Cops arrest Xolobeni lawyer
Meeting turns to chaos as singing crowd approaches dignitaries
Top advocate Richard Spoor was arrested – but later released on warning – on Sunday for allegedly inciting violence.
Police used batons and stun grenades to disperse about 500 pro- and anti-mining demonstrators at a chaotic meeting in Xolobeni in Mbizana.
Scores of screaming people went running for cover as members of the public order policing unit, as well as police from intelligence – and others from Port Elizabeth, Komani and the provincial headquarters in Zwelitsha – took control of a meeting that had descended into chaos.
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe paid a visit to Xolobeni to listen to residents’ views about a proposal to establish a titanium mine along the Wild Coast, which has divided the community bitterly into two.
But the meeting became chaotic after a group of singing residents went up closer to where dignitaries – which included Mantashe, economic development and finance MEC Oscar Mabuyane and AmaMpondo King Zanozuko Sigcau – had been sitting.
Things got out of hand when Spoor, who is representing the anti-mining group, was escorted from the marquee.
Outside the tent, Eastern Cape provincial deputy police commissioner Major General André Swart could be heard telling Spoor that he was arresting him for inciting public violence.
Swart said: “I am putting you under arrest for inciting public violence. Please follow me to the van.”
Spoor was then locked in the police van and taken to nearby Mpisi police station, where he was formally charged.
He was later released on warning and is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.
The meeting became chaotic after a large group of people who were identified as members of an anti-mining lobby group called the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) started to sing as economic development MEC Oscar Mabuyane took to the podium. After the chaos died down the meeting, which was attended by about 500 people, continued, but without ACC members.
This was the first time Mantashe visited the area since he was appointed to the position.
The Australian-backed dune-mining venture has been put on hold in Xolobeni following the unsolved murder of prominent anti-mining leader Bazooka Radebe in March 2016.
The ACC has launched a court battle against the department of mineral resources and Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources over mining rights in Xolobeni.
ACC spokesperson Nonhle Mbuthuma said Mantashe was well aware of that.
“Gwede knows about it. We were shocked to hear that he was coming here,” she said, accusing the minister of taking sides in the matter.
But Mantashe said he had visited the area so that he could hear for himself what people had to say about the proposed mining.
“We have to know where we are going, whether the mining is going ahead or not.
“We have to hear that from the people of this area,” Mantashe said.
Mabuyane told the hundreds of residents that mining and tourism could co-exist without ruining the environment.
Mabuyane said the province had lost R13-billion over a period of three years in equitable share for development because more than 500,000 people had left to go and work in other provinces.
Mabuyane said mining would ensure that people remained in the Eastern Cape and did not have to migrate to Gauteng to find work in the mines there.
Mbuthuma said Spoor had been arrested as he was asking Swart why there had been so many armed police present at the meeting.
She confirmed that Spoor had been released on warning.
The police could not be contacted at the time of writing on Sunday.
Mantashe had his hands full this weekend as he was also trying to defuse growing opposition to mining on community-owned land in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mantashe held meetings with three communities over three days‚ seeking to calm tensions that have emerged over current and future coal and heavy-mineral mining plans‚ including a high court case in which community members are demanding the closure of the Somkhele coal mine on the border of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve...