South Africa: Mantashe in Xolobeni - a Master-Class in Coercive Dissembling

The Amadiba Crisis Committee fought to prevent the mining project from going ahead in Xolobeni (file photo).

It was always going to be a day when the truth got taught a lesson. For weeks, local and international human rights groups had been prevailing on mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe not to return to Xolobeni, where residents had won a landmark court battle to keep mining off their land. He went anyway and chaos erupted. But did he win?

"The question is why Gwede left us here and went to the dunes," said Nonhle Mbuthuma, chairperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), at 10am on the rain-soaked Wednesday morning, 16 January 2019. "He didn't even ask permission from the elders."

There were other questions for South Africa's mineral resources minister, and most of them--like the one Mbuthuma just put to Daily Maverick--had to do with this delicate matter of respect.

For instance, the question that upended the ANC's stance on land reform in South Africa: why was Mantashe back in Xolobeni in the first place? The judgment handed down by the North Gauteng High Court on 22 November 2018 had given the impression that the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act finally counted for something in the country, meaning that if the government wanted to grant mining...

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