The chairperson of Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe (49) from Mdatya village on the Wild Coast, was shot dead on Tuesday in what the committee views as an assassination.
The committee has been at the forefront of resistance to proposed dune mining in the Xolobeni area of the former Transkei.
It recently lodged an objection to a fresh application to mine by the Australia-based company MRC.
In a statement, the committee said that Rhadebe was shot eight times outside his house at about 7.30pm by two men who arrived at his home in a white vehicle with a blue rotating light on its roof.
Speaking on the phone, the ACC secretary, Nonhle Mbuthuma, said Rhadebe’s wife and two sons, aged 15 and 16, witnessed the murder and were being treated for trauma in hospital.
Mbuthuma said that at about 6pm, not long before his death, Rhadebe called her on the phone and told her that he understood there was a “hit list” of strong opponents of mining and warned her to be careful.
Mbuthuma said that, according to Rhadebe, his name was first on the list; hers was second; and Mzamo Dlamini, the crisis committee’s deputy chairperson, was third.
Mbathuma said his last words were still ringing in her head. “Even if I die we should remain focused and fight to defeat the enemy,” he allegedly said.
“We should not cry, we should not make noise with the enemy because he is a soldier, he died fighting for his land.”
In a press statement on Wednesday, the crisis committee said the killer men knocked at Rhadebe’s door saying they were police.
The statement continues: “After a year of threats and attacks, we have been waiting for something like this to happen.
There have been ongoing attacks since the shootings in Xolobeni on 3 May last year.”
It named an individual it alleged was leading the attacks.
Referring to a pattern of violence in the Xolobeni area in recent months, it said that four men charged in connection with attacks on Mdatya residents in December had been released on bail in January.
It also alleged local police had been intimidating the Amadiba community and leaders in nightly raids.
“For a year, the local police have refused to co-operate with the Umgungundlovu traditional authority of the coastal Amadiba area to stop the violence against our community, which says no to mining,” it said.
Brigadier Mtutuzeli Mtukushe, cluster commander of the police stations in Mbizana, Ntabankulu and Mount Ayliff, described the raids as a routine crime prevention operation and said the police do not take sides in local quarrels.
The committee said the Amadiba coastal community “will not be intimidated into submission. Imining ayiphumeleli! (mining will not succeed)”
During an imbizo called to discuss violence in Xolobeni village in January, Mbuthuma told amaBhungane that strong opponents of mining were being targeted.
For this reason she and Dlamini had decided to move to Port Edward and commute to Xolobeni daily for their work in the community.
Rhadebe also addressed the gathering, saying: “If all of you are intimidated you can leave, but as for myself I am not going to leave my home.
“I will die and be buried here. People from my village are tired of sleeping outside since the December attacks.”
The latest outbreak is not the first violent episode that villagers perceive to be associated with plans to mine the dunes at Xolobeni.
In May last year, after an elderly woman was beaten with a knobkerrie and hacked with a bush knife, the committee successfully applied for a temporary high court interdict against continued assaults and intimidation. The interdict was ultimately withdrawn by agreement.
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