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Fighting Petmin coal in Somkhele, KZN, activists under attack



SOMKHELE COMMUNITY MARCH AGAINST CORRUPTION AND COAL MINE
Media Briefing China Ngubane, CCS

On Sunday 13 March the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MPCA) gathered for a media briefing regarding the march planned for the following day. Bongani Pearce; convener of the march, also Chairperson for MCPA informed that preparations were almost complete, the memorandum laying all Mpukunyoni demands has been agreed upon and ready for delivery. Few logistical arrangements were still to be finalised including ensuring readiness for the protest march e.g. Marshalls, sound system, media and refreshments (water or fruits).

Pearce briefed that people will sign a petition where all supporting names will appear and ensure that all 32 villages are represented. “We also need transport support, people are in full support and they take it that the march will represent their voice. We also acknowledge that many people will be at work tomorrow, and many of those that will attend are the unemployed. We expect over five thousand people to participate but due to work, shortage of transport, fear and the obvious sabotage by the Chieftainship our numbers may be lower” he said.

He added that the march destined for Mpukunyoni Traditional Council (Emgeza) will take off from Esigqogqogqweni at 10am where the MEC Nomsa Dube is expected to receive the memorandum at 12pm. This will be a peaceful march, we will not carry weapons, we will not insult or force anyone to attend and Police will help us maintain order.

Pearce while addressing the media said the Chief has been given an indefinite leave by the Nomathiya Royal family. “We are also saying the traditional council must fall, we want government to allow us to elect a new traditional council. We are lucky that the term for the incumbent traditional council elapses this year, there should therefore be a caretaker or interim committee that takes over until the next elections. We want all keys for public properties (e.g. Traditional Court and community Halls) to be surrounded to us by tomorrow, we will keep the keys until such time government help us find a solution. We are claiming back what is rightfully ours, he added.

The march
Monday 14 March 2016; the much awaited day come with a drizzling weather. About 300 participants joined the march supported by some members form the Nomathiya Royal House, 32 communities affected by Tendele Coal Mining, and social movements including the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA, Mfolozi Communities Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), Women affected by Mining (WoMin), and Scholars from the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) - UKZN.

While addressing march Pearce said the march was very much sabotaged, we are challenged by the numerous misleading radio announcements saying the march will not take place. However Pearce was impressed by the turn out despite the all threats. The march however delayed given some radio announcements (that morning) that the march will not proceed, it was then expected that more people will join along the way and some may not make it due to confusion.

As marchers were preparing to take off, police informed conveners that the march will not proceed and that it is illegal. This was received with acute mass resistance and people vowed to continue. Leaders of the march convinced members that the march will proceed, that it's legally approved and that police are wasting their time by trying to prevent the march and instilling fear in people.

The march started off by a prayer, and slogans followed expressing discomfort, discontent and frustration against the coal mine. People were complaining about corruption by local authorities and the mine who continue to benefit at the expense of people’s livelihoods.

The message was clear that people have been pushed to a cutting edge - a point where people cannot take it anymore; enough is enough.

The march was peaceful with no disturbances. After a two hour walk it reached its destination where some anti-protest cohorts where gathering. The march was stopped just a few metres off the main road; away from the designated venue (Mgeza). Among them were the police, some Royal family and traditional council members.

The Mpukunyoni Mayor; Mr Nyawo stopped the march and asked to receive the memorandum from the road. This follows that he did not recognise the legality of the march and this came not as a surprise to disgruntled protesters. The Kwa Msane Police Station Commander warned conveners to be careful of a strong opposition to the march including a lot of people carrying guns. It was alleged that among these were members of the Royal Family and Traditional Council members.

Sboniso Mkwanazi (SM), a Royal Family member said that they were not aware that the Chief was suspended and that there is no letter suctioning the Chief to be on leave or that he is no longer wanted. If there are such problems either in the Royal House we call every family member and discuss. The Chairperson of the Royal House is here, if there is such a need this should come through him so we can find a solution.

As the march was denied entry to Mgeza Hall, people were agitating that they have come to present their cries to Mgeza; not in the street but by the Hall. Pearce took the opportunity to address the crowd and reaffirmed that the march is legal therefore people's right to assemble must be respected. He appealed for Police to uphold their duty and protect the march. It appeared that Police had limited control over the situation. There was an uproar; SM bullied through the crowd to Mr Pearce who was still in his car. He opened Pearce’s bakkie-door. Keys and books and in his (Pearce) possession were grabbed and thrown out – while threatening to kill. Pearce was forced to remain in his car to avoid further attack.

