Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

DEATH OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE HERO

Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, 30 December 2015 – Ntata “Strike” Matshepe, long time campaigner against ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA - previously Iscor) passed away in the in the early hours of Sunday morning, the 27th December 2015, at his house in Unitas Park, Vereeniging.

Strike’s family was one of the last three remaining families in Steel Valley, who stood firm against AMSA and refused to sell their land to AMSA, but rather demanded environmental justice calling on AMSA to clean up their pollution and compensate people fairly for the loss of their land, due to the pollution from AMSA. 

Legal resistance

In 2000 he lead a group of 16 family's who took AMSA to court force the company to abide by the law and stop polluting the residential lands in Steel Valley.  The case was unsuccessful, and AMSA took out gagging order against strike and the other 15 family spokespersons.  Many of the families felt defeated and sold out to AMSA, but Strike refused to move, and remained the bastion of resistance against AMSA and the corporate impunity.

Failed democracy

In a young democracy Strike’s family was one of the first black families to move into Steel Valley in 1995.  He used all his pension money to invest in what he through would be his retirement property, but he subsequently found that he invested in land that was not fit for safe agriculture, for the borehole water which people relied upon was polluted by AMSA toxic waste.  Despite living in a new democratic era, government failed to meaningfully respond to Strike and the other family’s concenrs.

Loss of income and ill health

Because of the pollution, Strike lost his investments in his property in Steel Valley and he become ill because of the underground water pollution that come from AMSA.

A global struggle against AMSA

In 2002 the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) took place in Johannesburg.  He led a protest much against Iscor who was holding the Annual General Meeting alongside the sidelines of the WSSD.  The resistance against AMSA gave birth to a global campaign known as the Global Action on ArcelorMittal in 2008, where people Africa, Europe and Asia united their efforts to challenge ArcelorMittal corporate impunity.

Freedom of Information

To better understand the impact of AMSA pollution on people and the environment, Strike supported the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA).  VEJA working with groundWork and the Centre for Environmental Rights demanded that government and AMSA release all information on environmental impact of AMSA activities, contained in the “AMSA Master Plan” that researched and proposed mechanisms to address the pollution. AMSA and the South African government refused to release the information.  In a case of legal precedent the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favour of VEJA and against AMSA forcing AMSA to release the Master Plan publically.

The father of VEJA

At the age of 86, Strike wanted to remain active and be kept informed about the ongoing resistance by VEJA against AMSA.  However his health was deteriorating and he had to move out of Steel Valley to Vereeniging. 

Ntata “Strike” Matshepe was not only a father to his family but through the entire struggle, that father of VEJA and the environmental justice movement in the Vaal area.

He leaves 11 children, 17 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Burial
Strike will be buried on Saturday, 2nd January from his house, 38 Percy Sherwell Unitas Park, Vereeniging.  The funeral start at 11h00 leaves to cemetery at 13h00

For more information contact:

Puseletso Matshepe, spokesperson of the family: 074 875 6497