KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala has appealed for calm after a hit on a senior executive at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) on Monday.
In a statement on Monday, Zikalala said the shooting of Nico Swart, one of RBM’s most senior managers, comes in the wake of groundbreaking discussions held with company leadership and local amakhosi to iron out long-standing issues last Tuesday.
The meeting — chaired by Zikalala and attended by members of the executive council, amakhosi and management — was held to discuss RBM’s latest investment in Zulti South, as well as the finalisation of compensation to communities whose homes were damaged by RBM mining operations and the payment of outstanding dividends to the Mkhwanazi Traditional Council.
Zulti South is projected to deliver R100bn economic value to the country, with R40bn coming in the first 12 years of the mine being operational.
“We call for calm at RBM and among all those affected by this incident and to allow the current process of discussion and negotiations facilitated by provincial government at RBM to proceed,” said Zikalala.
“The traditional communities on whose land RBM is mining were represented by the traditional authorities of Mbuyazi, Mkhwanazi, Dube and Sokhulu. All stakeholders agreed that the relevant departments of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, community safety and liaison working under the leadership of the office of the premier would take matters further in the coming weeks.
“Those processes are continuing and we will not allow anything to stop or distract us from finding each other around all the issues that have led to the instability in the area and insecurity of the huge investment by RBM in these traditional communities.
“We must identify the criminal elements and isolate them from the majority, who want nothing else but peaceful coexistence and partnership between government and the miners in the Richards Bay area.”
Swart, who was general manager of operations at RBM, died in a hail of bullets in Richards Bay while on his way to work on Monday.
“That the incident took place in broad daylight, during rush hour and in full view of pedestrians and motorists, indicates the callous nature of the attackers. At the same time, we hope that this provides a window that will help in the identification and arrest of the perpetrators,” said Zikalala.
“We call on the police to make this a priority investigation and to get to the bottom of this criminal act. Only swift arrest will send a clear message that we will not allow violence to be used to resolve our differences, no matter what they are, or how big or intractable the problems might be.”