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Xolobeni rocked by more violence

Xolobeni rocked by more violence

Published by Sunday Times  April 3, 2016

They made their inten­tions known during the funeral of anti-mining activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe, who was gunned down at his home last Tuesday in front of his 15-year-old son, Dwalaza, by two assailants, apparently posing as police officers.

Radebe was the chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a body representing the residents of Xolobeni, a rural Wild Coast community.

Members of the committee, wearing black T-shirts bearing the words “Marikana: we will never forget”— a reference to the 34 mineworkers killed in North West in August 2012 — burst into revolutionary songs during Radebe’s funeral in Mdatya village in Bizana.

The crisis committee believes he was killed because of his opposition to mining company Mineral Commodities being awarded a licence to mine.

Speaking at the funeral, Bobby Peek, of environmental justice NGO groundWork, said the struggle of the people of Xolobeni would not end because Radebe had been killed, and vowed that the mine would be stopped.

One of Radebe’s childhood friends, Jomo Mthithana, said: “He was kind. He was a leader.”

A month before Radebe’s murder, he received a chilling phone call. “You think you are the Goliath of the Amadiba people, but even Goliath died,” said the caller.

But despite the threat, the 51-year-old did not even bother to report the incident to the police.

“He was forgiving and he thought that the per­son who called was just crazy, and decided not to waste his time reporting the matter,” said Nonhle Mbuthuma, the committee’s secretary, this week.

Radebe’s killers arrived in a hijacked white VW Polo with a blue light affixed to its roof. The hijack vic­tims were inside the car, one tied up on the back seat and the other locked in the boot. They were later set free by the hit­men.

Yesterday afternoon, two journalists and two members of a staunch anti-mining group on the Transkei Wild Coast were allegedly assaulted. According to crisis committee member Mzamo Dlamini, a reporter and photographer from The Citizen were in the Xolobeni area when they were attacked at about 5pm.

The pair had been covering the funeral, and were accompanied by two members of the committee who were showing them around.

Police at three stations in the area could not immediately confirm the incident.

Journalist Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni, speaking about two hours after the attack, said she and photo-journalist Nigel Sibanda were traumatised. She sustained a head wound after being hit by a spade, and Sibanda had possibly broken both legs.

“We were going to take a picture of the land where they want to mine. We got out the car so Nigel could take a picture … there were some houses in front of us [and] people thought we were there to take pictures of the houses.

“They chased Nigel and our two passengers down a hill and dis­ap­peared. I was hid­ing in the car. They pulled me out and came at me with machetes and beat me over the head with a spade,” said Hlatshaneni.

All their equipment and cellphones, as were as Hlatshaneni’s notebook, were taken.

Meanwhile, the Hawks have taken over the murder investigation.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said several leads were being followed.

The Legal Resources Centre and human rights lawyers Richard Spoor Attorneys expressed concern about the investigation.

Bongani Mthethwa — Sunday Times 3 April 2016

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