Gwede Mantashe Involved In Secret Meetings Excluding Fisher Communities
It has recently surfaced that Minister Gwede Mantashe held a meeting with traditional leaders on (3 February 2022). Representatives of coastal communities and supporting civil society organizations who were gathered in Durban, condemn this non-transparent action. The minister made the announcement on 1 February that he will be visiting the Eastern Cape on 3 February to talk to the traditional leadership about the oil and gas developments. These meetings are timed for the AmaGcaleka and AbaThembu traditional councils over 2 days. Affected communities are asking how this is democratic consultation?
Nonhle Mbuthuma, spokesperson for Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), “The communities who are directly affected brought a court interdict last year. Why does the minister go to see traditional leaders? It was not them that went to court. As communities, we took Shell to court not the traditional leaders. Now we demand that our government not undermine communities, but to respect communities. When there are developments proposed, government MUST consult communities. It is part of the Constitution, and therefore they cannot ignore us. When we hear that the minister has decided to only consult the traditional leaders, it is a very insulting to our customary law, because it is a top-down approach, you cannot just consult traditional leaders and think it is done deal. Traditional leaders can only be leaders because of the people.”
Coastal communities in Port St Johns and Gqeberha protested against offshore oil and gas exploration
In the Makhanda High Court decision of 28 December 2021, the court found that Shell’s consultation was not sufficient. The judge found that the “king” cannot make representations on behalf of all community members. The judge also found that it was a substantially flawed consultation process and therefore found that the exploration right was thus unlawful and invalid. Communities were applicants in that case and were not consulted.
Sinegugu Zukulu from Sustaining the Wild Coast says, “In terms of customary law, you need to talk to the people – when you talk to the traditional leaders, you are not consulting. Why are the government running away from communities? It seems that they are only prepared to talk to traditional leaders.
According to Deon Spandiel from the Eastern Cape Khoisan Fisher Cooperative, even in the coastal areas, community leaders from the Griqua/Nama and Cape Khoi people have never been consulted. “We have not been consulted. So, why is the minister running away? We, as coastal communities, fishing communities are concerned about the growing trend of the lack of consulting with communities.”
Desiree Laverne Greenpeace Africa in Durban says, “It is like the so-called stakeholder consultation. What they are doing is they consult traditional leaders and exclude the community. It is like eating from two different plates. One is the leadership, already living the lives of the elite. The other is the plate that matters, those people who are living hand-to-mouth. So, it seems that government likes to consult with those with full plates, not those with the empty plates.”
The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “Firstly, remember there was the Shell exploration right and then the gas exploration bill, there was no consultation within the Eastern Cape coastal communities. And then, there was also Karpower. We see that there is a trend of refusing to engage coastal communities. In all these cases, people were not consulted
meaningfully, and we are highly concerned about the refusal of the minister to consult with fishing communities that depend on the sea for their livelihoods.”
“Consultation needs to be meaningful as per the National environmental Act (NEMA). The principle applies to any decision that may significantly affect the environment. The participation of all interested and affected parties in environmental governance must be promoted, and all people must have the opportunity to develop the understanding, skills, and capacity necessary for achieving equitable and effective participation, and participation by vulnerable and disadvantaged persons must be ensured. Furthermore, in direct contravention of these legal principles, consultation processes take place mostly in English, through virtual meetings. However, and communities do not have money to buy data, so these consultation processes are only for the elite,” continues van Rooy.
Coastal community representatives and supporting civil society organizations highlight that South Africa has a long history of communities being excluded, from colonial to apartheid times until now. Is this an attempt to capture traditional leadership? What is this new language of stakeholders? Who are the stakeholders? Where are the communities? The rights of people to secure livelihoods are being taken to the dustbin. Nothing that the minister says acknowledges those who are directly affected.
Ntsindiso Nongcavu from Port St John’s, a leader of one of the many small-scale fishing communities along this coast that has fishing rights says, “Why are these elected politicians prepared to defend the corporates rather than acting as public officer bearers who are supposed to represent the interests of the people on the ground.”
Christian Adams, a small-scale fisher from Steenberg Cove in the West Coast and member of the South African Small-Scale Fishers Collective (SASSFC) says, “Mr. Mantashe, your actions are not honourable. I can speak about the impacts on my life but I want to speak to you about choices. You are sitting making choices about which university to send your kids, while in my case the only option I have for my kids is a local school. When will my recognition as a small-scale fisher come to full fruition? You continue with these development things without consulting us. You talk of Karpower ship, no consultation. Ibubhesi gas field? Again, no consultation. When will you come to the fishers and consult with us?”
“Mantashe’s push for the oil and gas corporations to destroy our oceans and marine stocks must be condemned by all ocean and fish loving South Africans,” says Desmond D’Sa South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA).
We the people gathered here today, believe in the Constitution and our rights to a sustainable livelihood. We will stand up against those who would hide behind the language of development but whose agendas appear to support corporate profit at the expense of people and planet.