THE wrangle over a bid to mine an environmentally sensitive piece of land at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast claimed a fourth life on Tuesday.

Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Rhadebe — chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee since its inception in 2007 — was murdered after assailants, posing as police officers, shot him eight times at Mdatya village.

Rhadebe had been at the forefront of the Xolobeni and Nkwanyana communities’ efforts to prevent a 12-year mining bid on their land, situated south of the Wild Coast Sun near the Eastern Cape’s border with KwaZulu-Natal, committee spokeswoman Nonhle Mbuthuma said. "He was shot eight times in the head at his home in the evening," said Ms Mbuthuma.

Tensions have risen in the area since Australia’s Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources renewed its bid to obtain a licence to mine titanium group metals last year.

"Bazooka called me yesterday (Tuesday) evening at around 6pm to warn me he had received information that there was a hit list of people who are opposed to mining, and that those would be killed. He said he had been told that his name was top on the list.

"An hour later, I received a call saying he’d been shot," said Ms Mbuthuma.

The Mzamba branch of the South African Police Service (SAPS) confirmed that a murder docket had been opened. No arrests had been made, said Const Mtsolo of the SAPS.

"The police have been conducting regular operations in the area in order to prevent violence breaking out," said Const Mtsolo.

Sections of the Madiba community are divided, with a majority of the villages’ residents organised under the Amadiba Crisis Committee opposed to mining, while a minority of residents have been pushing for the proposed mining.

In March last year, Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources reapplied for the mining right, which was originally granted by the mineral resources department in 2008, but repealed three years later after the community appealed successfully against the licence.