Police must investigate events at Xolobeni without delay – Amnesty International

2018-09-25 18:26
Xolobeni village near Mbizana (Leon Sadiki, file)

Xolobeni village near Mbizana (Leon Sadiki, file)

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Amnesty International in South Africa has called on police to investigate "excessive force" used during a peaceful anti-mining protest in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.

"It is unacceptable that the SAPS (South African Police Service) resorted to violence and threats to disperse peaceful protesters. The police must remember that community members have the right to peaceful assembly," said Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa on Tuesday.

Mohamed said the organisation had received witness testimonies, video footage and photos showing police using teargas, stun grenades and death threats to disperse protesters in the Xolobeni community.

"The video footage we have seen is alarming as it appears to show the [police] 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."

READ: Court hears Xolobeni community is in dark about Australian mining company's plans

Mohamed said the 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."

Mohamed further called for the charges against human rights lawyer Richard Spoor to be dropped immediately.

Spoor, who was opposing the application for a mine in Xolobeni along with residents, was arrested on Monday and appeared in the Bizana Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

READ: Attorney arrested after bumping heads with Mantashe, marching at mining meeting

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said he had been charged with disobeying a police officer's instruction, inciting public violence and common assault. 

Mantashe had visited the village in the Mbizana local municipality, on the Wild Coast, on Sunday to engage with residents on issues emanating from an application by Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM) for rights to mine the titanium-rich sands.

The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) launched a court battle against Mantashe's department and TEM, which was heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in April.

Concerned by how much engagement with residents would actually take place, ACC members marched to the venue to add their voices to the debate.

In videos posted by the committee, residents are seen singing and dancing as a group of police officers in riot gear form a line in front of the marquee.

According to ACC, tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

In another video, Spoor tells Mantashe: "Don't call me a liar. I am trying to help you and if you work with us, we can work together and solve problems."

Mantashe is heard telling Spoor not to disrupt the meeting.

ALSO READ: A murder on Wild Coast escalates conflict over water, land, mining


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