“Attempted Murder Charges Brought Against Peaceful Protesters!”

Community members protest against Copper 360 mining company, Concordia, Northern Cape

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release – 11 August 202

“Attempted Murder Charges Brought Against Peaceful Protesters!”

On National Women’s Day in 1956 women marched to protest unjust racist laws which impeded their movement and their livelihoods. For this they faced down white men with guns and the threat of death. Sixty-seven years later in a community called Concordia in the Northern Cape, women led their community in a peaceful blockade of the entrance to Copper 360, a mining company which is illegally extracting copper from their land without their consent. For this, they faced men behind police shields, armed with stun grenades, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. As punishment for undertaking a peaceful protest and bringing public attention to this unlawful mining on communal land, twenty-seven community leaders were arrested, many of them women as well as elders of the Concordia community. They face charges of attempted murder, Malicious Damage to Property, and Public Violence Incitement.

Concordia is a small town in Namakwaland, which was established as a Rhennish mission station in 1852, during the colonial period. On the establishment of the mission, the community was dispossessed of their land, for the first time. In 1961, a full century later, their land was designated for the settlement of ‘Coloured People’ and placed in the hands of the apartheid state by legislation which aimed to enforce racial segregation. Another chapter in the story of land dispossession. After a long struggle of just under thirty years in the post-apartheid period, and many dashed hopes in this time, their land was finally returned to the community in early 2023 under the Concordia Communal Property Association.

While their land was held ‘in trust’ by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the Namakwa District Municipality, and a local councillor, gave permission to 360 Coal to mine on their land without the consent of the Concordia community. And this is why the community is protesting and legitimately so. Imagine you, the reader, waking up one morning to find a mining company digging just 100 metres from your home. For raising their voice and saying "NO", communities confront repression and false charges as Shereen Fortuin, a community member shared, “We are not criminals! It feels as if we have no right to defend our land”.

This strategy of slapping community people down with violence, arrests, and fake charges, pursued by the police, with the support of mining companies and corrupt local actors, is about punishing people for standing up, challenging powerful interests, and raising their voice to say NO MORE! These SLAPP suits have been successfully challenged in courts across the country by public interest legal groups.

The group of twenty-seven appear in the Springbok Magistrates Court this morning to be formally charged. As they appear, the community of Concordia and their allies, such as the WoMin African Alliance, demand that:

  1. All those arrested are immediately released.
  2. All charges against members of the community are dropped.
  3. The legal agreement for Copper 360 to mine community land is overturned as illegal and the company is evicted.
  4. The rights of the Concordia CPA to make decisions pertaining to their property and its use is respected by the state at different levels and mining companies.

For media enquiries contact:

Alexandria Hotz

South African Lead Coordinator, WoMin African Alliance

Cell: + 27 82 061 9674

Email: alexandria.hotz@womin.org.za

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