Protesters over Tendele Coal Mine land grab threatened with violence –  KwaZulu-Natal

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For Immediate Release

06 June 2024


Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Tension is brewing in Mtubatuba in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal where coal mining company Tendele is proceeding with the expansion of its mining operation which has demolished houses and removed residents from their homes and ancestral lands. On Wednesday, 6th  June,  Community members and activists held a protest organised by MCEJO (Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation) in the KwaMyeki village in Mtubatuba where the mine has already operationalised its bulldozers, excavators, and machinery without an approved EIA nor having informed or consulted the community.

The protesters were threatened by a group of local business people, some of whom were carrying arms and are said to be working with the Tendele mine. The threats happened in full view and presence of the police. While the protesting group had permission to hold the protest, the police did not warn or arrest those who were making threats of violence with firearms and intimidating the protesters. The conveners of the march had to cut it short due to safety concerns for the community. A photographer on the scene was also prevented from taking photos of the mine machinery carrying out its destruction.

“Human rights defenders in South Africa are still not feeling safe. The pro-mining group threatened to shoot us in the presence of the police who stood by watching without taking any action. It is very sad that we are experiencing such failures of the police to do their work and protect the citizens of this country and prevent crime as per the constitution and the work they are supposed to do”. Robby Mokgalaka, groundWork’s Coal Campaigner


On the same day, in solidarity with MCEJO, MACUA (Mining Affected Communities United in Action) led another protest in Lyme Park, Brynston, Johannesburg at the head offices of Petmin which is the holding company of Tendele Coal Mine.


Tendele is yet to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment and public consultation processes required to obtain a licence, but this has not stopped the mining company from commencing and expanding operations in the area. With machinery active 24/7, the  mine has already relocated and a number of families away from their land. This has cost the community their land, livelihoods and homes. The areas targeted for this phase of the mine expansion are Emalahleni, Ophondweni and Mahujini settlements.


“Our clients are entitled to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being in terms of section 24 of the Constitution, as well as a number of other rights regarding land, culture, water, food security and livelihoods. They have rights to information, consultation, mitigation, compensation and being part of decisions made about them. Tendele has violated these rights and continues to do so on a daily basis. And very sadly, our government turns a blind eye. Yesterday our clients exercised their right to a peaceful protest, and even this was not respected by the pro-mining contingency or upheld by the State. Not only were our clients voicing their justifiable dissatisfaction with Tendele’s commencement before it had completed its EIA and consultation process, which in itself has been grossly flawed, but also the relocation of approximately 150 families without proper planning and compensation, in the midst of violence, intimidation and coercion”. Janice Tooley, All Rise Attorneys for Climate and Environmental Justice


While the mine seems determined to continue its dirty work, the people in the area are questioning some of the unfulfilled promises it made in the villages where Tendele currently operates. The villagers are also concerned about the unbearable noise from the machinery which gives them sleepless nights. They demand that the mine engages with them directly and not through traditional authorities or municipality representatives. In a memorandum of grievances handed to the mine, the community members highlight a number of issues that have had a negative impact on them and how they want the violations of their rights and the rule of law to be addressed.

There are also concerns about a rise of threats and intimidation aimed at community members and activists in the area. In October of 2022 Fikile Ntshangase as senior member of MCEJO was gunned down at her home in Ophondweni for refusing to back down and make way for mining.


“Democracy and freedom are words that are used by political parties to say that we are now free and living in a democratic country but what I saw yesterday is not what it’s supposed to be. People were being threatened in front of the police but the police did nothing about it. Instead they were pushing and blocking the people who were protesting peacefully without any weapons. Is this democracy? Is this freedom? All we want is justice and what we saw yesterday was far from it. All we wanted was to hand over our memorandum so that they understand our grievances. All of that did not happen because of people who were fully armed and claimed to have power. I saw it with my own eyes that our people are not safe”. Israel Nkosi, member of MCEJO


MCEJO has sent a letter to local police in the wake of threats to community members opposing the expansion of the mine that has proceeded without due process and with apparent impunity. The letter has been escalated to bring the matter to the attention of provincial and national law enforcement agencies as the situation remains volatile. KwaZulu-Natal Violence Monitor, Mary de Haas has also filed a complaint letter with the KwaMsane Police station to escalate this incident.



Images and videos from the protest: Credit Tsepang Molefe for groundWork



Tsepang Molefe, groundWork, +27 74 405 1257,