Davine Cloete says she is living in fear after death threats due to her activism against the mining operation in Lutzville.
Davine Cloete says she is living in fear after death threats due to her activism against the mining operation in Lutzville.

SA activist says she's a target in defamation lawsuit with mining company

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published May 30, 2019

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Cape Town - A West Coast anti-mining activist says she fears for her life after residents in Lutzville on the West Coast blamed her for threats by a local sand mining company to retrench workers.

Davine Cloete, a defendant in a R750000 defamation suit brought by Australian mining giant Mineral Commodities (MRC), via its 50%-owned South African subsidiary Mineral Sands Resources (MSR), said on Wednesday: “I live in the community and I work with the community, but now I am a target as the community believes my activism is responsible for threats that the mining will stop and people will lose their jobs.”

Cloete, who chairs the West Coast Food Sovereignty and Solidarity Forum, said she was “traumatised” after she was accosted twice on the streets by a fellow community activist.

MRC’s suit against Cloete and her co-defendants, Tracey Davies, the executive director of NGO Just Share, and lawyer Christine Reddell, from the Centre for Environmental Rights, stems from presentations the three made at UCT Summer School in January 2017 at a course titled “Mining the Wild Coast and the West Coast: ‘Development’ at what cost?”

Centre for Environmental Rights executive director Melissa Fourie said: “Davies, Reddell and Cloete gave presentations about MSR’s environmentally destructive Tormin Mineral Sands Mine on the West Coast... MSR has claimed R250000 in damages for defamation from Davies and Reddell each, and R750000 from Cloete. According to court papers, MSR’s lawyers said the suit arose from what they said at that course.

The lawyers said: “At the heart of the impugned statements is the allegation that the first plaintiff (MSR) has operated its Tormin Mine, on the West Coast, in breach of mining, environmental and land-use planning laws.”

MSR responded in court on Wednesday: “Tormin Mine is within the Matzikama Municipality, which is responsible for authorisations relating to land use. The Municipality granted MSR land use authorisation in respect of the mine.”

Environmental activists protest outside the Western Cape High Court. Brendan Magaar African News Agency (ANA)

MRC is known for its controversial plans to mine titanium at Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, despite resistance by local people represented by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC).

The conflict there, and the unresolved 2016 killing of local activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe of the ACC, received wide coverage.

Cloete said: “In light of what happened to Bazooka, I worry for my life.”

On Wednesday, Cloete and her co-defendants were cheered outside the court by about 50 members of Asina Loyiko: United Against Corporate Bullying, a newly launched campaign aimed at raising awareness of cases such as theirs in which it is claimed corporations use a tactic termed “SLAPP suits” - strategic litigation against public participation - to silence criticism and suppress public activism.

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus

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