Entry to the Hall was completely denied as the ‘anti-protest’ team stood firm, they did not want to allow even the reading of the memorandum saying there is no one from the authorities to sign. After an hour of negotiations Pearce finally read the memorandum whilst in his car through a loud hailer.

And sadly during his presentation some media people including scholars were directly threatened from taking footages.
The memorandum was latter received on the street and signed without comment from the MEC - COGTA.

Post-march
The following day (15 March 2016) Pearce reported that 8 hours after the march about three suspects entered his compound, and that he was awaken by the noise of their movements. Just a few minutes later he heard gun-shots. As he came out to inspect hid yard - his truck was in a thick fire blaze and a community office had its windows broken.

A number of community members including women and youth feels that the march was a huge success given the intimidating environment. They almost all share the sentiment that the memorandum will be responded to in 14 days, and that the community will decide what’s next thereafter.

The march against coal, corruption and cronyism in northern KZN
By China Ngubane, director of the UKZN Centre for Civil Society Brutus Scholars Programme

Less than 10kms from the border of Africa’s oldest nature reserve, Hluhlue-iMfolozi, a major conflict has been brewing over one of the country’s richest coal fields, at Somkhele. A mass march on Monday was subject to intimidation, as a local Induna protected a Johannesburg coal company – Petmin (known locally as Tendele) – polluting the air and land, and guzzling the drought-stricken area’s scarce water.

With colleagues from the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and other solidarity organisations, I investigated last Sunday, invited by the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MPCA) chairperson Bongani Pearce. Marshalls, sound system, media and refreshments (water and fruit) were prepared. A petition signed by residents from 32 surrounding villages was completed.

According to Pearce, “People are in full support and they take it that the march will represent their voice. We also acknowledge that many people will be at work, and many of those that will attend are the unemployed. We expect over thousands of people to participate but due to work, shortage of transport, fear and the obvious sabotage by the Chieftainship our numbers may be lower.”

The group aimed to march to Mpukunyoni Traditional Council (Emgeza), starting at Esigqogqogqweni at 10am. Pearce arranged for KZN MEC for local government Nomsa Dube to receive the memorandum at 12pm. It was to be a peaceful march, Pearce said: “We will not carry weapons, we will not insult or force anyone to attend and Police will help us maintain order.”

This was a march against the ‘Resource Curse’ caused by coal, one feature of which is the co-optation of local elites such as the Induna, Jiza Gumede, according to Pearce: “We are also saying the traditional council must fall, we want government to allow us to elect a new traditional council. We are lucky that the term for the incumbent traditional council elapses this year, there should therefore be a caretaker or interim committee that takes over until the next elections.”

Monday arrived with drizzling rain. About 300 participants joined the march, supported by some members from the Nomathiya Royal House, 32 communities affected by Tendele Coal Mining, and organisations including the Mining Affected Communities United in Action, Mfolozi Communities Environmental Justice Organisation, Women in Mining, groundWork, Earthlore and the Global Environmental Trust.

Addressing the opening rally, Pearce noted how their efforts to march were being sabotaged: “We are challenged by the numerous misleading radio announcements saying the march will not take place.” However, Pearce was impressed by the turnout despite the threats.

As the residents were preparing to move, police informed them that the march was illegal. This news was received with mass resistance. People vowed to continue. Leaders insisted that they did have legal approval, and convinced the masses that police were wasting their time trying to prevent the march.

The march started with a prayer. The slogans chanted in isiZulu expressed discomfort, discontent and frustration against both the coal mine and corrupt local authorities. The message was that residents of these villages have been pushed to the edge, a point where people cannot take it anymore.

The march was peaceful. But after two hours on the road, it reached its destination and suddenly found opposition. The march was stopped just a few metres off the main road; away from the designated community hall at Mgeza. Among those preventing progress were the police, some members of the royal family and traditional council members.

Mpukunyoni Mayor Mr Nyawo asked to receive the memorandum on the road, not at his office. One member of the royal family, Sboniso Mkhwanazi, insisted that the Induna take control. With the march denied entry to Mgeza Hall, anger rose in the crowd.

Pearce addressed the crowd and appealed for police to uphold their duty and protect the march. But police had limited control over the situation. An uproar ensued. Mkhwanazi bullied through the crowd to Pearce who was still in his bakkie. He opened the door, grabbed keys and books, and threatened to kill Pearce.

