'Sanral stole my name' - N2 villager
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Mbizana, Eastern Cape - Wild Coast villagers waited in vain on Wednesday for the South African National Roads Agency Limited to explain allegedly forged signatures on court documents that said they approved of a toll road and mining in the area.
The Amadiba Crisis Committee had asked the agency to send representatives to Sigidi Primary School in Pondoland to tell them how the names of several people - some fictitious - ended up on the affidavits supporting the proposed titanium mining and the N2 toll road construction in the area.
The alleged forging of one signature made it seem as though Mdatya village resident Nomvelana “Lolo” Mhlengana, an elected member of the Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority - who is known for being strongly opposed to the development - had changed her mind and now welcomed it.
Sanral is investigating the claim and said that according to its handwriting expert, the signature was “probably authentic”.
A visibly emotional Mhlengana said after the meeting: “I can't tell you how it happened, but my name was stolen. I came here hoping for answers but, as I leave here, my heart is still bleeding.”
Mhlengana has received death threats and warnings from fellow residents, telling her to leave the village for her 'betrayal'.
“I think whoever is responsible is trying to discredit me and make my community lose trust in the person I am. It is scary for me, day and night.”
She said the experience had left her “in pain”.
“I wanted to speak to them face to face, but they don't seem to care.”
The three persons unknown in Sigidi, which houses 15 villages, are: 'Gotyelwa Mathumbu', 'Mfihlelwa Mdtatya' and 'Msulwa Ndovela'.
The committee said Mhlengana's and the three other affidavits had the same text.
“The forged affidavit, dated 11 November, is stamped '12 November' at the 'Mamba' police station, but the correct name is Mzamba as stamped on all other affidavits signed at this police station,” they said.
The affidavit was submitted to the Pretoria High Court by Sanral as part of its application to block the committee's challenge - by the communities' lawyers - to the project.
Nonhle Mbuthuma, a community activist and leader, said the whole process had made people reluctant to even sign attendance registers.
“People no longer feel secure. They wonder what the agenda is,” she said.
Ward councillor Jackson Dimane chaired the meeting and apologised for the agency no-show.
“The representative was called away to another meeting, just like this one. I'm not sure when he will be addressing this community,” he said.
Dimane said the issue was emotional and community members were against the prospect of mining but were “confused” about the toll road.
“The way I see it, it can only be good for them. Better access means more tourists and more money for the area.”
But the community had other ideas.
“It will cut off even more of our farming and grazing land and displace even more homesteads than the 200 homesteads that would be affected by the 22 kilometre long and 1.5 kilometre wide mining project,” Mbuthuma said.
“We need an upgrade of all local roads. That is what we call development. The N2 toll road is not for us.”
Sanral community development specialist Dr Mongezi Noah, who had been expected at Wednesday's meeting, refused to comment on Thursday and referred queries to spokesman Vusi Mona. Mona had not responded by the time of publication.
‘WE MIGHT LOSE IT ALL’
“We have everything we need,” says Samson Gampe of life in his home village in Pondoland.
Sigidi has been Samson Gampe's home all his life, and will be the place his bones rest some day.
Gampe, who says he is “older than 80”, said he worried for the future should the proposed N2 toll road and mining project go on.
“I don't like this idea of moving our homes, our histories. The removal of the graves of our ancestors and putting them somewhere else is worrying,” he said.
The homestead where he lives is home to 42 relatives, livestock and crops.
“They say they want to save us from poverty, and give us more, but what do we need? We have everything we need. We grow our own food and have our own homes,” he said.
“If we give our land up, we might just lose it all.”