Xolobeni: Consultation process was flawed, says minister

Posted by Laura Grant on September 15, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The minister of minerals and energy, Bujelwa Sonjica, said on Friday that the consultation process for the Xolobeni dune mining project on the Wild Coast was “flawed”, the Sunday Tribune and the Daily Dispatch report.

After a “heated” meeting with Pondo King Mpondo-mbini Sigcau’s tribal council – “the highest tribal authority in Pondoland” – and the Amadiba Crisis Committee – a group of local residents opposed to the mining – the king reportedly “instructed” Sonjica to set aside, within 10 days, her approval of the proposed mining project.

The king also recommended that an independent inquiry be held into the consultation process and allegations of bribery. Members of the community were allegedly bribed with cars and money to support the mining, Sonjica was reported as saying.

The king was reportedly “very upset” at the department’s decision to grant a mining licence to Australian company, MRC, and viewed it as a “sign of disrespect”. He had been against the mining project from the start, and although he had “on numerous occasions” wanted to hold talks with MRC and Xolco, [the company’s empowerment partner], this had never happened, the reports said.

Sonjica told reporters after the meeting on Friday that she had been unaware of the extent of the resistance to the mining. “I was misled into believing just a few individuals opposed it,” she said. “I don’t know what you would call it, but a mistake was made, of not consulting properly, not by us as a department, but by MRC. We need to correct that.”

She did add, however, that this did not mean that she was going to withdraw or suspend the mining licence.

There were two very interesting articles in the Mail&Guardian print edition on Friday which look at the state of ecotourism in the region. The region’s unspoilt beauty makes it ideal for ecotourism, but one of the reasons that has been given for the granting of the mining licence is that ecotourism has failed to deliver.

Dave Martin, the co-owner of world-renowned ecotourism venture Bulungula Lodge, wrote that the “administrative maze” that confronts prospective tourism operators in the region is one of the reasons why there are not more ecotourism ventures operating in the area.

He concluded that: “Ultimately, it is time to face up to the absurd reality that it is easier to get permission to strip-mine pristine coastline and in the process destroy a people’s way of life than to get permission to build a community-based lodge that would create the desperately needed employment while keeping both the people’s land and their culture mostly intact.”

Issues over land tenure – most of the land along the Wild Coast is apparently state owned; the local communities have the right to occupy it, but there is a “lack of secure tenure or ownership by communal land owners” – are reportedly a complicating factor.


One Response to “Xolobeni: Consultation process was flawed, says minister”

  1. Chris Spies
    September 15th, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    This article raises four very important points: 1) How come that the Minister has been kept in the dark? By whom and why? 2) The big fish, in this case the mining company, hides behind the Department of Minerals and Energies and need to be exposed. If they bribed, then they need to be prosecuted and the licence revoked. 3) Politicians are unlikely to apologise unconditionally. It’s much easier to blame others. 4) Hats off to the king. He used his power to talk. Dialogue can solve problems. We don’t have to wait until after the damage has been done!

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