A year on, family and rights group demand answers over murder of mining activist Fikile Ntshangase

Fikile Ntsangase is gone but activists swear her legacy and fight will continue.
Fikile Ntsangase is gone but activists swear her legacy and fight will continue.
Image: Supplied

Friday will mark exactly a year since activist Fikile Ntshangase, 63, was murdered — and her family, friends and fellow activists are still demanding justice.

On October 22 last year, Ntshangase was at home with her grandson in Ophondweni, northern KwaZulu-Natal, when three unknown men arrived and shot her dead in her living room.

It would later emerged that Ntshangase, who was vehemently opposing the extension of the Tendele opencast coal mine, had allegedly refused a R350,000 bribe to change her stance.

No arrests have been made.

“We will always remember Fikile courageously standing up against Tendele coal mine’s expansion and voicing the truth. She is gone but her legacy and fight continue,” said Kirsten Youens, executive director at environmental justice legal firm All Rise.

On Friday, to mark the anniversary of the murder, All Rise will host the “defending the defenders” webinar, where the importance of giving support to those who stood up for their environmental rights will be laid out.

Youens said the country was in the midst of a climate crisis.

“The South African government has a duty to protect environmental defenders and the crucial work they do in protecting the natural world. Disturbingly, they’ve been silent on Fikile Ntshangase's murder and the daily dangers faced by other defenders.

“The problem extends far beyond SA. Last year, Fikile was one of 227 people around the world who lost their lives in 2020 defending their homes, their land and livelihoods, and the ecosystems we all depend on.

“Environmental defenders have the right to be protected, the right to protest and the right to justice and accountability. Yet we see time and time again that their rights are ignored in favour of corporate interests and industry,” she said.

Malungelo Xhakaza said she hoped her mom's legacy would live on.

“This week takes me back to a time that I would give anything to forget. I miss my mom, my hero, and my rock. I pray for justice and peace. I pray for her legacy to live on and that her spirit awakes in us all,” Xhakaza said.

All Rise and their partners urge SA’s parliament and government to take active steps to investigate the unsolved murders of Fikile and others who lost their lives — and that other governments across the globe follow suit.


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