Referendum to be held in Xolobeni
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe on Wednesday announced that government will “soon” commission a referendum to be conducted in Xolobeni in Mbizana to ascertain whether the majority of residents are pro or against mining in the area.
More than 1,000 people from various villages in the Amadiba administrative area in the mining belt of Mbizana braved the wet weather and attended the meeting with Mantashe at the Xolobeni Sports Ground.
This was the third attempt by Mantashe to engage with the Xolobeni community on mining and economic development prospects in the area, despite volatility in the Eastern Cape village.
Speaking amid some interruptions from an anti-mining group, Mantashe, who said he had “invited myself to the meeting” managed to finish his speech, where he told the gathering that he was there following the court judgment and to start interactions with the communities.
A bullish Mantashe said as a minister nobody could limit his movement and ban him or prevent from doing his ministerial work.
This after angry anti-mining residents warned Mantashe against going to Xolobeni last month.
“They could only do so when they have a court interdict,” he said.
Just like previous meetings, Wednesday’s also ended in chaos with the police firing stun grenades to disperse the crowd. This was after Mantashe had delivered his speech.
He said he was against parts of the high court judgment, not its entirety.
“We are doing exactly what the judgment has asked us to do – thorough engagement with the community of Xolobeni.”
The community has been at loggerheads with Mantashe’s department while waging a 15-year long battle, led by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) against the issuing of a mining license to Australian-based Mineral Resource Commodities’ (MRC) South African subsidiary Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC.
In November, the Pretoria high court ruled that in terms of the interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, the minister of mineral resources may not grant mining rights without the consent of the community and the people directly affected by that mining right.
Mantashe is appealing this ruling.
Mantashe said every household would be included in the referendum, and any licence for mining would only be granted based on whether the community supported it or not.
Speaking during a chaotic question and answer session, Simlindile Matshelezi, an ACC member, said the body was no longer controlled by villagers who wanted development in their area, but by white people who were opposed to mining...