By Nonhle Mbuthuma

(spokesperson of Amadiba Crisis Committee)

 “Those in the ANC who steal money from the state and spend them in Dubai in big hotels should come and spend them here. Even myself, I will build a hotel in Sigidi. I have already talked to your councillor.” 

We have read the article published in Daily Maverick reporting on the 10 September “stakeholder” meeting in Sigidi village on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. 

The province’s MEC of Public Works, Babalo Madikizela, had announced that a “community meeting” would take “a majority vote to decide” on this day as to whether the proposed N2 Wild Coast Toll Road shall pass through Sigidi village or not, splitting it in two halves 3km from the coast with an 80m fenced-off 120km/h highway, or if the N2 should be moved inland to the middle of the Amadiba administrative area. 

After the “vote” he would decide, as if he or Sanral would ever accept to lose a vote. A proper negotiation is needed. The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) has a proposal for the N2 to run through the middle of Amadiba. We are assisted by experts.

The MEC’s “community meeting” became the usual “stakeholder meeting” running five hours late. At 3pm, he finally held his meeting with the Mzamba Taxi Owners Association, businessmen and “trusts” that attend the political caucuses of Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources Gwede Mantashe and national roads agency Sanral. 

People in Mbizana soon know the truth about an event like this, but I will give background and describe the day in more detail.

As soon as the ACC arrived with everyone at 10am, the plans were changed. The MEC did not like his “community imbizo” any longer. He got into a political panic. He started to make phone calls. image.png

Amadiba coast, at 10am on10 September. In front: Quantum taxis, police vans, police and people bused in by the MEC to the meeting he called for in Sigidi, Amadiba in Mbizana. The MEC changed his plans when people walked down the hill at the official 10am start of his meeting. Photo: Mbekezeli Mbuthuma

However, hundreds of people stayed on, singing and waiting without food from early morning to late afternoon.

The events as they unfolded

The community meeting never got off the ground. The wind pulled down the big tent it was supposed to be held in. We thanked the ancestors for their opinion. 

The night before, a man who turned out to be a security guard, had called a leader in Sigidi: “The tent is up. Let’s go and burn it down.” We are used to provocations. The word went out: “Don’t go near the tent.” 

We were singing. The local police were watching. There were some discussions with people who had been promised jobs and brought their IDs. After more than two hours of waiting, people got tired. One argument led to a fight. The police shot stun grenades and threw pepper canisters “to separate the two groups”. A man siding with the Sanral camp, who was drunk, was put in a police van. 

An elder had a hole ripped in his jacket from a stun grenade. Luckily it was thick. The children of Sigidi Primary School ran home from their classes. A week later the parents tell us that their children still can’t sleep.

The commander, Lieutenant-Colonel John, came over to tell us not to distribute alcohol. But we had nothing. The many bottles handed out were not with us. There was no beer sold at the Sigidi spaza shop on 10 September. 

This was intentional. The question is who was bringing in case after case of beer and even brandy. It was targeted at the young boys of Sigidi. We had boys pushing wheelbarrows with beer. Our elders have told us: “This is how the apartheid government stole land. They had the traditional chief completely drunk. Then he signed away the land.” This is also how Wild Coast Sun and Lurholweni township were built in Amadiba.

We soon went over to Lt Col John again, together with our lawyers Zolile Shude and Elisha Kunene. There was no meeting. People had waited calmly, but now they started to be fed up. We suggested to John and his operative commander, tell people to go home. 

“This is a good idea!” they said. “We will talk to the MEC.” They came back: “No, he has called for the Public Order Police (POP). The meeting is going ahead.” 

The POP arrived by 2pm in a Nyala marked “Lusikisiki”. It must have been on the road since at least 11am. They even had time to get lost. First they went to the Xolobeni sports field. The MEC had called in reinforcement, hours before our discussion with the responsible SAPS commander. The MEC was commanding the police.

Five minutes after John told us that SAPS “cannot politically interfere”, I got a call from someone in the security cluster, alleging that an incident had been planned. 

“Listen. Police from the outside are coming. It will happen when they ask you to leave the others. They think the crisis committee will refuse. The police that are coming have orders to finish their bullets on your body. Please, leave now.”

When they arrived and came out, the POP pointed their rifles right at us, nobody could pass through. 

John returned at 3pm. “The MEC wants five from the ACC.” There was an intense discussion. We convinced comrades we would go to see what was going on. The death threat influenced the decision. Our group walked past the POP.

One of them shouted: “Are you Nonhle?”

“Yes, and so what?!” 

Our two security guards stood near them and overheard: “That one is Nonhle. We will deal with her.” 

