Will a ref­er­en­dum solve the Xolobeni-N2 toll road

CityPress - - Business - LUBABALO NGCUKANA [email protected]­

We re­gard the N2 Wild Coast toll road and Xolobeni min­ing as hus­band and wife. They go to­gether, that is why we have re­sorted to courts

Gov­ern­ment in­sists the projects will ad­vance com­mu­ni­ties, but Amadiba is adamant it is d ivi sive and ex­ploita­tive

Eastern Cape Pre­mier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle says gov­ern­ment is look­ing into mak­ing devel­op­ment in Xolobeni sus­tain­able, in­clud­ing min­ing, but it should have the buy-in of all the members of the com­mu­nity.

Speak­ing to City Press this week, Ma­su­alle said min­ing and tourism, as well as pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment can co­ex­ist in a sus­tain­able way.

“Firstly, I have to deal with prin­ci­ple is­sues re­gard­ing min­ing. The view we took as pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is that where there are prospects for a thriv­ing min­ing op­er­a­tion in the prov­ince we would be sup­port­ive of that.

“But cer­tainly we would not go for it at all costs if it is go­ing to be harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment. So the laws must be ob­served and there must be en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity, but that sus­tain­abil­ity should be kept along­side se­cur­ing devel­op­ment. Where we can de­velop through ex­plor­ing min­ing in the prov­ince, let that be done,” said the pre­mier.

Ma­su­alle was re­act­ing to a judg­ment in the Pretoria High Court last month, where the Amadiba Cri­sis Com­mit­tee [ACC], an anti-min­ing lobby group in Xolobeni, won a re­mark­able court bat­tle against the state. The judg­ment ef­fec­tively gave the com­mu­nity the right to re­ject min­ing in their area.

Ma­su­alle said they did not see this as a loss. “Ab­so­lutely not. It merely un­der­writes the im­por­tance of the com­mu­nity’s voice be­ing heard,” he said.

Judge An­nali Basson said the min­eral re­sources minister must first ob­tain con­sent from the com­mu­nity be­fore grant­ing any min­ing rights to Aus­tralian com­pany Transworld En­ergy and Min­eral Re­sources, which in­tends to start min­ing op­er­a­tions in the vil­lage.

Ma­su­alle, how­ever, in a veiled at­tack, crit­i­cised the ACC for drown­ing out the voices of those that want min­ing in the area.

“In Xolobeni specif­i­cally, we do find a bit of dis­com­fort, par­tic­u­larly where there would be those in the com­mu­nity who block other views from be­ing heard.

“I think we would be sup­port­ive of com­mu­nity views be­ing taken into ac­count with­out any­one be­ing in­tim­i­dated in any way, so that we can have the op­por­tu­nity to di­a­logue prop­erly about the op­por­tu­ni­ties and risks as­so­ci­ated with this and the ben­e­fits as­so­ci­ated with it, all this be­ing done where ev­ery­one’s view is heard.

“We do recog­nise the judg­ment that has been made, that all devel­op­ment of that na­ture must have sup­port of the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Ma­su­alle ac­cused the ACC of want­ing to usurp the view of the en­tire Xolobeni com­mu­nity.

“It’s one thing to have a lobby group that makes as if it is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­mu­nity.

“A lobby group is a lobby group. We must have the com­mu­nity and the com­mu­nity is in­clu­sive of the lobby group. But what has been hap­pen­ing is lobby groups make them­selves the ul­ti­mate au­thor­ity on be­half of the com­mu­nity and we think that there is a prob­lem with that,” he said.

Mean­while, Os­car Mabuyane, the Eastern Cape MEC for fi­nance, eco­nomic devel­op­ment, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and tourism, has re­port­edly called for a ref­er­en­dum in Xolobeni to break the im­passe that has di­vided the com­mu­nity.

Ma­su­alle said al­though this was a not a view he was aware of, it was cer­tainly not a gov­ern­ment po­si­tion.

“I haven’t heard about [the call for a ref­er­en­dum]... But I don’t think we have made that de­ter­mi­na­tion as gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Last month, The Ci­ti­zen re­ported that when an­swer­ing ques­tions af­ter his midterm bud­get speech in the Bhisho Leg­is­la­ture, Mabuyane, who is also the pro­vin­cial chair­per­son of the ANC and is likely to be the next pre­mier, called for a ref­er­en­dum in Xolobeni.

