Blood will be spilt – cri­sis com­mit­tee

Vil­lagers vow to thwart new toll road on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, say­ing they were never con­sulted

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

Vil­lagers op­posed to pro­posed ti­ta­nium min­ing in Xolobeni have vowed to block plans by govern­ment to con­struct the con­tro­ver­sial multibil­lion-rand N2 Wild Coast Toll Road in the Eastern Cape. Nonhle Mbu­tuma, spokesper­son of the Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee, ac­cuses the SA Na­tional Roads Agency Lim­ited (San­ral) of “bul­ly­ing” the com­mu­nity and “forc­ing the road down our throats” and not do­ing proper con­sul­ta­tion.

The cri­sis com­mit­tee, which was es­tab­lished to op­pose min­ing in Xolobeni, is also in­stru­men­tal in the fight against the pro­posed more than 400km road be­tween East Lon­don and Um­tamvuna River on the KwaZulu-Natal bor­der.

Min­ing in Xolobeni is on an 18-month mora­to­rium de­clared by Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Mosebenzi Zwane in Septem­ber last year, fol­low­ing strong op­po­si­tion by the com­mu­nity.

“If we agree to the road, it means we also ac­cept min­ing. We know that they are only build­ing this road be­cause they want to trans­port min­er­als from Xolobeni to a smelter in East Lon­don. Oth­er­wise, how do you ex­plain govern­ment’s ob­ses­sion about the road go­ing along the coast, where min­ing is also go­ing to take place?” Mbu­tuma said.

The com­mit­tee has in­vited new San­ral CEO Skhum­buzo Ma­co­zoma to a meet­ing at the Um­gun­gundlovu Great Place to dis­cuss the planned road and to raise their con­cerns.

Mbu­tuma claimed that San­ral had not prop­erly con­sulted vil­lagers from five af­fected vil­lages: Sigidi, Mdatya, Xolobeni, Mpindweni and Mthentu, and that peo­ple did not know whether they were go­ing to be re­moved and, if so, how much com­pen­sa­tion they were go­ing to get, and the lo­gis­tics of mov­ing the graves of their loved ones.

“All we see is San­ral and the ANC govern­ment forc­ing us off our land. We are ready to fight and de­fend our land. Blood will be spilt.

“If they don’t want to lis­ten to us, they will build that road in the air, not on our land. If they are sin­cere about giv­ing us roads, they must fix the ex­ist­ing ones and not take us for fools by bring­ing min­ing through the back door, build­ing a road only meant to guar­an­tee suc­cess­ful min­ing to the detri­ment of the com­mu­nity,” Mbu­tuma said.

Cor­mac Cul­li­nan, a le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee on the toll road mat­ter, said a case to op­pose the project was still on­go­ing at the Pretoria High Court.

“The peo­ple are still very much against the road. There is also a case that started in 2012 to set the en­vi­ron­men­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion of the road aside. The case mainly says that the en­vi­ron­men­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion should not have been granted be­cause lo­cal peo­ple were not con­sulted prop­erly and their views were not taken into ac­count.

“An­other rea­son is that when you do an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment, you are re­quired to con­sider all the vi­able op­tions and choose the least en­vi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing. They did not as­sess the op­tion of up­grad­ing the ex­ist­ing in­land routes where the N2 is,” he said. Cul­li­nan said the other rea­son that made the road project sus­pi­cious, ac­cord­ing to the com­mu­nity, was its prox­im­ity to the pro­posed min­ing area.

In the vil­lages, those op­posed to min­ing have been at the fore­front in op­pos­ing the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road, while sup­port­ers of the mine agree with the road con­struc­tion.

Last year, ten­sions reached boil­ing point in Xolobeni, re­sult­ing in the mur­der of Bazooka Radebe, who was known to be an ac­tivist op­posed to min­ing and the N2 toll road.

Those close to him be­lieve he was mur­dered by a pro-min­ing group.

San­ral said that they were con­tin­u­ally con­sult­ing with the com­mu­nity and all rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers and there was over­whelm­ing sup­port for the project.

“San­ral has un­der­taken ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion, par­tic­u­larly since De­cem­ber 2015, and has re­ceived sup­port for the project from nu­mer­ous stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing pro­vin­cial, dis­trict and lo­cal elected lead­er­ship and of­fi­cials, re­gional and lo­cal busi­ness cham­bers, as well as tra­di­tional lead­er­ship.”

The na­tional road agency said an in­de­pen­dent sur­vey in 2015 by the Hu­man Sciences Re­search Coun­cil found a 98.8% sup­port level for the project among over 3 000 re­spon­dents from across the Pon­doland area.

Re­gard­ing the court case, San­ral said all the orig­i­nal ap­pli­cants had with­drawn and ques­tioned Cul­li­nan’s man­date in rep­re­sent­ing the com­mu­ni­ties.

“Cul­li­nan and As­so­ciates claims to rep­re­sent the com­mu­ni­ties of Mdatya and Sigidi, and is dis­put­ing that they have with­drawn, but has failed to pro­duce any ev­i­dence of a for­mal man­date from these com­mu­ni­ties de­spite be­ing re­quested to do so by the high court,” said San­ral.

The roads agency has also de­nied any links be­tween the pro­posed min­ing of the Xolobeni sand dunes and the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road. Dur­ing his state of the prov­ince ad­dress this month, Eastern Cape Premier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle said govern­ment was mov­ing ahead with plans for the de­vel­op­ment of N2 Wild Coast route from East Lon­don to the Um­tamvuna River.

“This project in­cludes the con­struc­tion of two megabridge struc­tures on the Masik­aba and Mthentu rivers, as well as seven ad­di­tional river bridges and three in­ter­changes.

“San­ral es­ti­mates that the ten­der for both bridges will be awarded and con­trac­tors will be on site dur­ing the first quar­ter of the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year,” Ma­su­alle said.

All we see is San­ral and the ANC govern­ment forc­ing us off our land. We are ready to fight and de­fend our land. Blood will be spilt

PHOTO: AYANDA MILISA MADIK­IZELA

RAIS­ING CON­CERNS Xolobeni res­i­dents are against any min­ing tak­ing place on their land

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