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Below The Surface

The murder of an environmental activist reveals the complexities and corruption in South Africa’s mining industry

SANELISWE RADEBE was alone in the living room when the gunmen arrived. Sitting on the sofa watching TV, the slender 17-year old heard a vehicle crawl toward the house in low gear. It was March of 2016, near the end of the South African summer, and already dark outside at 7:30 p.m. A blue light flashed through the curtains. “It’s the police. We’re looking for Bazooka,” one of the men shouted, thumping on the front door.

Bazooka Radebe, Saneliswe’s father, was in an adjacent room. He had taken his trousers off after work, like he did most evenings, and was dressed in a black shirt and underwear. He didn’t emerge when Saneliswe shouted for him, so the boy opened the front door. The two men wore gloves and plain clothes. One carried an assault rifle, the other a pistol. They lifted their weapons and shoved Saneliswe backward, forcing their way inside. “We’ve come to arrest your father,” they said, looking around at the empty chairs.

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