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“You have started a fire”: Environmental justice activist Gednezar Dladla remembered

26 July 2017 at 7:00 am

Respected mining activist, the late Gednezar Dladla. Image: Rob Symons
Respected mining activist, the late Gednezar Dladla. Image: Rob Symons

On Monday, at the start of the 2017 Public Interest Law Gathering (PILG) at the University of the Western Cape, activists, lawyers and academics met for a special meeting on Mining and Environmental Justice. This annual gathering opened with a tribute to one of the country’s most respected and inspirational environmental justice activists in the mining sector, Gednezar Dladla, who lost his fight to cancer in 2015.

From an early age, uBaba uDladla was known in his native Dubelenkhunzi, Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the neighbouring Mtubatuba and surrounds, for representing his community in relentlessly challenging the destruction caused by mining companies in the region. He was also a founding member of the Mining and Environmental Justice Communities Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA), and today he remains an inspiration to South Africa’s new generation of environmental activists.

One such campaigner is Matome Kapa, attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and MEJCON’s national co-ordinator, who became acquainted with uBaba uDladla as a young intern and considers him instrumental in shaping the environmental activist he has become. Watch Kapa as he delivers his tribute on Monday:

Also watch a short film, Stand Up For Your Rights, in which uBaba uDladla spoke about the Constitution and environmental rights at his home in Mtubatuba: Hamba kahle, Baba uDladla

MEJCON-SA is a network of communities, community based organisations and community members whose environmental and human rights are affected by mining and mining-related activities. Its objectives are to:

  • Promote and defend the environmental and human rights of communities both directly and indirectly affected by mining; and to ensure the sustainable use of mineral resources;
  • Train, develop and capacitate community members;
  • Access information including information about mining, law, rights, processes and impacts and to share and distribute that information amongst affected communities;
  • Support and assist community champions, community organisations and the members of both directly and indirectly affected communities; and
  • Engage all relevant roleplayers including government at local, provincial and national level, industry, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, traditional authorities and the institutions created in terms of chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996.

Since its constitution on 17 October 2012, MEJCON-SA’s membership has to grown to over 300 members across the country. “MEJCON-SA was formed in response to the violations of rights by mining companies in many communities all across South Africa and Gednezar Dladla generously contributed his time, experience and wisdom during the meetings. The idea was to unite communities so they could share lessons, experiences and strategies to deal with mining companies. MEJCON-SA has benefited so much from his activism, which is why we are here today to celebrate him,” Kapa said.