Free­dom group wins fer­tiliser case

The Southland Times - - WEATHER - GER­ARD HUTCHING

Morocco’s state run com­pany OCP has ac­cused South Africa of ‘‘po­lit­i­cal piracy’’ over a US$5 mil­lion ship­ment of phos­phate bound for New Zealand.

OCP has de­cided to stop con­tin­u­ing with a court case to try and win back the Bal­lance AgriNutri­ents 54,000 tonne ship­ment, which has now been de­tained for more than 70 days in Port El­iz­a­beth.

The ves­sel Cherry Blos­som has been held up by an ap­pli­ca­tion from the Polis­ario Front, which seeks the in­de­pen­dence of West­ern Sa­hara. Morocco con­sid­ers the dis­puted re­gion be­longs to it, and has pro­posed it be granted au­ton­omy but not in­de­pen­dence.

Bal­lance chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Wynne said the de­ci­sion by OCP was a ‘‘prag­matic so­lu­tion’’ be­cause the case could have dragged on in the court for months if not years. ’’The cargo is des­tined for us but we don’t own it so OCP will be the loser in this sit­u­a­tion. The fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tion for us is around the ves­sel be­cause we have to pay for it, but be­cause we are cov­ered by in­sur­ance the im­pact is zero.’’

He vowed Bal­lance would con­tinue to buy fer­tiliser that was mined in the con­tested re­gion. ’’Legally and eth­i­cally we are com­fort­able with buy­ing it, and the Moroc­cans will con­tinue to mine it.’’

Wynne said he en­vis­aged the cargo would be given to Polis­ario by the court, and it was likely it would go back on the mar­ket, en­abling the ves­sel to be re­leased. The case had not re­solved the geopo­lit­i­cal is­sue which had to be de­cided on by the United Na­tions. There was a long drawn out process oc­cur­ring with no easy res­o­lu­tion.

OCP ac­cused the South African ju­di­ciary of hav­ing passed ‘‘an em­i­nently po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion and com­mit­ted a gross abuse of power.

Morocco and the Polis­ario fought for con­trol of West­ern Sa­hara from 1974 to 1991, when Morocco took over the desert ter­ri­tory be­fore the sign­ing of a UN-bro­kered cease­fire.

The ves­sel Cherry Blos­som be­fore it was de­tained in South Africa.

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