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The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is likely to grill South Africa over its handling of conflict about proposed mining in the Xolobeni region of the Wild Coast following the assassination of anti-mining activist Bazooka Rhadebe.
This is according to the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), which has extended its support to the family of Rhadebe and said it would be working together with the community and local authorities to provide assistance during this time.
In a media release the day after chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Bazooka Rhadebe, was shot by two gunmen outside his home, the LRC noted that during the 116th session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva earlier this month, specific reference had been made to the threats and intimidation of anti-mining activists in Xolobeni.
The Legal Resources Centre had raised the issue of the protection of human rights defenders.
"Arising from this, the Human Rights Committee asked the South African delegation about the steps that have been taken to investigate and prosecute allegations by members of the Xolobeni community," the LRC said.
"The Deputy Minister of Justice, on behalf of the SA delegation, undertook to engage with civil society, including the Legal Resources Centre.
"This issue will again be raised before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, at which South Africa is scheduled to present its state report next month."
The LRC said human rights activists in South Africa had been victims of aggression, intimation, assault and murder.
"It is in this context that the LRC and many other organisations and human rights defenders in this country and throughout the world expect South Africa to vote in favour of a resolution calling for the protection of human rights defenders," the LRC statement said.
"The Legal Resources Centre strongly condemns the brutal murder of Mr Rhadebe. This tragedy will be keenly felt by the community at large, as well as staff of the Legal Resources Centre who have been working closely with the Amadiba Crisis Committee over the past few years."
The LRC said assault and intimation of anti-mining community members had occurred before, but this was the first time someone had been murdered.
"In May last year, Umgungundlovu headwoman Duduzile Baleni and residents and ward councillors launched an urgent high court application to interdict threats and assaults by pro-mining residents.
"In December, attacks continued, with armed gunmen terrorising the Mdatya village and assaulting community members. The police released the suspects in January. The Amadiba Crisis Committee and Umgungundlovu have complained that the police have not been willing to cooperate with them."
The LRC and Richard Spoor Attorneys have been working with the anti-mining community members to oppose mining in the area.
Earlier this month, on behalf of the Umgungundlovu Inkosana’s Council, the Amadiba Crisis Committee and affected community members, the LRC and Richard Spoor Attorneys filed an objection to the mining right application of the Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources to mine in the area.
"We expect the South Africa government to support the resolution on Human Rights Defenders which has been tabled at the UN, titled, 'Protection of human rights defenders working to promote economic, social and cultural rights'," the LRC said.
"We join the call of the Amadiba Crisis Committee for South Africans to support the community of Xolobeni. The constitutional rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are fundamental to our democratic dispensation, and under no circumstances should the lives and safety of community activists and other human rights defenders be sacrificed for their exercise of these rights.
"Decisive action must be taken by the relevant authorities in response to this unconscionable killing, and to ensure the safety of other activists in the community."