Some 50 people attended the MEC’s meeting with business forums, the “trusts” and leaders of the local mining lobby: “Xolobeni Trust”, “Makwantini Trust”, “Mdatya Trust”, “Dangeni Trust”, “Amadiba Trust”, “Mthayise Trust” … and “Bizana Business Chamber”, “Bizana Business Forum”, “Amadiba Business Forum”, “Alfred Nzo Business Forum” and so on.

The MEC repeated what he said in Sigidi on 7 June when he set out to facilitate a negotiation with Sanral: “Nobody can force development against the majority!” and concluded: “We have the majority.” But anyway, “the government has already decided the route”. Chief Lunga Baleni remained silent, like he was at the meeting in inland Dangeni on 3 September.image.png

The MEC’s “stakeholder meeting” on 10 September, starting at 3pm. Photo: Siyabonga Ndovela.

Smart City

The subject of the “Smart City” also came up again. At a meeting on 20 August in Bizana, the MEC had spoken of the Smart City in Mbizana. The executive mayor of Alfred Nzo District Municipality agreed that it would be built in Mbizana. Mantashe had also spoken about it in a television interview in 2019. He spoke about titanium sand mining, tourism and “a Smart City” – everything in Xolobeni. “Why not?”

But on 10 September, the MEC claimed, “No, it will be in Port St Johns!” It is always important to keep all locals uninformed. 

On 26 September, the Sunday Times reported that the ANC has “closely guarded plans to build a new city on the coast between Port St Johns and Margate” – which is the Amadiba coast.   

If you want a “Smart City” before you repair and renovate all broken towns there is a lot of empty land to consult about. Only 15km from the coast we have a large abandoned sugar cane field where the Lurholweni township ends. Do you prefer forced removals, like the apartheid government?  

‘Busing in people’

The N2 project manager Craig McLachlan has accused the ACC of “busing in people” to the 10 September meeting. The MEC makes laughable comments in the Daily Dispatch newspaper that he had to block “outsiders”. Not even the people he bused to Sigidi attended his meeting. 

We certainly had organised transport from rural villages in Umgungundlovu. On 3 September in inland Dangeni, Madikizela shamelessly declared that he would bus in people from the township to Sigidi to organise a “community imbizo” on 10 September. 

We had one week to prepare for the meeting. The right place for meetings about land is our Komkhulu (Great Place). Our customary law is protected by the Constitution. We organised transport from Khombuza, Bekela, Mtentu, Mpindweni, Xolobeni and Mdatya in Umgungundlovu where Sanral’s N2 would pass through or which would be affected by the huge coastal projects that the coastal route is designed to support. 

The MEC, his businessmen friends and the mining lobby bused in people from Ebenezer and Zikhuba in the Lurholweni township, and from inland villages Gumzana, Tophozo, Dangeni, Lityeni, Sdanga and Mahaha; villages that are nowhere near the N2 route. Sdanga and Lityeni are closer to Bizana than Sigidi. Tophozo is close to R61. Mahaha is 10km inland from Sanral’s route through Sigidi and Mdatya. The others are north, or way north, of Sanral’s route. There were no government transports to Sigidi from the coastal villages. 

They say that the N2 is a “linear development”. What does the MEC think? Is the N2 like the spots on a leopard?

Amadiba and its traditional authorities

McLachlan refers in his comments in the Daily Maverick article to 50,000 members in the Amadiba “tribe”. He also says, “the ACC and their lawyers have no legal or ethical right to claim or even imply they speak on behalf of any community within the Amadiba Traditional Area.” His other statements have been refuted before in Daily Maverick by our lawyer Johan Lorenzen.

Amadiba is not a “tribe”. It is a large administrative area. It has a coastal and an inland section. They were decided 70 years ago. Most residents are part of one million AmaMpondo, which is our tribe. In cases before the court, our lawyers represent the coastal Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority, which is made up of the Headwoman’s Council and villagers gathered at meetings at our Komkhulu. They also represent the ACC and signed individual land rights holders. In two High Court judgments we won against the mining company and the Department of Mineral Rights and Energy, the judges had no problem with that. 

As ACC, we know Amadiba intimately. 

If there are “50,000” in Amadiba, then about 10,000 stay in the coastal Umgungundlovu area while some 25,000 stay in Lurholweni township. Land claimant families and people who have moved in to get a job at the Wild Coast Sun stay in Lurholweni. Some 15,000 are staying inland in rural Amadiba. The Dangeni and the Umgungundlovu Komkhulu handle land issues inland and on the coast separately.

