader Sibusiso Mqadi is adamant that Mantashe is not welcome and says that he made a similar unannounced visit in September 2018, accompanied by a pro-mining group that did not even live in their village. Community members stopped “a caravan of five unmarked Toyota Hilux” on their way to the sand dunes where the company wants to mine.
“The cars were filled wth unknown police in uniform”, who “wanted to see the area that Gwede Mantashe wants” said Mqadi… “We asked why they want to patrol the planned mining zone instead of hunting criminals”.
The ACC has claimed that as many as 200 families might be affected by displacement or disruption of the use of tribal grazing lands. In 2015, an assessment reported that residents of 62 homes would be affected in the demarcated mining area. In a court filing of 2016, it was stated that 70 families would be directly affected and many more indirectly affected.
SAFTU sees the urgent need for jobs, but creating jobs must never be used as an excuse to trample on the rights of rural communities on behalf of international companies who threaten the livelihoods of local residents and the environment of a beautiful and rich agricultural area.
For that reason the federation joins the call for Mantashe not to visit the village whose residents have made clear that he will not be welcome.