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A South African village, a murder and a coal mine

Picture of Fikile Ntshangase on a mantlepiece
photo of Fikile Ntshangase on a mantlepiece

in the wake of closing month’s murder of an anti-mining activist in rural South Africa, the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani travelled to the as soon as peaceful group in KwaZulu-Natal, now plagued by tensions and dying threats.

We pressure in a convoy of two cars, weaving our manner deep inner a forest in northern KwaZulu-Natal, to look two men who’ve demanded a gathering vicinity faraway from curious eyes.

Fikile Ntshangase, who became fighting a plan to beginning an opencast mine on the site of her village, became shot lifeless not removed from right here and the men inform me they’re frightened that they can be next.

“We don’t sleep at evening, we don’t know who to believe any more, no longer even our personal households,” one says as we take a seat between tall eucalyptus timber.

“We on no account notion now not coming to an settlement as a group could lead on, would lead, to a person’s death, mainly because the mine remains operating,” he continues, his face visibly weary.

A home in a rural area
Fikile Ntshangase’s home changed into raided by using armed guys closing month and she become shot lifeless

the man, who can’t be recognized for his protection, is referring to Tendele’s Somkhele mine which has been open when you consider that 2006.

The business wants to expand its operations by way of 22,000 hectares and this may suggest about 200 households within the villages of Ophondweni and Emalahleni would deserve to be relocated.

Tendele has provided compensation to people who have agreed to circulation and some 140 households have stated they would promote.

Its boss Jan du Preez says that accusations that its plans are linked to Ms Ntshangase’s dying are unfounded.

And in a press release sending condolences to her family, the enterprise condemned “any types of violence and intimidation in the strongest feasible phrases”.


We trip to Ophondweni, the place cattle graze on the plush, rolling hills and brightly coloured homes dot the geographical region.

It looks peaceful on the floor however we quickly study there are divisions and tensions here.

a few of people that are inclined to sell up see this as a chance for a extra modern and perhaps fancier lifestyle. however for others it became a remember of protection.

‘loss of life threats’

“Our mother lives there by myself and we felt she would be safer if we agreed to promote as a result of many americans there desire this to ensue,” one man, who requested not to be named, advised me.

“We didn’t wish to put her lifestyles in hazard. What if she receives shot too?”

a further man tells me: “We’re getting dying threats as a result of we do not wish to relocate.”

he’s some of the people who are fighting to reside in put.

“certainly one of us received a message warning that if we continue with the fight, they are going to kill the breadwinner in each and every family because our resolution to dwell is placing miners’ jobs at risk,” he adds.

The opencast mine
Tendele’s opencast mine at Somkhele shows how an immense crater is dug from the floor to attain the coal

Mining is considered one of South Africa’s oldest industries however there are issues about air pollutants and health complications for these residing in mining communities, as smartly because the lack of grazing land.

but the authorities here have to weigh that up with the nation’s urgent need to bolster the financial system and supply jobs. in consequence companies can have amazing sway on the minds of the determination makers.

Buried under the pleasing rural surroundings are big deposits of anthracite, the best quality of coal, which is in particular used in metal manufacturing.

as the country’s biggest anthracite producer, the growth, if it goes forward, would suggest big company for Tendele.

Shot six times in her condominium

however that can’t turn up unless it overcomes the objections of the 21 households who’ve taken the enterprise to court over the flow. The legal combat is being led by means of a local group known as the Mfolozi community Environmental Justice business enterprise (Mcejo).

Ms Ntshangase changed into a senior member of Mcejo and some group individuals believe it was this ongoing dispute that resulted in the 65-yr-historic’s killing.

people that knew her describe her as “kind but feisty”, on no account one to returned down from what she believed was a fight for justice.

Late remaining month, three armed guys entered her home and shot her six instances.

"We live in fear but we try to put on a brave face. We don't want to leave our home because we feel close to her here"", Source: Malungelo Xakaza, Source description: Daughter of Fikile Ntshangase, Image: Malungelo Xakaza
“We are living in fear but we are trying to placed on a courageous face. We don’t need to depart our domestic as a result of we suppose near her here””, source: Malungelo Xakaza, source description: Daughter of Fikile Ntshangase, graphic: Malungelo Xakaza

Her daughter Malungelo Xakaza tells me she remains struggling to come back to terms with the loss.

“Opencast mining is not respectable for this area so it really is what she became trying to place out there for the individualsā€¦ and regrettably she begun getting threats and then this took place,” she says.

No-one has been arrested for Ms Ntshangase’s loss of life and police advised the BBC that the reason for the homicide is still unknown.

“We reside in concern however we are trying to put on a courageous face. We do not are looking to depart our domestic as a result of we consider near her here, this is the place she lived and here’s the place she passed away,” the 30-12 months-old tells me.

‘This land is all we have’

The anti-mining activist became now not the first one in her community to be centered. a couple of months in the past, another opponent of the enlargement, Tholakele Mthembu, became lucky to escape unhurt, after 19 shots had been fired into her home.

Aerial view of the village
If the plans go ahead then the brand new mine would be dug right here

Ancestral land consists of deep which means in rural communities and it’s greater than simply a spot to reside.

returned among the many tall eucalyptus bushes, one of the vital guys explains, with defiance in his voice, the value.

“This land is all we’veā€¦ I have raised my children right here and it helps me focus on my cattle.

“Land is wealth for us in rural communities, there is nothing more suitable, no longer even funds. We’re clear that our land isn’t for sale,” the aged man provides.

"We have to find a way that we can hear each other and listen to each other otherwise clearly the risk of future violence is horrendous", Source: Jan du Preez, Source description: Tendele CEO, Image: Jan du Preez
“We must locate a way that we will hear each and every different and hearken to each and every other in any other case naturally the risk of future violence is horrendous”, source: Jan du Preez, supply description: Tendele CEO, picture: Jan du Preez

but Tendele appears at securing a special financial future for the neighborhood and says the mine’s expansion will herald vital jobs.

“there’s a dispute as a result of they do not want to accept our offers but we’re carrying on with to work with these households. evidently we need a win for all and sundry in the neighborhood,” business boss Mr Du Preez tells the BBC in his Johannesburg office.

building front line

these dwelling in concern amid the negotiations say the mining business isn’t doing adequate to deliver calm. however Mr Du Preez says these claims are unfounded and says there is no connection to the alleged intimidation.

“We must discover a way that we are able to hear each different and take heed to every other in any other case obviously the chance of future violence is horrendous.”

The need to balance economic advantages with environmental considerations and the ancestral attachment to the land has became this rural group into the entrance line of a battle time-honored throughout the constructing world.

however some thing occurs with the mine, existence has changed for the individuals of Ophondweni as peace hangs within the stability for this as soon as united group.