“We can­not say no to min­ing in our prov­ince and then work in the mines in other prov­inces while liv­ing with fi­nan­cial re­sources that could have made a dif­fer­ence here.

“The peo­ple of Xolobeni must not be lob­bied and be in­tim­i­dated to op­pose the min­ing. They must be al­lowed an op­por­tu­nity to de­cide if they want min­ing or not through a ref­er­en­dum.

“The peo­ple of Xolobeni have been mis­led by oth­ers who do not live there and have been promis­ing to de­velop that area for tourism for the past 20 years. We are say­ing that tourism and min­ing can co­ex­ist if peo­ple of that area can agree. Min­ing will bring job op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­vest­ment, so­cial in­fra­struc­ture and other ben­e­fits,” Mabuyane was quoted as say­ing.

Nei­ther Mabuyane nor his spokesper­son, Mvusi­wekhaya Sicwet­sha, could be reached for com­ment.

Ma­su­alle was, how­ever, up­beat about the N2 Wild Coast toll road, say­ing it was mov­ing ahead de­spite op­po­si­tion by com­mu­ni­ties who felt it was all about fa­cil­i­tat­ing min­ing in the area to ensure it was easy to trans­port raw ma­te­rial to a smelter plant in East Lon­don.

In the Pretoria High Court last week, some com­mu­ni­ties in Mbizana locked horns with the SA Na­tional Roads Agency (San­ral) about the N2 toll road project, which plans to link and shorten the travel time be­tween East Lon­don and Durban. The road would also pass through Amadiba coastal com­mu­ni­ties, some of which are op­posed to min­ing.

A state­ment re­leased by the ACC on Mon­day, De­cem­ber 3, read: “To­day the court case starts in the Pretoria High Court against San­ral’s planned route for the N2 Wild Coast toll road. It is sched­uled for three days be­fore the honourable Jus­tice Pre­to­rius.

“In the case, we ar­gue that pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion meetings were tick-box ex­er­cises de­signed to min­imise dis­sent, be­ing in com­plete breach of our own cus­tom­ary law on con­sul­ta­tion...

“The toll road would cut our com­mu­nity straight down the mid­dle as it makes min­ing in Xolobeni fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble.”

Judg­ment was re­served and will be handed down in Fe­bru­ary next year.

Ma­su­alle de­nied that min­ing in Xolobeni and the N2 Wild Coast toll road were linked. “I don’t know why we link things that are not linked. The N2 road is one devel­op­ment,” Ma­su­alle said.

ACC spokesper­son Nonhle Mbuthuma said the pre­mier should prop­erly read the judg­ment on min­ing be­fore com­ment­ing.

“The judg­ment says clearly that the peo­ple of Xolobeni have a right to say no and they are the ones who should con­sent to min­ing and how...

“If they are not happy with judg­ment they should ap­peal and not cause a scene be­cause this is di­vid­ing the com­mu­nity. “In­stead of ap­peal­ing the judg­ment, they now want to do con­sul­ta­tion. We are say­ing we have passed that stage. The pre­mier must read the judg­ment oth­er­wise he is go­ing to mis­lead the pub­lic,” said Mbuthuma. Com­ment­ing on the is­sue of the toll road and views of the pre­mier that it was not linked to min­ing, Mbuthuma said this was not true. She said the purpose of build­ing the high­way close to the pro­posed min­ing area was to sup­port the project to trans­port raw ma­te­ri­als to ei­ther East Lon­don or Richards Bay.

“We re­gard the N2 Wild Coast toll road and Xolobeni min­ing as hus­band and wife. They go to­gether, that is why we have re­sorted to courts.

“We are not com­pletely against the N2, but we are say­ing it must move away from the coastal Amadiba ar­eas, where the min­ing is pro­posed.

“But they are forc­ing it to be close and 3km away from the coast. If the road is for us as com­mu­ni­ties why can’t they lis­ten to us. The road is not con­nected to any of the ex­ist­ing towns and it’s clear that it is con­nected to the min­ing. We all know you can­not mine in Xolobeni with­out a proper road,” she said.

Eastern Cape pre­mier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle

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