Attorney: Communities intimidated to allow Australian firm to mine in EC

A community meeting turned ugly over the weekend where Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe was scheduled to speak to community members in Xolobeni about their challenges.

Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project on South Africa's east coast. Picture: mineralcommodities.com

CAPE TOWN - Attorney Richard Spoor claims his arrest was a message to mining communities he represents, saying they are being intimidated to agree to allow an Australian company to mine in the Eastern Cape.

A community meeting turned ugly over the weekend where Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe was scheduled to speak to community members in Xolobeni about their challenges and concerns over proposed mining by Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM).

According to Spoor and the civil society organisation, Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), the Xolobeni community members were marginalised at the meeting and residents from outside the area were bused in.

Spoor says locals took issue with this and peacefully protested, but they were met with a heavy police presence and brutality.

“…Dozens of vehicles, perhaps a hundred or more police, to control a meeting of perhaps 300 people maximum. It really is excessive, there’s never been a threat from this community.”

Spoor was arrested and let out on a warning for what he calls fabricated charges after he tried to intervene to allow for the real community members to take part in the discussions.

“It is harassment [and] sending signals to my clients ‘look what we can do to your lawyer type of thing’.”

Amnesty International has called on police to investigate the police's excessive force.