KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has called for calm following the assassination of Richards Bay Mineral’s senior executive Nico Swart on Monday.

According to SAPS spokesperson Thembeka Mbele, Swart, who was general manager of operational services at RBM, died when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, while he was driving to work in Richards Bay. More 20 high calibre bullets pummelled into his vehicle. Swart died at the scene of the crime.

The murder took place following what Zikalala described as recent “groundbreaking discussions” between RMB management and local Amakhosi regarding the firm’s latest investment in Zulti South which is projected to inject R100bn to the economy, as well issues regarding compensation to communities whose homes were damaged by RBM mining operations.

“That the incident took place in broad daylight, during rush hour and in full view of pedestrians and motorists, indicates the callous nature of the attackers. At the same time, we hope that this provides a window that will help in the identification and arrest of the perpetrators,” Zikalala said.

“We call on the police to make this a priority investigation and to get to the bottom of this criminal act. Only swift arrest will send a clear message that we will not allow violence to be used to resolve our differences, no matter what they are, or how big or intractable the problems might be,” Zikalala said.

Zikalala expressed the government’s “deepest condolences” to Swart’s family and colleagues at RBM

“We call for calm at RBM and among all those affected and impacted by this incident and to allow the current process of discussion and negotiations facilitated by provincial government at RBM to proceed,” Zikalala said. 

Zikalala said that on Tuesday 18 May 2021 there were “groundbreaking discussions” between RBM leadership and local Amakhosi, during a meeting to iron out long-standing issues between the parties. The meeting was attended by Zikalala, Members of the Executive Council, district and local mayors, Amakhosi and RBM management.

The traditional communities on whose land RBM is mining were represented by the traditional authorities of Mbuyazi, Mkhwanazi, Dube and Sokhulu. All stakeholders agreed that the relevant departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Community Safety and Liaison working under the leadership of the premier’s office would take matters further over the coming weeks. 

“Those processes are continuing and we will not allow anything to stop or distract us from finding each other around all the issues that have led to the instability in the area and insecurity of the massive investment by RBM in these traditional communities. We must identify the criminal elements and isolate them from the majority who want nothing else but peaceful coexistence and partnership between government and the miners in the Richards Bay area,” Zikalala said.

At the centre of the latest discussions is RBM’s latest investment in Zulti South which is projected to deliver R100bn economic value to the country with R40bn flowing during the first 12 years of the mine being operational. The other issues involved the finalisation of compensation to communities whose homes were damaged by RBM mining operations and the payment of outstanding dividends to the Mkhwanazi Traditional Council.  

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Presh JM Reporter

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