On 20 September our partners at the Legal Resources Centre, with Richard Spoor Attorneys, filed papers in Pretoria High Court in a significant land rights case being brought on behalf of the Umgungundlovu Community in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape. The Community is seeking a declaration from the High Court stating that the Minister of Mineral Resources may not grant a mining right in Xolobeni without their consent.
The Minister has already announced an 18-month moratorium on mining taking place Xolobeni, Eastern Cape, citing the, “significant social disintegration and highly volatile nature of the current situation in the area”. Earlier this year, Amadiba Crisis Committee chair “Bazooka” Rhadebe was assassinated and other anti-mining activists fear for their safety in a community that is fiercely split between those opposing and those supporting mining in the area.
The LRC are representing the Umgungundlovu iNkosana’s Council, the Amadiba Crisis Committee and 128 residents in their court opposition to mining in the area. Community members are opposed to mining taking place without consultation or consent, thereby violating their constitutionally recognized customary rights of ownership over the land.
In an affidavit, community head Duduzile Baleni said mining in the area would displace members of the community from their homes, deprive them of their livelihood and threaten food security and access to water. It would also disturb more than 450 graves in the area.
The moratorium on mining has provided the community interim relief while the Court determines whether their consent is required. If granted, the application will establish that mining rights may not be granted on communal land anywhere in South Africa without community consent, a significant step towards realizing the historically neglected customary ownership rights of rural communities.