The slain Amidiba Crisis Committee chairperson Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was buried on Saturday at his home in Mdatya, Xolobeni, Eastern Cape.
Rhadebe was shot eight times on Tuesday 22 March 2016 after two men driving a white VW Polo with a flashing blue light on the roof knocked on his door and called him outside. A family member said he was suspicious and refused because the man wore gloves. It is reported that he was eventually shot in the presence of his wife and child.
ACC members believe that he was murdered because of his opposition to the planned mining of Xolobeni’s red dunes for titanium. Bazooka had been the chairperson of the committee since its inception in 2007.
Speaking at the funeral, Amadiba Crisis Committee secretary Nonhle Mbuthuma said: “I spoke to Bazooka on the phone an hour before he was murdered. He told me about being number one on the hit list that we have known about for some time. We were told I was number one because I am very vocal and out of the blue Bazooka was number one and an hour later he was no more”.
“Bazooka had a special quality of bringing people together. He believed in sitting around and talking even with enemies. That is something I cannot do and I will always respect him for that,” said Mbuthutha.
Amadiba Crisis Committee members entered the packed funeral marquee singing their signature song, which has been part of the decade long struggle: “Yonke lendawo imayini ayiphumeleli” (no mining will succeed in this land).
More than 20 civil society and community based organizations, the 12th Apolostic Church, Mbizana Taxi Association, the local soccer fraternity and members of the community gathered at Bazooka’s home to pay their last respects.
Leaders of different organizations took the podium to share messages of support to both the community of Xolobeni and the Rhadebe family. Sizani Ngubane of the Alliance for Rural Democracy said in an emotional speech: “Is this how we should be enjoying our 22-year democracy, by being intimidated, threatened and even killed as it happened to Bazooka? Some amongst us are in hiding as we speak. All of this is happening simply because we are standing up for justice.”
Meshack Mbangula, National Coordinator for Mining Affected Communities United in Action (Macua), said Bazooka’s death should be the last in the struggle around mining. “Too many lives have been lost in the struggle against mining and in protection of our land. Members of the media, I appeal to you to play your role in ensuring that the murderers of our comrade face the full might of the law, since you have the power.”
Words almost failed Bazooka’s younger sister, who appeared emotionally drained during her family tribute. She told mourners how much she was taken care of by her brother, who often became her “father”.
Amongst the mourners was Joseph Mathunjwa, President of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), who asked the government in his speech to protect Xolobeni as a heritage site. “It is time the government declared this area as a World Heritage Site like Lake St Lucia in order to stop this white monopoly capitalism which costs communities their lives,” he said.