The march was still denied entry to the Hall. The small group of opponents, who were said to be armed, did not want to allow even the reading of the memorandum. After an hour of negotiations Pearce finally read the memorandum whilst in his car, using a loud hailer. And as Pearce read, the media and even university scholars were directly prevented from taking footage.

Finally the memorandum was received on the street and signed without comment from Nomsa Dube’s representative, Sibusiso Ngwane.

We disbursed. But later that night, Pearce called me in shock. Just 8 hours after the march ended, three people had entered his compound. He was awoken by the noise of their movements. A few minutes later he heard gun-shots. As he came out to inspect his yard, he found his truck enveloped within a thick blaze of fire. The windows of a community office nearby were broken.

Still, in spite of these huge costs of challenging power in northern KZN, community members concluded to us that this march was a huge success, in the context of the intimidating environment. They almost all share the sentiment that the memorandum must be responded to within 14 days. If there is no response or if it is unsatisfactory, the community will decide where next to raise their courage.

PHOTOS











THE MEMORUNDUM OF GRIAVANCES OF THE MPUKUNYONI COMMUNITY

THIS MEMORUNDUM IS ADDRESSED TO THE ATTENTION OF THE MEC FOR THE COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS, KWAZULU NATAL PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA

I am a member of this community by birth and because of the fact that of my forefathers, and that I grew up and schooled in the very same community. Today, I am a leader of my community which I am proud of and mandated by the same community to present this memorandum of our grievances.

I believe it is the same case for all of us present here today, as members of the Mpukunyoni Community to present our concerns.

On my part, it is this Protest March that asked me to serve as its convener, I did not self-impose myself to you. In my life as a leader in different capacities, I have made it a point that I do not mislead people whom I lead, I have made sure that I talk their word and have stood firm for their interest.

I could not think of a more noble cause than that of standing up and fighting for our human rights and dignity, not merely for the sake of the next generation, but for the sake of providing my own humanity and living up to the great responsibility placed on my shoulder by the Creator Himself.

As the Mpukunyoni community present here today, representing all 32 villages, we are here to voice our disgust and frustration, as we are angered by the unbearable high level of corruption and maladministration, that are robbing our community of its livelihood and hinders the socio-economic development and social cohesion to take place, happening in our traditional institution perpetrated by the very same Traditional Councillors that we elected in 2011.

We gather today to call upon all members of the Mpukunyoni Community to unite and save Mpukunyoni Community from the vultures within the Traditional Council.

We, the people gathered here today, declare for all our people of Mpukunyoni Community and the Country at large that, the challenges that the Mpukunyoni Community is faced with today, will not be solved by anyone else from outside, but by the very same community gathering here. That is why today we have taken the first step forward, we have taken the leap of faith, to bring permanent solutions for Government to assist us to implement it.

The Nomathiya Royal Family, led by the Nomathiya Royal House special Committee, has already taken the decision to give the inkosi the indefinite leave. It is now up to the community to play our part, to come on board and give support for the efforts of the royal Family in finding the solution to solve the problem. They have lead us by example for us to follow.

Today, we are saying Bantwana baseNdlunkulu aninodwa, thina njengomphakathi sikanye nani.

Our gathering today is to make a mark and condemn in the strongest terms the looting of the community resources and expose the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

These cowards have tried and used cheap tactics to stop this community from voicing out their frustration. You have heard them from different radio stations and you have read about it in the Mpukunyoni News Letter, they have spread the propaganda about developmental issues of the Mpukunyoni Community. They have even tried and failed to use the forces of darkness, trying to attack with an aim to kill some of the Nomathiya Royal Family and Community members.

Mphakathi ohloniphekile,

Ziningi izigameko ezenzekileyo ezihlukumeza umphakathi endaweni yakithi yakwaMpukunyoni, futhi zibikiwe lapha emkhandlwini nenkosi imbala iyazazi kodwa ayenzi lutho ngazo.

Kukhona umndeni wakwaNtuli eDubelenkunzi olinyalelwe zinkomo zabo ngenxa yomgodi ombiwe yimayini emfolozi, lapho kuphuza khona izinkomo. Balubika loludaba emkhandlwini kodwa umkhandlu walushaya indiva.

