23 October 2020 at 12:01 pm
The Centre for Environmental Rights is shocked and devastated by the murder of KwaZulu-Natal activist Fikile Ntshangase, shot dead last night at her home where she lived with her young grandson.
Mam Ntshangase was the vice-chairperson of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), and a prominent critic of the proposed expansion of the Tendele Coal Mine at Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal.
We mourn Mam Ntshangase’s death and express our deepest condolences with her family and friends. We also extend solidarity to MCEJO and their attorney, Kirsten Youens, a longstanding partner of CER, and other partners in the area who work closely with MCEJO and Mam Ntshangase.
We honour Mam Ntshangase’s activism, strength and dedication to the wellbeing of her community. We call for #JusticeforFikileNtshangase, and call on the South African Police Service to conduct a thorough investigation and swiftly arrest all suspects.
We also call on the SAPS to provide additional protection to other activists in the area, as this appears not to have been an isolated incident. Over the past month there have been other violent attempts to hurt, threaten and intimidate activists and community members who oppose the Tendele coal mine expansion.
We are angry with the way in which the destruction caused by coal mining divides communities. We are angry with the way in which coal mining companies force individuals in affected communities to choose between money, and the protection of the long-term resilience of the land, water and air on which they depend for their lives and livelihoods. We are angry that it is those on the frontlines who have to bear the brunt not only of the environmental and social destruction caused by coal mining, but also too often pay the ultimate price for defending their rights and the rights of their communities.
CER is an amicus curiae (friend of the court) in one of the court cases brought by MCEJO seeking to interdict Tendele from mining without the legally required authorisations. This case is set down for hearing in the Supreme Court of Appeal on 3 November 2020.
A joint statement from a wide network of community and civil society organisations to follow.