Split over titanium mining deepens

The once close-knit Xolobeni community of 200 homesteads is more bitterly divided than ever over plans to mine titanium in their area following the murder of a charismatic leader.

On one side, claiming the most support, is the anti-mining group Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), who are grieving the recent killing of committee chairman Sikhosipi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, 53.

They are up against Australian miner Mark Caruso and a group of subsidiary firms, BEE beneficiaries and community trusts.

Caruso’s bid to complete an environmental impact assessment on the nearby titanium-rich hills has sparked standoffs and police raids.

Gaining entry to Xolobeni involves informing all sides in the mining rights battle and a Dispatch team was shouted at by three people to move along and not take photographs.

Two journalists were recently attacked with pangas after Rhadebe’s funeral when they tried to take a picture of the red dunes.

Yesterday, ACC deputy chairman Mzamo Dlamini, 36, had a standoff with Caruso in a radio interview.

Dlamini accused Caruso of sponsoring a dirty and violent campaign to break the resistance of 200 Xolobeni smallholders.

His allegation was rejected by Caruso as “defamatory”.

The pro-mining faction is led by Madiba Zamile Qunya, chairman of Caruso’s BEE arm, Xolobeni Empowerment Company (Xolco), who put the Dispatch in touch with Amadiba Development Trust deputy chairman Zeka Mnyamana, 42.

Mnyamana said expected benefits included a new technical college, two clinics, better roads, electricity and drinking water. Further, about 30 village men were already working at Tormin mine in the Western Cape.

Dlamini claimed a number of people in the area had been “bought off”, including Chief Lunga Baleni.

The chief denied the allegation, saying his two new vehicles were bought from his government salary.

He said the loss of “Bazooka” had infuriated him since the taxi owner had been a charismatic peacemaker.

Dlamini accused Baleni of being a Xolco director and claimed it had been said at a pro-mining group meeting that Rhadebe was a “big tree” who had to be felled. — mikel@dispatch.co.za / lulamilef@dispatch.co.za


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