One is not above the other, no matter what the mining lobby tells McLachlan. In the township, there is also a traditional authority which has “Sub-Umgungundlovu” on the sign outside the hall. Our Headwoman sometimes visits their council’s meetings out of courtesy. They handle their own issues, but this is difficult in a township.

We had a committee under Chief Lunga Baleni after a joint Amadiba imbizo on 23 January 2020. The imbizo decided to negotiate a new N2 route. The committee included members of both councils, the ACC and the small business organisation Umbono Wethu. The imbizo and this committee brought the Amadiba Traditional Authority to life. It had been in crisis since Chief Baleni became a mining director. The ACC and Umbono Wethu were on the committee to help solve the N2 issue with Sanral. 

The committee collapsed after September 2020. Pressure was put on the chief. Umgungundlovu Council members and ACC were not invited to new secret meetings with Sanral.

The damage to the Amadiba

The damage to village relations in Amadiba will take time to heal. 

On 9 September the ANC councillors held three mass meetings in the Lurholweni township. The halls were packed. People even stood outside. People are desperate because of the lockdowns of Wild Coast Sun. The councillors told people that the crisis committee was “blocking development” as a “small minority”. 

There must have been a thousand people at the meetings. 

A question put to the councilors was: “What is the difference between tomorrow and when we were bused to Mantashe’s meetings in Xolobeni, but saw that people don’t want mining?” 

The next day most of them did not attend the Sigidi meeting. 

‘I will build a hotel in Sigidi’

Before all this, on 20 August there was something like a first negotiation in Bizana about how the N2 would affect the coastal villages of Amadiba in Mbizana. A week before, the municipal manager and an official from the provincial transport department even visited Sigidi.

Mbulelo Petersen and Nwabisa Ngxumisa represented Sanral in Bizana on 20 August. Beside Madikizela; Polelo Mohale, the executive mayor of Alfred Nzo District Municipality; Daniswa Mafumbatha, the mayor of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Local Municipality; Chief Lunga Baleni and five ACC delegates representing seven villages attended. 

Madikizela insisted without success that members of the mining lobby attend the meeting. This was in breach of the 7 June agreement to have separate and undisturbed negotiations. After this, he dominated the meeting.

“I don’t want to hear about sweet potatoes, livestock and protecting the land for the next generation. What is that? People have no plan and no money to develop the land. We will open up your area for business. It will never be like before. We need your area to look like Margate or Umhlanga,” he said.

Who lived in the areas that became Margate and Umhlanga, Mr Madikizela, and where are they now? 

Of course, there are always indigenous and local plans for development, but they are not supported from the top. They are undermined by Western capitalist plans for profit, as demonstrated by this comment from you: 

“Those in the ANC who steal money from the state and spend them in Dubai in big hotels should come and spend them here. Even myself, I will build a hotel in Sigidi. I have already talked to your councillor.” 

Madikizela also commented: “Dubai is rich. They have oil,” and “You are sitting on gold.” On that note, he declared his friendship with our local Zamile Qunya, recently promoted to non-executive director in the Australian mining company MRC.

Mining on the coast is again put into a separate coastal Local Spatial Development Framework (LSDF), secretly adopted on 26 March 2020. image.png

A map from ‘Mzamba/Coastal Local Spatial Development Framework’ adopted on 26 March by the Council of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Local Municipality (Mbizana).

It was in March this year, we saw that a special “Coastal/Mzamba LSDF” was mentioned in the 2021 Integrated Development Plan (IDP). When we asked for it, the municipality officials demanded a Promotion of Access to Information application (PAIA) to hand over a document adopted by councilors without public participation. The officials gave up on 14 June, and gave it to us.image.png

The open cast mining area in the silently adopted 2020 LSDF (Highlighted in a Google map by ACC’s legal team).

The hidden until June coastal LSDF marks out a 1,300ha large open-cast “possible titanium mining” area. Our Komkhulu is in its center. The IDP says: “The mining potential assessment was done for the local investors to tap into available opportunities.”  

The IDP repeats the plan for a “town on the coast”. “An investor” is set to take over the always fully booked Mtentu Lodge and campsite owned by the community. The LSDF speaks of a “conference centre for 120 people”, “luxury chalets” and “a restaurant” in the Mnyameni River conservation area. 

Who has told the government that the problem of unemployment and poverty in South Africa can be solved by turning a rural area into a city?

Paragraphs have been added in this version of Nonhle Mbuthuma’s article on Daily Maverick on 3 October. 

Write to to get the 2020 ‘LSDF’ that surfaced in June 2021. It is not published on the municipality website.