Victimisation can also manifest through the use of litigation which can at times be used to silence activists. Commonly known as strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) suits, these cases may be defined as “meritless cases mounted to discourage a party from pursuing or vindicating their rights, often with the intention not necessarily to win the case, but simply to waste the resources and time of the other party until they bow out”. The term ‘SLAPP suits’ originated in the United States of America and this litigation is frequently brought in the form of defamation claims, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, or delictual liability cases.
“We know our lives are in Danger” – Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining Affected Communities
I know I am on the hit list… If I am dying for the truth, then I am dying for a good cause. I am not turning back.
— Nonhle Mbuthuma, community member and spokesperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Cape Town, February 2018
In March 2016, activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was killed at his home after receiving anonymous death threats. Bazooka was the chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a community-based organization formed in 2007 to oppose mining activity in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape province. Members of his community had been raising concerns that the titanium mine that Australian company Mineral Commodities Ltd proposed to develop on South Africa’s Wild Coast would displace the community and destroy their environment, traditions, and livelihoods. More than three years later, the police have not identified any suspects in his killing. Nonhle Mbuthuma, another Xolobeni community leader and spokesperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, has also faced harassment and death threats from unidentified individuals. Nonhle recalled talking to Bazooka the day before he was killed. He told her he had seen a hit list that included three people — Nonhle, Bazooka, and another person from the Amadiba Crisis Committee — making rounds in the community. Nonhle fled her home and went into hiding in the days following Bazooka’s death.
People living in communities affected by mining activities across South Africa are exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to advocate for the government and companies to respect and protect community members’ rights from the potentially serious environmental, social, and health-related harms of mining. In many cases, such activism has been met with harassment, intimidation, or violence.
Since 2016, there have been at least 38 assassinations and 14 attempted assassinations in mining localities in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Mining-related assassinations are even more difficult to track than political killings. Motives can often be multilayered and the rural environment in which most attacks take place can render accurate data collection challenging.