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Victory for Community Activist Victimised by Mine

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Court overturns cost order sought against community activist by West Coast Resources

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies welcomes the judgment handed down by the Kimberley High Court on Friday 23 June. The Court overturned a cost order against our client Dawid Markus, an activist from Hondeklipbaai in Namaqualand. The cost order had been sought and obtained against Mr Markus, before he was legally represented, by West Coast Resources (Pty) Ltd – a diamond-mining company with operations in the Namaqualand region of the Northern Cape.

The case stems from longstanding attempts by the community of Hondeklipbaai to express their legitimate concerns about the mining activity in the area which resulted in a small, peaceful protest in November 2016. In response, West Coast Resources sought an interdict against one named person, Mr Markus, as a way to silence the community’s grievances and to prevent Mr Markus from exercising his constitutional right to peaceful and unarmed demonstration.

Following the protest, West Coast Resources obtained an interim interdict against Mr Markus, and consequent cost order. If this order had been executed, it would have left Mr Markus and his family homeless. With CALS’ representation at a hearing in February 2017, the court refused to grant a final interdict against Mr Markus, and the initial cost order against him has now been overturned.

“We often see community activists who speak truth to power face this kind of victimisation in our work,” says Wandisa Phama, attorney at CALS. “Seeking an order of costs was an obvious attempt to silence activists. The Court order acknowledges the importance of keeping the space open for communities to have a say about development that affects them.”

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