Attorney arrested after bumping heads with Mantashe, marching at mining meeting
An attorney representing Eastern Cape residents opposing an application for a mine in Xolobeni, was arrested at the weekend after marching with community members during a meeting with Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Richard Spoor was charged with "incitement" under the Riotous Assemblies Act and released with a warning on Sunday afternoon, attorney Johan Lorenzen confirmed to News24 on Monday.
He said Spoor was expected to appear in the Bizana Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.
Mantashe had visited the village in the Mbizana local municipality, on the Wild Coast, on Sunday to engage with residents on issues emanating from an application by Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM) for rights to mine the titanium-rich sands.
The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) launched a court battle against Mantashe's department and TEM, which was heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in April.
Concerned by how much engagement with residents would actually take place, ACC members marched to the venue to add their voices to the debate.
In videos posted by the committee, residents are seen singing and dancing as a line of police officers in riot gear form a line in front of the marquee.
According to ACC, tear gas and stun grenades were fired.
In another video, Spoor tells Mantashe: "Don't call me a liar. I am trying to help you and if you work with us, we can work together and solve problems."
Mantashe is heard telling Spoor not to disrupt the meeting.
In response to queries on the meeting, the mineral resources department said the event proceeded as planned and it was unfortunate that a group "were instigated to disrupt and suppress discussions".
"In short, discussions were positive, all parties present were given an opportunity to present their views either for or against mining, including a representative from the Amadiba Crisis Committee," it said.
"Following this visit the Minister now has first-hand knowledge and understanding of the issues in Xolobeni and will be able to take a more informed decision moving forward."
Richard Spoor’s account of what happened:
I am charged with violently disrupting a meeting between Gwede Mantashe and the Xolobeni community. It is of course nonsense.
It’s clear that the Minister is under pressure to get mining going again. I strongly support that. The last 10 years the Zuma government has done its best to wreck mining at huge cost to our economy and to its people. While it pretended to support communities it has harmed them.
The Xolobeni struggle has been going on for 12 years. The Australian miner MRC wishes to strip mine 20km of Amadiba land. They will destroy livelihoods, a way of life and do huge damage to the coastal environment that people depend on.
Over 70 families will lose their homes and another 150 will lose their ploughing and grazing lands. Gwede can not tell us what will happen to these people or how they will be compensated. He says he wants to hear what are our problems but for years our petitions have been ignored.
Yesterday was a faked and rigged “consultation”. Chief Baleni and King Zanozuko Sigcau are shareholders in the mine as are many of the local ANC leaders. The Mngungundlovu Traditionsal Council was not invited even though it has jurisdiction over the land and the people affected.
The ACC, which is the civil society group representing affected community members was also not consulted. No one representing the affected community was allowed on the podium. Only collaborators and people bought by the Australian mining company.
The Local residents under the ACC banner were not allowed into the marquee where the meeting was held until all places had been taken by ANC supporters and pro mining people bussed in from outside the community. When they were finally admitted they were confined to a tiny corner.
There was no space for them in the marquee and no place to sit. When they protested heavily armed riot police barricaded them off. I was asked by the DMR to help resolve the situation. I arranged more seating for them and offered to have leadership address them.
I then asked General Swart to remove the riot police so as to allow the meeting to continue peaceably he refused. He said he would not entertain any proposals from me. Things got heated. He ordered his men to remove me. I went to appeal to Minister Mantashe.
When I tried to speak to the Minister (who is an old comrade I know from his NUM days) I was grabbed, beaten and arrested. It is clear the plan was to deny the affected community a hearing. Fake consultations, fake democracy.
We remain open to engage with the Minister and would welcome the opportunity to meet in Tshwane to talk seriously about a way forward.