SAPS must investigate events at Xolobeni without delay

SAPS must investigate events at Xolobeni without delay

By Amnesty International South Africa | Source: Press Statement | 27 September 2018

The excessive use of force by the South African Police Service (SAPS) during a peaceful anti-mining protest in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape, yesterday is intolerable and must be investigated immediately, said Amnesty International South Africa today.

Responding to witness testimonies, video footage and photos received by Amnesty International South Africa indicating that the SAPS used teargas, stun grenades and death threats to disperse protestors in the Xolobeni community, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“It is unacceptable that the SAPS resorted to violence and threats to disperse peaceful protestors. The police must remember that community members have the right to peaceful assembly. We must not forget the tragedy that happened in Marikana in 2012, and the repercussions it has had for that community and beyond.

“The video footage we have seen is alarming as it appears to show the SAPS using excessive force to disperse community members and prevent them from attending a meeting called by the Department of Mineral Resources about a proposed titanium mine in the area. As this meeting was called specifically to hear community views regarding the proposed mine, the fact that community members opposed to the mine were prevented from joining harmed their right to participation in public affairs as well as their right to defend their ancestral lands threatened by the mining project .

“What happened at Xolobeni yesterday must be investigated and those responsible for human rights violations should be brought to justice.”

Amnesty International South Africa further notes the arrest, release and subsequent charging, after the protest, of human rights attorney and activist Richard Spoor, who is representing the community. He has been charged with incitement to commit an offence and crimen injuria.

“We further call on the SAPS to drop all charges against Richard Spoor immediately,” said Shenilla Mohamed.

Background

On 23 September 2018, Amnesty International South Africa received reports that the SAPS had used teargas, stun grenades and death threats at a community meeting, called by the Department of Mineral Resources, in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape.

Amnesty International South Africa then received photographic evidence of members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) receiving hospital treatment for injuries caused by teargas.

The ACC, a community group, was formed in 2007 by villagers of Xolobeni in Pondoland, Eastern Cape, to fight titanium mining in their area. Nonhle Mbuthuma, ACC’s founder, has united indigenous people across five villages who have communal rights to land in the Xolobeni area where, if a proposed titanium mine goes ahead, more than 500 people will be forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands.

Nonhle Mbuthuma’s colleague Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe, land and environmental rights defender and chairperson of the ACC, was shot dead on 22 March 2016. No one has been brought to justice for his murder. 

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