Gwede Mantashe File picture: Ayanda Ndemane/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) on Monday asked President Cyril Ramaphosa and "democratic institutions" to stop Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe from visiting Xolobeni, where there is a raging dispute over keeping the area pristine versus allowing mining activities to go ahead.

Mantashe's last visit to the area in January ended chaos after a consultation meeting degenerated into violence in which chairs were flung across the venue. Police used stun grenades to restore order.

This week Mantashe is set to visit the volatile Eastern Cape village on Thursday to head "collaboration effort in terms of development" in the area despite the community, especially the Traditional Authority of Umgungundlovu, telling him several times he was not welcome.

The community has been at loggerheads with Mantashe's department over a 15-year long battle against the issuing of a titanium mining license to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC.

ACC lawyers Richard Spoor Attorneys said their clients only learnt of the upcoming meeting, which will be "focused follow-up meeting on development for Xolobeni", through a tender advertisement and not directly from Mantashe's department.

Correspondence indicates that it was only after human rights lawyer Richard Spoor had written to the department of mineral resources that an invitation to ACC was extended.

In a statement on Monday, the ACC asked Ramaphosa, the SA Human Rights Commission, Church organisations, Amnesty International, political parties, youth leagues, and student organisations to collectively tell Mantashe to stay away from Xolobeni.

"Mantashe cannot hide behind the word 'development'. He is not the minister of economic development. As he knows very well, the department of economic development is already working with us on the ground together with the departments of tourism and of agriculture," the ACC said.

"Our ancestors fought for this land in the 1950s against the state. We are still fighting for this land today, against the state. Land is our livelihood, our identity and our dignity. We will never give our land away."

In his responding letter, Mantashe said that he believes that co-existence between tourism, agriculture and mining industries was possible and that it would boost economic growth and development in the area. 

In November, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that the mines minister may not grant mining rights without the consent of the community and the people directly affected by that mining right. 

Mantashe is appealing this ruling.  

The majority of the community – 68 of the 72 households and homesteads in the Xolobeni community –  are participating in the litigation opposing the planned titanium mining.

African News Agency (ANA)