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24 October 2020

Statement of Solidarity Following Murder of WHRD Fikile Ntshangase

On behalf of all my colleagues at Front Line Defenders, I am deeply saddened and angered by the killing of Fikile Ntshangase in her home last Thursday. Our hearts and solidarity go out to her family, especially her young grandson who was in the house at the time, and to her community of fellow human rights defenders, who all face the threat of attack for standing up to defend their rights and community in the face of coal mining.

Two years ago, I was privileged to have met Fikile during a meeting I held with her and other community members to learn more about the struggle in Somkhele. I remember well the strength, courage and resilience that was expressed during that meeting and followed that up with a short tour in the area to see the impact of the mining activities on the community.

Andrew Anderson at a meeting wtih community leaders in Somkhele in July 2018 (Fikile - off camera - was seated next to cameraperson)

From that trip, it was clear that the human rights defenders confronting mining and extractive companies in South Africa were just as much at risk as their colleagues in other countries around the world and that the authorities were failing in their obligations to protect human rights defenders. Fikile’s murder should be another wake up call that despite all the progress South Africa has made in the last 30 years, human rights defenders are still very much at risk.

Fikile has been described as outspoke and courageous and she would no doubt want us to transform sorrow and anger into determination in the pursuit of justice, accountability and the restoration of the rights of the community.

From the Front Line Defenders home in Ireland, we see you, Fikile, and we honour your life and work.