Community eader Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, a fierce opponent of titanium mining in the Xolobeni dunes, died in a hail of bullets on Tuesday.
Rhadebe, 53, chair of the activist Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) group, was shot by two unknown gunmen pretending to be policemen.
His death sent shockwaves throughout Mbizana, with some speculating the slaying might be linked to ongoing community resistance to mining in Xolobeni.
Others did not rule out a battle within the taxi industry in which Rhadebe was involved.
In his home village of Mdatya, Rhadebe’s neighbours were in shock. Many refused to talk to the Dispatch for fear of becoming the next target.
Police spokesman Captain Mlungisi Matidane said Rhadebe was with his family when two men came to his house pretending to be police officers.
“They allegedly told him he was under arrest and they were taking him to the police station. When outside, they shot him.”
Rhadebe died on the spot, shot eight times.
Matidane would not comment on the motive. “We don’t want to get into that but I can confirm investigations are being carried out into his murder.”
The Dispatch has in the recent past carried reports about attacks on people opposed to mining Xolobeni’s dunes.
ACC secretary Nonhle Mbuthuma believes Rhadebe’s death was directly linked to the mining conflict.
She said Rhadebe had told committee members there was a hit-list with the names of people opposed to mining. “Bazooka was number one on that list,” she said.
Matidane questioned why police were not told of a list. “They should have told us about it so that our intelligence could be deployed to follow it up.”
One of Rhadebe’s four children, Phakama Rhadebe, 21, said her father was with her younger brother in one of their homes in Eplangeni near the casino in Mzamba when three armed men approached her brother, who was outside, and enquired about her father’s whereabouts.
“They pointed a firearm at him and he told them his father was in the toilet inside the house.
“When he came out they pointed the firearm at him saying he was under arrest.”
She said the men were in a white sedan with a police logo on the outside and a blue light. She said they tried to force her father into the car but he fought back. “Then they killed him,” she said, adding that she wanted her father’s killers to “rot in jail”.
Phakama, her younger sister and mother were admitted to hospital after the killing and were treated and discharged.
Mbizana mayor Makhaya Twabu visited Rhadebe’s family. He had known Rhadebe for many years. He called for calm and warned people not to take the law into their own hands. — email@example.com