When people are removed from their land to make way for a coal mine, how do you put a value on their ancestral connections, the springs that flow even in times of drought, the sweet summer grass, the trees which sheltered their goats from summer storms, the ground where their umbilical cords are buried, the view of the rolling hills that framed their childhoods, their clean air and fertile soil?
Two weeks ago, while chopping onions for her family’s supper in her Ophondweni home, 63-year-old Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down by unknown assailants.
A motive for her murder was not hard to find. As deputy chairperson of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (Mcejo), Ntshangase was a leading figure in community efforts to fight the expansion of the Somkhele coal mine.
When she was killed, she became yet another martyr in the increasingly ruthless global fight to force rural communities to allow mining on their doorsteps. Ntshangase’s death has been widely publicised, provoking widespread protest and dismay. So far there have been no arrests.
Let us hope that progress is made more swiftly than in the case of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, an activist from the Xolobeni area on the Wild…