On Human Rights Day, 21 March 2022, hundreds of land activists and community members from six provinces in South Africa gathered in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape to attend a Peoples’ Summit for Alternative Development and to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the death of land activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe, who was murdered by “unknown” assassins in 2016. In this gathering, they reaffirmed their commitment to struggle for the Right to Say No.
Xolobeni, March 2022
- We, more than 60 activists from communities in Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo and the North West, have come together to hold a Peoples’ Summit for Alternative Development in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape. This gathering, which coincides with ‘Human Rights Day’, is not only in commemoration of the assassination of comrade Bazooka Radebe of the Amadiba Crisis Committee but it is also to expose how our communities are affected by destructive exploitation of natural resources – ‘EXTRACTIVISM’ – and by top-down plans that have no concern to the rights and needs of the communities. Despite the so-called promises of human rights – we continue to have our human rights violated.
- It is through this collective experience that we resist! We have deliberated over and reaffirmed our commitment to struggle for the Right to Say No. We have gathered to demand an end to dispossession and a recognition of the sovereignty of the people over our land, our coasts and our natural resources.
- We have decided to organise our communities in the defence and expansion of what is called The Commons: This is land and resources that we collectively own and use together.
In Solidarity with activists under-attack
- We stand in solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo whose members and leadership face false arrests and killings at the hands of the state and local elites who are threatened by people advancing alternative development from below: Development that builds a community instead of breaking it apart.
- On the 62nd anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, we continue to commemorate all the courageous activists who have fallen, while defending human rights, land and the rights of nature.
Extractivism and failed development path
- Our country is addicted to a failed development path.
- We defined Extractivism as a destructive and exploitable model based on the sucking out of limited natural resources to sell it abroad for the creation of profits and dividends for shareholders. There is no regard for the impact this has on our communities, workers and the environment.
- Extractivism includes deforestation, industrial agriculture that damages the soil as well as the overfishing of oceans. Mining is at the centre of SA’s kind of Extractivism that devastates the climate and the health of affected communities and workers. We demand a moratorium on the granting of exploration/prospecting rights, mining rights, the opening of new mines and the renewal and amendment of existing licences up until all affected communities have been fully consulted and have consented to the proposed developments.
- Last year, South Africa became aware that the process of extractivism was intensifying to include searching the oceans for oil and gas with seismic blasting, which further threatens marine life and the livelihoods of fisher communities. Our government fails to acknowledge that these fossil fuels are the primary cause of the climate crisis.
TNC´s and a Binding Treaty
- Big Transnational Corporations assisted by the government are at the centre of the intensification of extractivism and are driving the continued dispossession of our communities.
- The 2018 Baleni Judgement says that mining projects must get “full and informed consent” from communities. But the new Traditional Khoisan and Leadership Act (TKLA) gives traditional leaders the right to sign secret business deals. This is in breach of our customary laws protected by the Constitution.
- Communal land is owned by the people, not by traditional leaders. They have no right to sell our land against our will. Our communal land is not for sale!
- We demand that the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA) is made permanent. We support the challenge to the TKLA in the Constitutional Court. All new regulations and changes in laws that contradict our communities’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be withdrawn.
- We know that we are a part of a worldwide struggle against Transnational Corporations. Passive governments in all developing countries advance the exploitative role of TNCs by rolling out the red carpet to them and allowing them to break the laws. We demand a binding treaty between nations that ends the impunity of corporations and the billionaires who run them; a treaty that outlaws the continued violation of peoples’ rights as well as the rights of Nature.
- History has taught us that in the struggle against corporate power and abuse, our organisations and movements are what count. We shall organise and mobilise in defence of communities, workers and nature. Legal action is not an end in itself but a tactic to be employed as part of a struggle to overcome the uneven and unequal power of transnational capital. We will take legal action in defence of our rights but as part of a comprehensive strategy of reversing the power of capital and the state over us.
- In this regard, we commit ourselves to the unity of communities and workers in order to develop collective alternatives. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are now striking together against Sibanye Stillwater. We follow their example. We shall unite our people into a movement for peoples’ development.
What is development for us?
- We know that the problems in our communities are similar across the country. In rural areas, water pollution in rivers has become worse. Sewage is the streets are torturing the townships. Mass unemployment paralyses our youth and drives hunger and violence against women and girls. And yet, an abundance of work needs to be done to repair broken infrastructure everywhere. Organise and fund this work together with a Basic Income Grant (BIG) without ten thousand tenders and billions lost to corruption! That would be DEVELOPMENT.
- Production that meets the needs of all the people in a country without destroying the planet is DEVELOPMENT. Wherever there is land in townships, in rural communities and in cities, communities must farm it and employ the youth and women. The government should support such development of the local economy. What we want is an economy of solidarity that puts communities and people at the centre.
- Land is life and we are nothing without it. We will not allow our communal resources and environment to be exploited and our communities to be intimidated and leaders to be murdered. Communities can no longer be excluded from “the Economy”. Nothing about us, without us. We refuse to be casualties of profit. We refuse to be slaves in our own homes.
- The government is dreaming of ‘Smart Cities’ and a deep-sea harbour as part of Strategic Infrastructure Projects and the establishment of Special Economic Zones to unlock economic growth. Our communities are dreaming of local clinics with enough staff and resources, local schools with 25 learners per teacher, bridges over rivers so that children don’t drown, decent local roads and clean water, free from acid mine drainage and sewage. To address all this is DEVELOPMENT, but when the logic of the capitalist system directs billions of rand to be invested in luxury projects it is NOT development.
- The world and South Africa need an energy transition that is Just. But to be a Just Transition there must also be a transition of power to Development from Below together with socially-owned renewable energy. If not, the lives of the people, especially of women and those with disabilities, will not improve.