Home Sci-TechEnvironment South Africa: Our Burning Planet Hero of the Year – Fikile Ntshangase

South Africa: Our Burning Planet Hero of the Year – Fikile Ntshangase

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Brutally slain at her KwaZulu-Natal home in October, this environmental defender’s life and murder represent every activist’s fight in an age of high stakes.

First published in Daily Maverick 168 Weekly Newspaper

First you might dangle some carrots in front of an impoverished rural community. Then you might pin potential job losses associated with those carrots on the environmental activists who oppose, say, the mining company claiming to offer those jobs. This might have consequences.

In the case of Our Burning Planet Hero of the Year Fikile Ntshangase, attorney Kirsten Youens and several environmental organisations have suggested that this, at least, was a strategy employed by a coal miner operating alongside rural communities in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Representing the interests of families living on Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve’s eastern border, Youens accused coal miner Tendele of inciting violence among a “deeply divided” local people. Tendele has repeatedly denied this accusation.

Tendele mine Somkhele. (Photo: Flickr/Rob Symons)

Tendele’s “strategies”? “Sadly typical of many companies operating in impoverished rural communities,” Youens told journalists Fred Kockott and Matthew Hattingh. Offer them incentives, she said, and the “usual” fallout follows: “Stirring deep community divisions, which almost always leads to violence and deaths.”

In late October, just…

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