Kukhona umndeni wakwaDladla, banebhizinisi abekade beziphilisa ngalo, lokutshala amahlathi (ogamtrini) laphaya KwaLuhlanga KwaMyeki, imayini ivele yafaka ucingo, yawavelela ngaphakathi amahlathi abo, ingazange ixoxisane nawo, manje abasakwazi ukuqhuba ibhizinisi labo baziphilise. Loludaba luyaziwa ngumkhandlu, kodwa kawenzi lutho ngalo.

Kukhona isikole saseDubelenkunzi, njalo ekuseni abantwana ngaphambu kokuba bafunde, kufanele bashanele ilahle eligcwele emagumbini abo okufundela, kanti futhi izindonga zonke zesikole siklayekile ngenxa yemayini eyakhe eduzane nesikole. Konke lokhu kuyaziwa umkhandlu kodwa awenzi lutho ngakho. Page 3 of 7

Ngingabala kuze kushone ilanga.

Today, we are saying the government of the people by the people can no longer delay us from the implementation of the will of the people of Mpukunyoni Community.

And we are saying, no government can claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.

#THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE MUST BE IMPLEMENTED

Because of this protest march, all people who have gathered here today, to voice their concerns in this manner, are targeted by the very same Traditional Councillors and victimised and not gonna be included in any benefits earmarked for the community, these councillors are heavly armed well resourced, they do not hesitate to go for a kill.

The inkosi of the Mpukunyoni Community has become law to himself, in fact he undermines community rights, he treats the community members as if they have no rights at all, like:

the rights to speak freely,

the rights to assemble,

the rights to free association

the rights to be a member of any organisation of your choice.

the rights to clean water

the rights to healthy environment and rights for protection

The corrupt inkosi together with some of the Traditional Councillors and some of the so called members of the Royal Family who are stealing from the community purse have colluded with the mine bosses and turned the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council into a private institution, running their own businesses, instead of being impartial arbiters.

The inkosi together with his cronies has deviated from the mandate and legislation guidelines. The inkosi does not represent the interest of the community at heart but for his own personal gain, he is not trust worthy and he is at the forefront of the looting of the community properties and resources. Page 4 of 7

As the Mpukunyoni Community, today we are here to put our foot down, saying enough is enough, we can no longer tolerate this illicit behaviour,

we are saying today we have had enough,

Today, we have lost all faith in our Traditional Council

#TRADITIONALCOUNCILMUSTFALL

Today, we have lost Trust to inkosi of the Mpukunyoni Community.

#INKOSIMUSTFALL

We are here today as the community of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Authority to call upon resignation of the inkosi and withdrawal of the certificate of authority of chieftainship of Mzokhulayo Myson Mkhwanazi by the KwaZulu Natal Provincial Premier.

Today, we are here to demand the keys to all Mpukunyoni community buildings and offices.

#BRINGBACKTHEKEYS

Our Concerns are as followed:

1. High level of corruption, fraud, mismanagement and looting of funds from the community purse

2. No audited financials for the past five years of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council

3. Dodgy deals signed by the inkosi and Traditional Council on behalf of the Mpukunyoni Community without consulting and communicating with the community.

4. No access of information by community members about the work of the Traditional Council

5. Colluding of the inkosi and Traditional Council with the mine bosses with an aim to loot the community resources.

6. Misrepresentation of the community by some of the Traditional Council

7. Setting up of bogus structures as representatives of the Mpukunyoni Community

8. Beating up and harassing of some of other Royal Family and community members who complaint about the mine by izinduna under the instruction of inkosi

9. Hit squad hired by some of the Traditional Council members to threaten and even kill members of the community who complained about the mine

10. Victimisation of some of the Royal Family and community members not

to be allowed to participate in any supply chain and procurement of goods

11. Job opportunities given to their family members and close friends

12. Ownership of the community shares from the companies and investors operating with the Mpukunyoni Community

13. Mechanism for community to participate and benefit from the community shares

14. Women and youth are side lined in decision making

15. Stealing and theft of the community properties and resources

16. Vandalism of community property by some of the Traditional Council

17. Mismanagement of community assets, resources and finances

18. Deviation of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council from its mandate and legislation

19. Policies and Procedures of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council are not implemented

20. Roles and Responsibilities of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council are not adhered to.

21. Lack of governance and transparency on community projects

22. Lack of communication and consultation of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council with the community

23. There is no respect for the traditional Institution by the Traditional Councillors

24. Poor attendance of the meetings of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council

25. Lack of quorum of the meetings of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council to take decisions

26. Lack of attendance of community complaints

27. Infightings among members of the Traditional Council

28. Disappearance of community funds donated by local companies earmarked for community development Page 6 of 7

29. Decisions taken by the Traditional Council are not implemented to benefit the community but to benefit the individuals within the Traditional Council including inkosi.

