Struggle for the sands of Xolobeni – From post-colonial environmental injustice to crisis of democracy

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In resource-rich South Africa, natural resource extraction has been fundamental to processes of primitive accumulation, forming the bedrock of the national economy. Accordingly, struggles for control over land and resources have been constant throughout this nation's history. The coastal sands of Xolobeni on South Africa's Wild Coast, where Australia's Mineral Commodities (MRC) and its South African subsidiary Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) Ltd. has set its sights on a wealth of titanium and other minerals, is home to one such struggle. Taking an approach of narrative enquiry, this article applies an analytic lens of post-colonial environmental injustice to show how the State has colluded with corporate powers to sacrifice marginal black South African communities upon an altar of development defined by extractivism and dominated by global capitalism. Its analysis reveals the captured South African state as the leading agent of “slow violence”, and argues that this conflict is indicative of a larger crisis of democracy. It also questions how communities who oppose mining and favour alternative forms of development, can successfully defend land and livelihoods. Reflecting on an ongoing court battle with Shell over seismic testing off the Wild Coast, the article concludes that the State cannot be depended upon to protect the interests of rural communities, or to deliver societal transformation, let alone decolonisation. The onus instead lies with the strength of civil society, backed up by the protective powers of an independent South African judiciary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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