Down and dirty


Deception, lies and conspiracies at the heart of the on-going Xolobeni fight about mining the Wild Coast.
 
Resident anti-mining activists at Xolobeni on the Eastern Cape’s pristine Wild Coast believe the minister of mining and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) are promoting the creation of a number of “puppet” pro-mining lobby groups in their region. 
 
The long-established, locally formed anti-mining lobby group Amadiba Crisis Committee (see noses 116, 188, 189, 199, 200, 201, 205, 208 & 214) believe that South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and the Perth-based Australian mining company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM), also known as Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC), are deliberately creating new “affected” groups and then, after all the groups are formally recognised, will make sure they easily out-vote the community’s no-mining representatives in any consultative forum to be set up by the department. 
 
Already two of the “trusts” referred to by Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe in a 27 September media statement as being pro-mining – the Mdatya Trust and the Bekela Trust – have been found by Noseweek not to exist. 
 
Meanwhile on 31 August, just two days after Mantashe gave a speech at the Africa Downunder Conference in Perth, Australia, MRC released its 2018 half-year results presentation and stated the “new South African Government was pro-mining”. Added to this are several recent interviews by Mantashe that appear to show his eagerness for the mining project to go ahead. 
 Zamile Qunya
 
Chief punter for the pro-mining lobby is Zamile Qunya who tells everyone who will listen that a proposed mineral sands mine on the Wild Coast will significantly change for the better the way people live, improve education and health care in the region, provide 3,000 construction jobs and just over 1,000 permanent, direct jobs for a project that will run for more than two decades. 
 
The proposed mine is expected to be one of the largest mineral sand mines in the world. 
 
“I grew up in Xolobeni. Poverty in this area must end with me,” said Qunya. 
 
Qunya is an active director in MRC’s equally controversial Western Cape operation, the Tormin mineral sands mine (noses188, 201 & 214). He is also the founder – although he states he is no longer an active director – of Xolobeni’s BEE partners, Xolobeni Empowerment Company (Xolco). He now considers himself a “community leader” in the Xolobeni debate. 
 
“The majority of people are for the Chief punter for the pro-mining lobby, Zamile Qunya, tells everyone who will listen that a proposed mine will significantly change for the better the way people live project. Only a minority is against it,” said Qunya. 
 
And he is fairly positive that Mantashe will lift the moratorium placed on mining activity in the area by former minister Mosebenzi Zwane, although he is not sure when. He said the case for mining was strong, as the project was “environmentally sound, has social benefits and is bankable”. 
 
He also refutes claims by the Amadiba Crisis Committee that people would be kicked off their land, although he admitted agricultural land would likely be lost. 
 
“People living in close proximity of the mine can volunteer to be moved but it’s up to them,” he said. 
 
However he can’t escape the label by the Amadiba Crisis Committee that he is simply “the right hand man of MRC in South Africa” to push the “Xolobeni Mining Project”. 
 
He also didn’t help his cause when he recently agreed to an interview with TV news station eNCA, where he presented a group of “pro-mining” community members to be interviewed. But he did not mention they were in fact his mother and her neighbours. His mother’s carer even gave a different name and did all the talking. 
 
Neither did he inform the journalist about his links to MRC, instead telling journalist Malungelo Booi he was merely a community leader. 
 
In September Booi did two television reports on the proposed mine. 
 
Qunya told Noseweek he had not hidden his true identity which Booi could have found had he searched his name online. He confirmed that the Mdatya Trust and the Bekela Trust were “new” and not yet registered. The Department of Mineral Resources said it didn’t keep details of the trusts. 
 
Booi who hails from nearby Port St Johns said in a series of interviews with various people across the region that it was difficult to ascertain exactly where people stood on the mine. 
 
“I wondered if some people were being coerced to have a certain opinion,” said Booi. In one instance, he said, a woman had changed from being anti-mining to pro-mining instantaneously when asked whether she would go before the camera. 
 
Booi came under harsh criticism by Amadiba who said days later in a statement that “journalists at eNCA have no experience from propaganda and deception” and “maybe they cannot smell danger when they are being used”. 
 
Booi said communities reacted to his questions depending on which village they belonged to. He added that he was often seen as “a spy” sent by either the pro- or anti-mining groups and that earning people’s trust was hard. 
 
Amadiba Crisis Committee spokesperson Nonhle Mbuthuma said that as far she was aware their relationship with Mantashe “was at an all-time low” and that the two trusts named Mdatya and Bekela, were created by the minister “without any agreement”. 
 
Other pro-mining groups, according to Mantashe, were the Xolobeni Development Trust; Amadiba Development Forum; Mzamba Taxi Association; the Eastern Cape Contractors’ Forum; BEE partner Xolco Bizana Chamber of Commerce; and King Zanozuko Sigcau. 
 
“We’ve never heard of these other organisations such as Bizana Business Forum. And why is the Taxi Federation interested in what is going on with the mine? There will not be any new roads or routes,” said Mbuthuma. 
 
“Between department and MRC they have created ‘new’ stakeholders who don’t even live in the area. The plan is to then create a committee fairly represented by all these organisations which will, in turn, create a situation where we are continuously outvoted. The department and MRC want to make us a minority voter in our own land. If the mining goes ahead we will be kicked off our land. We will lose everything. 
 
“We are self-sufficient. The govern.ment is pushing us to be dependent on them. We don’t have services here but we don’t have service delivery protests because everything we need is here. And the graves of our forefathers are here,” said Mbuthuma. 
 
At least 70 homesteads will be affected, she said, whereas Qunya had claimed that none would be affected. 
 
“These people will lose not only their homes but their fields, access to the ocean and neighbourhood. And if they are moved, no one knows where they will go,” said Mbuthuma. 
 
The Department of Mineral Resources told Noseweek that, due to the moratorium, any discussion on how and when people could be removed from land to make way for the mine was “pre-emptive”. The department also reaffirmed that “No mining right has been granted in Xolobeni”. 
 
Meanwhile MRC is still considering selling its 56% stake in Transworld Energy and Resources (SA) (Pty) Ltd which owns the Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project, to another BEE partner Keysha Investments 178 (Pty) Ltd. 
 
The only listed director of Keysha is Prince Mzwandile Maraqana, who is spokesman for the recently enthroned AmaMpondo King Zanozuko Tyelovuyo Sigcau.

 

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