30. Broken leadership of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council

31. Weaknesses of the Royal Family

32. The behaviour of some of the Traditional Council within the community is unacceptable.

33. Mpukunyoni Traditional Court used by the inkosi to oppress and misjudge the community matters

34. Rigths of the community are not protected under the current leadership

35. Activities of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council are not coordinated with other organs of the state

Our Demands are as follows:

1. The will of the people must be implemented

2. Disbandment of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Council with immediate effect,

3. Suspension and Withdrawal of the inkosi Myson Mzokhulayo Mkhwanazi from chieftainship as inkosi of Mpukunyoni Community with immediate effect

4. Give back the keys of all Mpukunyoni buildings and offices to the community

5. Suspension of some of the izinduna with immediate effect

6. Installation of the interim committee or caretaker or administrator to facilitate the upcoming Traditional Council Elections

7. Open Chieftainship Dialogue among the members of the Royal Family

8. Investigate the irregularities and exploitation of community resources, finances, properties and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Mpukunyoni Community with this petition want to send a clear message, set our position and claim back what is rightfully ours to declare and demand and put an end to this empire of doom. Therefore, we call upon Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs together with the KwaZulu Natal Provincial Premier to apply his/her mind without fear to implement the will of the people.

This Memorandum of Grievances was signed during the gathering of the Mpukunyoni Traditional Community on the 14th March 2016

The Mpukunyoni Community Demand the Response within 14 Days.



“Leave the coal in the hole”
Say women from KwaZulu-Natal’s mining war zone




Skeletons of cattle and other animals litter a desolate looking land once lush with vegetation. The phenomenon of drought has never been experienced as badly, say the indigenous people of this ancestral land of the Zulus known as Fuleni.

Two coal companies are being blamed. One, Johannesburg-based Petmin, has operated in Somkhele since 2007. Early on, it dug out graves of ancestors to get at the rich anthracite. But in doing so, the Johannesburg firm removed the bones without requiting the long-rested spirits of the dead, in violation of sacred traditional protocol. Residents remain livid.
Hundreds of people removed from their land around Somkhele were also abandoned by their traditional leaders and elected leaders. Bought-off chiefs and politicians decided to side with the Johannesburg tormentors, thus permitting the rapid pollution of nearby water, land and air.
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 Nisha Naidoo, CCS: Impact Strategy Workshop. Wednesday 13 February 2019 
 Aziz Choudry and Salim Vally, CCS Seminar: History's Schools: Past Struggles and Present Realities. Tuesday 27 November 2018 
 CCS & Powerfest Public Screening "The Public Bank Solution: How can we own our oewn banks?". Thursday 8 November 2018 
 Dr Victor Ayeni, CCS and African Ombudsman Research Centre Seminar: Improving Service Delivery in Africa. Tuesday 6 November 2018 
 Alude Mahali, CCS & HSRC Present Documentary Screening & Seminar: Ready or Not!. Thursday 22 November 2018 
 CCS & Powerfest, Public Screening of "Busted: Money Myths and Truths Revealed". Thursday 25 October 2018 
 Henrik Bjorn Valeur, A Culture of Fearing ‘The Other’: Spatial Segregation in South Africa. Wednesday 7 November 2018 
 Danford Chibvongodze, Seminar Six: "Half Man, Half Amazing"- The Gift of Nasir Jones' Music to African Collective Identity. Thursday, 11 October 2018 
 Brian Minga Amza and Dime Maziba, CCS Seminar: 31 Years Later - A Consideration of the Ideas of Thomas Sankara. Wednesday, 24 October 2018 
 Ajibola Adigun CCS Seminar: African Pedagogy and Decolonization: Debunking Myths and Caricatures. Thursday 18 October 2018 
 CCS & Powerfest! Public Screening of "FALSE PROFITS: SA AND THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS". Wednesday, 26 September 2018 
 CCS Seminar: Co-Production of Knowledge - Lessons from Innovative Sanitation Service Delivery in Thandanani and Banana City informal Settlements, Durban. Wednesday 17 October 2018