Concern over perceived lack of movement in Ntshangase’s murder case

Concern over perceived lack of movement in Ntshangase’s murder case

Calls for justice for Fikile Ntshangase continue to reverberate within the environmental rights space.

The anti-mining activist was at the forefront of a legal battle over the further expansion of a large coalmine at Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd.

Unknown gunmen murdered the Vice-Chairperson of a sub-committee of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) in front of her grandson last month for allegedly refusing to sign an agreement with the mine for the legal bid to be dropped.

Days before her cold-blooded murder, Ntshangase had reportedly expressed her intention to write an affidavit, revealing that sub-committee members had spoken to her of a payment of R350 000 in return for her signature.

Tendele mine has denied involvement in the matter.

While local police had promised her comrades in MECJO swift arrests, there is still no breakthrough in the matter.

Environmental rights groups, including the Centre for Environmental Rights, are calling for the police to do more to bring those involved into book and protect other activists in the area.

Violence and Human Rights monitor Professor Mary de Haas says she is buffled about why no one has been arrested yet for MCEJO Coordinator Philani Ndimande’s assault.

Ndimande was assaulted during a meeting in which Ntshangase also attended, a week before the 65-year-old was killed.

Death threats were allegedly made during the fracas.

“There are a lot of clues about who did this; certainly about the threats, people with knowledge about it.”

She believes the Ndimande case could assist police to find those responsible for Ntshangase’s murder.

De Haas says the Ntshangase case has been transferred to the provincial police due to a lack of trust in the police in the area.

She says mines controls people through traditional leaders in rural mining communities.

A Tendele mine security man was apparently killed after Ntshangase’s murder and that case is also being investigated by the KwaZulu-Natal police.

Earlier this month, Ntshangase’s comrade – Ndimande told Local Voices that fear haunts the Somkhele community.

“When night time falls – we are all worried because we do not know when or who might come under attack.”

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has expressed concern over the murder, saying it considers it a threat to the creation and existence of a safe and enabling environment for defenders of social, land and environmental justice to freely exercise their rights.  

The community’s anti-mining activists are concerned that the mine places the area’s environment in jeopardy. The noise and dust coming from the mine are other bones of contention.