Uproar over Xolobeni arrests

An international uproar has ensued over the arrest of two Xolobeni men on the weekend by plainclothes detectives amid an ongoing anti-mining fight. 

The Daily Dispatch has learned that the two men were arrested by Mzamba police station detectives, who wore plainclothes and drove an unmarked vehicle on Sunday last week.

A picture of the route to Xolobeni Picture: JOHN GI CLARKE.
A picture of the route to Xolobeni Picture: JOHN GI CLARKE.

The community has been embroiled in a protracted standoff between anti-mining Xolobeni residents and miners led by controversial multinational Australian miner Mineral Commodities (MRC).

Last week MRC announced they were shifting their controlling shareholder interests into another local empowerment group.

This follows the death of anti-mining leader Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was gunned down outside his home on March 29.

Eastern Cape police spokesman Captain Khaya Tonjeni confirmed the arrests this week.

Tonjeni said the two had been arrested after a long period of being wanted on charges of assault GBH (with intent to cause grievance bodily harm).

He said they were expected to appear in court today.

The spokesman said it was normal for SAPS detectives to drive unmarked vehicles and not wear police uniform when on duty.

Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) secretary Nonhle Mbuthuma said the two had been arrested at Mdatya, one of the five coastal Amadiba villages which oppose the Xolobeni mining project.

Mbuthuma said the two men were witnesses in a case of violence allegedly committed by members of the pro-mining faction and that the officers had one of the suspects involved in the violent attack against the community, in the vehicle with them.

In the attack in Mdatya village in December last year, now known as the “Christmas shootings”, three residents were attacked as they walked from a community meeting.

This occurred after seven days of intimidation, including the firing of a R5 rifle in December.

Turning to the Sunday arrests, Mbuthuma said: “The police complained the community made their task difficult [during the arrest of the two men]. I asked them what to expect if they come in plainclothes and in unbranded bakkies. Our chairperson has been shot. This community is still in shock after the killing of Bazooka by hitmen pretending to be police.”

The police action was raised in London by anti-mining activists who tried to petition Graham Edwards, one of the alleged financiers of the mining bid at Xolobeni.

Edwards has been identified by international anti-mining campaigners as a behind-the-scenes player in the violence-wracked attempt to mine at Xolobeni .

On Monday London-based international anti-mining campaign, The Gaia Foundation and others, protested at Edwards’ offices in London.

Gaia Foundation spokesman Hannibal Rhoades said: “We called out the ongoing uncertainties of MRC’s (and Edwards’) divestment over a sound system, leafleted Edwards’ employees as they came in to the offices during rush hour and hung a beautifully made banner of Bazooka Radebe from the walkways overlooking the street.”

He said they also tried to deliver a petition from 5500 people calling on Edwards to divest from MRC.

“Despite waiting for over half an hour and being repeatedly promised that someone was coming to accept the petition, no one from Edwards’ offices showed up. The police even (sort of) interceded on our behalf, asking the receptionists to get some one down so we could hand over the petition but still no luck. We left clutching the great wedge of signatures.”