Nearly a month after gunmen assassinated Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe, the leader of a community group that opposed a mine and new highway on South Africa’s Wild Coast, the investigation has expanded but no suspects have been identified, according to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, South Africa’s national police unit for investigating corruption and political and organized crime.
“It’s a murder case and we suspect there’s an element of organized crime,” Hlangwani Mulaudzi, the spokesman of the Directorate, told reporters in South Africa.
“There is a task team formed to deal with this case,” Mulaudzi added last week in an interview with Checkpoint, a program of the 24-hour eNews Channel Africa. “There have been huge strides made so far.”
Radebe was attacked on March 22 at one of his repair and storage shops in Port Edward along the Indian Ocean coast, about two hours south of Durban and close to Xolobeni, where a titanium beach mine and freeway are proposed. Witnesses, among them Radebe’s son, said two men, apparently impersonating police officers, arrived after sunset in a white vehicle with blue emergency lights fixed on the roof. Radebe had received a warning about a hitlist prior to the attack. He resisted the gunmen’s order to get in the car and was shot eight times.
Investigators learned that the vehicle had been carjacked with two passengers inside. The gunmen put one of the kidnapped passengers in the trunk and restrained the second in the back seat. Both passengers survived.
The owner of a taxi company raised in the Xolobeni area, 52-year-old Radebe chaired the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a civic group formed in 2007 with hundreds of members who opposed plans to mine the Indian Ocean beach and cross their Pondo tribal lands with a freeway. Radebe and his colleagues were convinced that both developments would wreck the region’s agrarian way of life, and that investments in agriculture, local road repair, and eco-tourism would generate more businesses and jobs that also secured their magnificent coastal homeland.
Conflict Over Development
The Crisis Committee’s steadfast opposition inflamed local supporters of the mine’s Australian developer, Mineral Commodities Ltd., who argued that development would produce economic opportunities. The conflict split Xolobeni as families divided and close friendships dissolved.
The Crisis Committee appeared to win the mining struggle in 2011 when the Department of Mineral Resources revoked the mining license. The 2011 mining license revocation, though, was based on what the department said were weaknesses in the application. The ruling left open the opportunity for Mineral Commodities to restart the licensing process by March 6, 2015. Two days before the deadline, on March 4, 2015, the company submitted a new license application to mine the Indian Ocean beach.
Simultaneously, a year-long reign of violence began against the Amadiba Crisis Committee. Night and daytime attacks on committee members since May 2015 resulted in severe injuries, but were largely viewed as insignificant. Just one attack in December was regarded as worthy of investigation by local officers of the South African Police Service and prosecution by the government. Radebe’s death also fit the era of turmoil engulfing South Africa.
Bazooka Radebe’s death, as well as his funeral, which attracted 3,000 mourners and international television crews, are the most visible events in the furious 10-year struggle. Both events elevated an unpredictable and dangerous conflict over industrial and transportation development on the northern end of South Africa’s Wild Coast to national and international attention.
Xolobeni residents see themselves as heirs to a tradition of stalwart defense of their magnificent Pondo homeland. Like the Pondo tribesmen who spent three years battling Apartheid-era restrictions from 1958 to 1961, members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee vow to block development of their free-flowing rivers, open grasslands, and undeveloped Indian Ocean coast.
“The assassination of Sikhosiphi Bazooka has caused a groundswell of opposition, and massive support from civil society organizations all over the country,” said Sinegugu Zukulu, a professional conservationist and a leader of the Amadiba Crisis Committee. “The same can not be said about our government. I think they are hoping to calm things down and continue to push for mining. They have forgotten too soon as history could be telling them about our tribe. In Mpondoland when we say ‘no’ we mean it. We do not change.” Continue reading “Bazooka Radebe Wild Coast Murder Yields No Suspects”