A luta continua, the struggle continues, speakers declared at the emotionally charged funeral of late anti-mining activist and community leader Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe.
He was buried in Emdatya Village outside Mbizana yesterday.
Rhadebe, who was the chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee and an anti-mining lobbyist, died in a hail of bullets last week.
He was assassinated in what is believed to be part of an ongoing violent stand-off between pro-mining and anti-mining groups in Xolobeni.
His death follows reports in January in City Press that more violence was feared since there was tension between opposing factions in the community.
The village headwoman fled Xolobeni and went into hiding after attempts on her life in December.
Also in December, three people were injured and four arrested in Xolobeni in the decade-long battle over plans by Australian mining company Transworld Energy & Minerals Resources to mine titanium in the picturesque dunes of Xolobeni on the Wild Coast.
The funeral was held under a tight police presence.
It was attended by Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa and social movements and civil organisations including representatives of political parties such as the ANC, Pan Africanist Congress and Economic Freedom Fighters.
Yesterday, hundreds of community members aligned to the anti-mining group wore black T-shirts with the words “No mining on our land” printed on them.
They formed a guard of honour around the coffin of their slain leader as Nonhle Mbuthuma, one of the most vocal leaders against mining, led them in song.
They sang in isiXhosa “Imining ayiphumeleli ... [mining will not succeed] with fists clenched high. They circled Rhadebe’s coffin which was draped with a blanket.
In the songs, they vowed their leader would not die in vain and they would continue to defend their land against the mining company.
Mbuthuma, who is the secretary of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, described Rhadebe as a hero who had died protecting the land of his forefathers.
“He died for South Africa not just for Xolobeni. He led from the front. He was outspoken and fearless. Even though he is gone, we will continue to fight.
“They would have to kill us all before they can start to mine on our land. A luta continua,” she said.
Mathunjwa said: “The mining investors should not have more power than the community itself.
“The community must have a final say whether they like the mine or not.”
Mathunjwa said Australia had about 24% of the world’s titanium, while China had about 27% of the mineral resource.
He said South Africa had about 10% and if Transworld Energy & Minerals Resources was allowed to acquire that percentage, it would have a monopoly and the majority of titanium in the world.
He said job creation should not be used to disguise the exploitation of people and their land. He said 50% community ownership was the only true empowerment.
Mathunjwa said an open engagement with the community was the only way forward. There should be transparency about the spin-offs for the community.
He called on the South African government to declare the area of Xolobeni a heritage site to prevent the death of more people.
Brown Motau, of the Bench Marks Foundation, said they would give the community of Xolobeni their full support.
Speaking on behalf of Bishop Jo Seoka [chairman of the Bench Marks Foundation], who was also present at the funeral, Motau said the struggle of Xolobeni would continue until the people had won.
“This is going to be the first mine that is going to be stopped!” he exclaimed.
Seoka and the board of the foundation made it clear that they were not going to fold their arms.
“For the first time, we are going to see the right of the community to say no being realised,” he said.