Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape. Picture: JOHN GI CLARKE
Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape. Picture: JOHN GI CLARKE

The sham "consultation" visit to the Wild Coast by mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe on Sunday shows key sectors of the government still have a lot to learn.

It is tragic that so many lives have been lost in violent confrontations — chief among them Marikana — that could have been resolved peacefully.

Mantashe rolled into Xolobeni, just south of Port Edward, accompanied by a heavy contingent of riot police, to hear the aMadiba community’s objections to plans to mine its land, but neglected to include those opposed to mining in the programme.

The tent was filled with people who had been bused in, while those whose land would be mined made their way to the tent on foot. As those who came before him found out the hard way, Mantashe learnt that you cannot ignore the other side.

The meeting descended into chaos when the aMadiba Crisis Committee demanded to be heard. Teargas was fired and its lawyer was arrested.

What was meant to be a Xolobeni village community engagement event by mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe, turned into a heated affair after a confrontation between human rights attorney Richard Spoor and Mantashe. Members of an anti-mining committee protested at the event but were denied entry by police.

The situation in Pondoland requires careful, impartial handling. This community is still bitter about losing its land for construction of the Wild Coast Sun — many of the displaced were dumped at Xolobeni.

Nearly a dozen people opposed to mining have been murdered. This same community, at Ngquza Hill, once confronted the apartheid government over land. There’s no need for more bloodshed.