Postcards from Xolobeni
The Xolobeni community’s Amadiba Crisis Committee is taking the Department of Mineral Resources to court, requesting that it rules that no licence to mine the area can be granted without the community’s consent. This photo essay gives a voice to a rural community at risk of being destroyed for corporate profit. By THOM PIERCE.
Xolobeni is a cluster of rural communities on the eastern coast of South Africa. Tourists know the area as The Wild Coast because of its beautiful and rugged coastline. The people of Xolobeni are mostly self-sufficient, living off the land and fishing in the sea, and often only travelling the two hours to the closest shops once a month to buy sugar, oil and other basic provisions.
The Xolobeni community has been fighting proposed titanium dune mining for nearly 20 years. The mineral-rich sand of the Wild Coast is seen as an opportunity for international mining companies to profit, with only the resistance of local residents standing in their way. They stand to lose everything; should mining proceed it will displace hundreds of people from their ancestral land, cut off their access to the sea, pollute surrounding villages, grazing lands and water sources, and destroy grassland, estuarine and marine ecosystems. It will also necessitate the relocation of ancestral graves and in this way sever the Amadiba people from their cultural roots.
For more than a decade, Australia’s Mineral Resources Limited has persisted in seeking to scoop 22 x 1.5 km of dunes from Xolobeni’s coast, ignoring repeated objections from the community. Despite claims that they have divested from the Xolobeni Mining Project, MRC’s 2017 annual report indicates that the company continues to hold 56% shares in the project through its South African subsidiary Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources(TEM). TEM’s application for a mining licence has only been halted because of an 18-month ministerial moratorium, imposed following the assassination of Bazooka Radebe. The application is likely to resume when the moratorium expires.
On 23 April 2018 the Amadiba Crisis Committee is taking the Department of Mineral Resources to court. They are requesting that the court rules that no licence to mine the area can be granted without the community’s consent.
In these postcards they tell Minerals Minister Gwede Mantashe what impact mining in the area would have on them.
(Please click on the gallery icon at the bottom right corner of the images for a full screen viewing.)
Bonisile Elsie Sibiya
“In our religion the sea is very important. We use it to baptise and to heal. The mine will stop us from accessing our land (and) sea, which will make our lives very hard.”
“I was born and grew up here, I have nowhere else to live. I will have to move away from the land of my ancestors who are buried here. I don’t want the mine to come and take away my land and my history.”
“We get our food from the sea, it is how we live and how I feed my family. I sell crayfish to the community so I can send my children to school. My grandfather fought to keep this land and I will fight for it for my children. We are healthy and happy here, the mine will change everything.”
Fakazile Joyce Ndovela
“I have cattle, sheep and goats. I grow crops and plough my fields. I don’t have a husband but I survive off the land. The water feeds everything, the crops, the animals and my family. I don’t want to change the way I live.”
“I use the land for food and my family graves are here. I will never ever allow the mining in my area.”
“My family are buried on this land. My father, brother and grandchild are all here, as well as many others. In Pondo culture we cannot move them. If the mine comes we will have to leave and they will stay behind. This land is sacred to us. Maybe others don’t understand but it is very important.”
“As a subsistence farmer I directly depend on this land for a living, meaning anyone who destroys my land is destroying any person living in this community.”
“If the mine comes it will pollute our water and destroy our land. We will be moved away to live in townships without the space we need to farm. This land means everything to us.”
“The land feeds our family and the sea is part of our lives. We come here to think and to collect water for our health. We need free access to the sea, it is our right as a community. Even if we are allowed access, the mine will pollute the sea, it will never be the same.”
Mabhude ‘Camago’ Danca
“The natural streams provide us with water and we use the land to grow our crops. The mine will use up all the water and take away the wealth of our land.”
“I am a farmer and I have lived off this land all my life. If we are moved away I will have to start again in a new community. They will not be from the same church as me and may not understand my religion. This will cause me lots of problems.”
“I have pigs, cows and goats that I farm on this land. I also grow all of the food that I need. I will never allow the mining to come and change the way I live. This land is not for sale. It is for the Pondo people.”
“When the mining happens this forest won’t be healthy any more. The sand will cover everything and the trees will die. As a community we understand that the environment is important. We have balance now but the water will be gone and there will be nothing to feed the trees.”
“We are happy living off the land. We have everything we need. We don’t need to be given handouts. This is the life we are used to and we don’t want it to change. We say no to the mine.”
“I am growing all of my food in this land. We need to pass it down to our children and grandchildren so that they can enjoy the same life that we have had.”
“The best life I have is connected to this Pondo land. You can’t have a good life if you are only concerned with money. I get herbs for my medicine from the land around my home. I respect the land and it provides for me. My ancestors are buried here and I need to protect them from the mining.”
“The wood that we collect here is very important to my family. Parafin and gas stoves are dangerous for our health. We have always used firewood for cooking, it is how we live. We don’t want the mine, this land has everything we need.”
“The sea (is) essential to my family and the community. We get our food from the sea. We collect mussels, limpets, oysters and octopus. We use what the sea provides to keep us healthy. We cannot live without it – hands off our land.”
“If the mine comes I will have to move, otherwise I am just waiting to die. The surrounding environment will be gone along with the farming. There will be no water, it will be sucked up by the company. If they come, it means they are coming to kill our way of life.”
“The sea is very important to us. If a member of the family dies in an accident we must come and wash in the sea to cleanse to ourselves. The seawater is sacred to us, it helps us to stay healthy and to sleep well. This is our culture and we don’t want the mine to come and take it away.”
Nomsa and Valumsindo Fana
“We don’t want mining because it will pollute the soil that we use to grow maize and feed the cattle. It will kill the crops that we rely on for an income and to feed our family.”
“This land has lots of different natural medicine. The mine will dry out the land and it will kill off the plants that we use. This community is very safe but if the mine comes it will bring crime because many people will move here to try to find work.”
“Maize is our main source of food, we cannot survive without it. We have lived off the land for hundreds of years, we would not be happy to buy it from the shop. Like these clothes, farming the land is part of our traditional culture and we are very proud of it.”
“I don’t want mining in this land because it comes to destroy our customary law, the way we do things. As a community we need a right to say NO! – as the indigenous people from Xholobeni.”
“As Pondo people we have used the land in the same way for many, many years. We like to live this way to feed our family. If the mine comes it will take away our land and we won’t be able to live this way. Our traditions are important. Our attire, land and animals are all connected.”
“The mining companies in South Africa are not in favour of communities. The only thing they do is to undermine our indigenous history. I don’t want mining to come here because we have everything we need in our land to keep our life healthy forever.”
“If the mine comes we will have to leave this land. The noise and the sand will be too much. If we move away our lifestyle will change and we will have to leave our ancestors behind. We need to protect the land for future generations.”
“My grandparents fought for this land, for me to live freely. I will never agree to a mine coming here and destroying the land and the graves of my family, their spirits still live here. This land is healthy and we have worked with it for many generations, it is a part of us.”
“We use the grass to make the roof for our houses and to feed our cattle. If the mine comes the grass will be destroyed, we will have nothing to make our homes with.”
“At the moment we have access to the sea. We can fish to feed our families and, if we catch many, we can sell them to the community. If the mine is built the access will be cut off. The water from the estuary will be polluted. We will not be able to fish any more.” DM
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