Four gunmen shot and killed local anti-mining activist Fikile Ntshangase at her home in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province Oct. 22. Ntshangase, 65, was a leading member of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), which is taking legal action to prevent the expansion of an open-cast coal mine at Somkhele, on the southeastern border of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game park. MCEJO also says the mine’s existing operations should be halted because they are not compliant with environmental and other laws.
The facility’s owners, Tendele Coal Mining, say they are operating lawfully, and expansion is necessary to keep the mine viable and protect 1,600 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs in this impoverished part of the country.
The mine is within the Mpunkyoni tribal area, which is home to about 158,000 people. Villagers make their living raising goats and cattle, and growing food for the table. Many also depend on social welfare grants and money sent by family members working in the cities. The mine and the park are the biggest employers in the area, with more than 3,000 full- and part-time workers between them.
In Divided We Dance, a 2018 film directed by Anna Prichard, Somkhele villager Medical Ndzima talks about the many difficulties she has faced since the mine opened in 2007. “Before, this area was a good area. We had cows. We had fields. We had water—natural water from the streams. All of that is gone,” Ndzima says. Promises of infrastructure and a better life have come to naught, she says.
From Mongabay, Oct. 28