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Image by Antonio Olmedo via Flickr used under Creative Commons license.

The undersigned organisations condemn the recent vicious attacks on environmental justice activists in South Africa.

In one case, we are outraged at the reported murder on 11 July 2018 of Mr. D. Panza, an activist who had opposed a relocation of the community in KwaDube in KwaZulu Natal (KZN). KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas has reported that people living on this land have been informed by various authorities that they must be relocated to accommodate onshore mining operations between Mthunzini and Richards Bay. According to de Haas, Mr. Shange was shot dead, execution-style, on 11 July when travelling home from Esikhawini. Of the companions he was travelling with he alone was targeted.

In another case, we note an escalating campaign of social media attacks by those associated with an Mpumalanga mining project, on a number of South African environmental rights organisations. [1] The campaign is led by the senior vice president of Indian-owned mining company Atha-Africa Ventures Pty Ltd, which is facing multiple legal challenges from these organisations to its applications to mine coal in a strategic water source area and protected environment in Mpumalanga. [2]

This campaign is made up of various accusations and threats on social media which are designed to intimidate, silence and discourage activists who are lawfully opposing a coal mine in a strategic water source area and protected environment. He has publicly accused these organisations of “treason” and an “anti-national agenda”. These unfounded attacks are intolerable in our Constitutional democracy.

The South African Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right to access to justice, and the right to just administrative action. South Africa also has a long tradition of activism and civil society mobilisation to uphold our Constitution and defend Constitutional values.

More than two years have passed since cde Bazooka Rhadebe, an anti-mining activist in Xolobeni, was assassinated on the Wild Coast in 2016. To date nobody has been brought to book for his murder. Across the world, corporations have employed intimidation and violence when their commercial interests are challenged by activists, especially activists defending natural resources and environmental rights. The murder and assault of environmental activists are already common occurrences in many parts of the world. 

We strongly condemn such attacks on civil society organisations and activists.

In the case of Mr. Shange, we call for the speedy arrest and successful prosecution of his killers, and immediate protection for other residents who oppose the relocation in KwaDube. Furthermore we call for the authorities to give full information and participation to the community on this proposed relocation, and respect the voices of those who oppose it.

In the case of Atha-Africa, we call on the Minerals Council of South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) to state publicly that it will revoke the membership of any company whose employees engage in this type of conduct. The mining authorities cannot remain silent when companies operating in South Africa unlawfully intimidate and threaten activists exercising their Constitutional rights.

[1] These organisations include Centre for Environmental Rights, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, BirdLife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), the Bench Marks Foundation and WWF South Africa.



Endorsed by:

Media Monitoring Africa
Federation for a Sustainable Environment
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
Land and Accountability Research Centre, University of Cape Town
Centre for Environmental Rights
Vaaloewer Ratepayers Association
Open Democracy Advice Centre
Earthlife Africa Durban
Children's Radio Foundation
Social Justice Coalition
International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG)
Ekogaia Foundation
Parliamentary Monitoring Group
Heinrich Boell Stiftung Southern Africa
Centre for Applied Legal Studies
Environmental Monitoring Group
Corruption Watch
Popular Education Programme
BirdLife South Africa
Environmental Monitoring Group
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Biowatch SA
AIDS Foundation of South Africa
Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization
Mining and Environmental Justice Communitties Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA)
Youens Attorneys
Just Share
Global Environmental Trust
Social and Environmental Justice in Action
Schoeman and Associates
Reid Incorporated Attorneys
Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network
Greenpeace Durban Local Group
Sustaining the Wild Coast
Ubukhosi bezandla NPC
Global Environmental Trust
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW)
Centre for Constitutional Rights
Market Users Committee
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation
Association for Progressive Communications
Lawyers for Human Rights
African Centre for Biodiversity
Body Corporate of King Shaka Estate
Bench Marks Foundation