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‘Bazooka’ assassination: Anti-mining activist knew his life was in danger 0

Xolobeni activist Nonhle Mbuthuma broke down in tears last month while addressing a mining conference in Cape Town. “Our people are being attacked. People are dying because of this,” she said, describing her community’s struggle to prevent mining on its land.

Six weeks later, her friend and colleague Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was assassinated.

A bid by Australian firm Mineral Commodities (MRC) to extract titanium from dunes near Xolobeni, a rural settlement at the northern edge of the Eastern Cape coast, has driven a wedge through Mbuthuma’s community since 2002. Supporters say mining will bring jobs and development to a desperately poor rural backwater. Opponents say the costs of land dispossession and environmental damage will far outweigh these gains.

A critic of the proposed project for more than a decade, Mbuthuma, 38, has become the face of local resistance to mining since featuring in the 2014 documentary The Shore Break — and a thorn in the flesh of those who want the scheme to succeed.

She is diminutive, with a clear voice and firm gaze. As the secretary of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), formed in 2010 to unite opposition to MRC in five villages of the Amadiba Tribal Authority region, she has grown accustomed to addressing large groups of people. As she spoke at the Mining Indaba panel discussion – off the cuff, without an accompanying slideshow – she grew emotional. “We can’t sacrifice our land for 22 years [of mining]. The damage will be irreversible.”

Shortly before 08:00 on Tuesday 22 March, Rhadebe, the charismatic chairman of the ACC, was shot several times outside one of his properties by gunmen posing as police. Mbuthuma raced to the scene when she heard the news, arriving to the sight of her friend and comrade dead on the ground.

“I’ve never cried so hard in my life,” she told me. “But it wasn’t sadness; it was anger. I could feel it in my body. I was sweating. For a short while all I wanted was revenge.”

Continue reading on The Daily Maverick

by Kimon De Greef for GROUNDUP

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