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CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

oads agency San­ral has been ac­cused of forg­ing vil­lagers’ sig­na­tures in an at­tempt to con­vince the courts that the planned con­struc­tion of the N2 Wild Coast toll road, to con­nect KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, has wide sup­port.

Vil­lagers liv­ing along the Wild Coast are op­posed to the con­struc­tion of the high­way and have ap­proached the courts in an at­tempt to stop the pro­ject.

They ar­gue that the high­way will dis­place them from their homes, ruin their an­ces­tral lands, des­e­crate their graves and sep­a­rate them from their live­stock.

In pa­pers filed be­fore the North Gaut­eng High Court, the vil­lagers have al­leged the roads agency forged the sig­na­tures of four peo­ple who are known op­po­nents of the con­struc­tion of the high­way. They say San­ral has passed them off as peo­ple who sup­ported the con­struc­tion dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion process. San­ral has said it would in­ves­ti­gate the claims. Nomvel­wana Mh­len­gana is an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of the planned high­way. She lives in Sigidi vil­lage near Bizana and is one of those whose sig­na­tures were said to have been forged by San­ral, to falsely pledge her sup­port for the pro­ject.

The vil­lagers have en­listed the ser­vices of Cape Town law firm, Cul­li­nan and As­so­ci­ates, to fight their case in court.

It will be heard in the North Gaut­eng High Court on Oc­to­ber 6.

In the court pa­pers, which con­tain signed af­fi­davits by var­i­ous mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ties, Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee (ACC) – which is fight­ing not only the pro­posed N2 high­way, but also the plans to mine ti­ta­nium in the red dunes of Xolobeni near Bizana – is adamant that San­ral lied un­der oath in a bid to push ahead with the con­struc­tion of the high­way.

“The peo­ple who live un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­ity have at­tempted to hold San­ral ac­count­able for putting false ev­i­dence be­fore this court,” said Mbuthuma.

“They were at­tempt­ing to show that mem­bers of Sigidi and Mdatya were in favour of the pro­posed toll road and against the lit­i­ga­tion to stop it.”

She also wants San­ral of­fi­cial Mongezi Noah – who is a com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist – to ex­plain why he claimed in his af­fi­davit that he had seen Mh­len­gana sign­ing one of the dis­puted doc­u­ments. She “ve­he­mently de­nies” ever do­ing so, said Mbuthuma. The com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing on the Wild Coast are “over­whelm­ingly op­posed” to the high­way de­vel­op­ment, she added.

Lawyer Pa­trick Cul­li­nan also claims in the found­ing af­fi­davit that San­ral CEO Nazir Alli was not truth­ful when he said vil­lagers had ex­pressed sup­port for the pro­ject in con­sul­ta­tive meet­ings at the lo­cal Sigidi Pri­mary School and Mdatya Sec­ondary School.

“[ACC mem­ber] Mzamo Dlamini at­tended both meet­ings and says in his af­fi­davit that this state­ment by Mr Alli is com­pletely un­true,” said Cul­li­nan.

He said his clients had lim­ited fi­nan­cial re­sources and could only lit­i­gate be­cause his firm was will­ing to act for sub­stan­tially re­duced fees. Var­i­ous donors had also pro­vided fund­ing.

“San­ral is well aware of the wide­spread op­po­si­tion to the pro­posed Wild Coast toll road among the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties. This in­ter­locu­tory ap­pli­ca­tion, sup­ported as it is with forged af­fi­davits, is a cyn­i­cal at­tempt to deny these com­mu­ni­ties their con­sti­tu­tional rights of ac­cess to jus­tice, ad­min­is­tra­tive jus­tice and to pro­tect en­vi­ron­ments in which they live,” said Cul­li­nan.

San­ral spokesper­son Vusi Mona said the roads agency viewed the al­le­ga­tions of fraud se­ri­ously and would con­duct a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The cir­cum­stances around fraud al­le­ga­tions re­lat­ing to state­ments that San­ral sub­mit­ted in court about the pro­posed N2 Wild Coast toll route are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“San­ral be­lieves it has done noth­ing wrong and views all al­le­ga­tions of fraud in a very se­ri­ous light,” said Mona.

“We are con­fi­dent that any is­sues sur­round­ing the al­le­ga­tions will be cleared up as soon as in­ves­ti­ga­tions and le­gal pro­cesses have been com­pleted.”

Mona also said while the re­lo­ca­tion of peo­ple and prop­erty was in­evitable in projects of this mag­ni­tude, San­ral would tread care­fully on the mat­ter.

“Any re­lo­ca­tion will fol­low a fully con­sul­ta­tive process with af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als.

“It is recog­nised that a pre­req­ui­site to re­lo­ca­tion is the avail­abil­ity of suit­able, al­ter­na­tive land and hous­ing and no re­lo­ca­tions will be done with­out com­mu­nity and in­di­vid­ual agree­ment,” he said.

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