Gwede Mantashe will for the first time since he took the position of Minister of Mineral Resources in February meet with the Amadiba Crisis Committee.
Amadiba Crisis Committee have raised concerns about the invitation they received from the Department of Mineral Resources to meet with the committee leadership in a closed meeting. Speaking to Elitsha, the spokesperson for the group, Nonhle Mbuthuma, said that they are suspicious of going into a closed meeting with the minister and the mayors of local and district municipalities. The statement by the Amadiba Crisis Committee says that the invitation by the department makes it clear to them that “no media will be permitted into the meeting”, that it “will strictly be a closed meeting” and that “the communication of the outcomes of the meeting will be at the minister’s discretion”.
“This is surprising because when he came on the 23rd September, the department made sure that they mobilised the media as much as possible, so we don’t understand why they are closing the meeting now when they came here for the so-called imbizo,” said Mbuthuma.
“The minister called an imbizo and met with everyone else except with us. We are not sure why he brought the meeting here and did not speak to us. On top of that, when he was here he talked about a new moratorium when there is an existing moratorium that was signed under Mosebenzi Zwane without speaking to us. The current moratorium expires in December.,” she said.
A fracas broke out between Gwede Mantashe and Richard Spoor, a human rights attorney who is representing the committee in a court case to prevent the department from issuing a license to the mining company without their consent. Spoor was later arrested.
The residents of Xolobeni village in Bizana in Pondoland have since 2007, under the banner of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, been fighting titanium mining in their area. The proposed Xolobeni mine is a project by Transworld, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian corporation Mineral Commodities, that will result in the displacement of 200 households from the farmland on which their livelihoods depend.
“We were also surprised by the fact that the minister is talking about moratorium before the judgement on our case has been finalised. We feel that he has to wait for the Pretoria High Court ruling,” said Mbuthuma.
With the backing of the Legal Resources Centre, Richard Spoor Inc and Benchmarks Foundation, the committee has been seeking a declaratory order that will stop mining in Xolobeni. “We have a right to say no to mining in the area and the judgement has not been served and we think the moratorium the minister is talking about cannot come before the judgement,” argued Mbuthuma.
The committee is also not happy with the fact that “the communication of the outcomes of the meeting will be at the discretion of the minister.” According to Mbuthuma, that means their freedom of speech will be limited and their right to speak to anyone will be also be limited.
“This is going to be the first meeting the minister will be having with us since he took office. He has been talking to other people except us,” concluded Mbuthuma.
A statement by the Department of Mineral Resources to Elitsha states that the meeting is “a closed meeting with stakeholders and the outcomes of the meeting will be communicated in due course. This does not preclude the ACC from communicating to its own constituency.”
It further says that “the Ministry appeals to stakeholders to give the process a fair chance to unfold, and not pre-empt the outcomes.”
The Amadiba Crisis Committee have accused community leaders and chiefs of being bought by the mining company. They claim that the company uses violence to influence the community to move and make way for titanium mining following the unresolved murder case of one of the prominent leaders of the committee, Bazooka Radebe in 2016.