South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
26 May 2003
Community members attended a meeting on Wednesday, 26 May 2003 at the Isipingo Civic Centre on what they were led to believe was the rezoning of a section of Airport land (No.14263) and were shocked to discover that it was actually a crude oil storage facility development proposal managed by consultants, SIVEST, on behalf of the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) and NATREF, a crude oil refinery situated in Sasolburg. The development poses a threat to people living and working on the land, as well as, the last of the fragile mangroves in Ispingo.

Rezoning involves consulting with interested and affected parties from which a decision may be taken on whether the land may be used for housing, parks, schools, light industry, fuel storage etc. This is a completely separate process from putting forward a development proposal for hazardous chemical storage which requires an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to assess potential harmful impacts on people and the environment. Rezoning is a Durban Metro function. Consultants, SIVEST, chose to combine the two processes into one proposal with the apparent consent of Ethekwini Municipality and Department of Agricultural and Environmental Affairs (DAEA). Community members questioned the legality of what was proposed. Being unable to address these concerns, ACSA representatives (Miss A Padayachee and Mr S van der Bark) chose to walk out of the meeting to consult their legal advisors on the matter.

Affected parties living on and earning a living from the 100 ha of airports land were not informed. Among these are eleven market gardeners whose livelihood depends on the land and about a hundred people living in informal settlements on Refinery Road, the proposed development site. Historically, the home of informal market gardeners were encroached upon by heavy industry such as Engen, Sapref and Mondi. Some 40 years later, with a new democratic government on place, the trend seems not to have changed. ACSA representative, S van der Bark, lied about having consulted with the farmers and people of the informal settlement. On the morning after the meeting, when the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) asked the farmers and people living in the informal settlement about whether they were informed by consultants, SIVEST, or ACSA about the proposed development, said that they were not and that this was the first they heard of it. "We are now afraid of losing our livelihoods and have been farming here since the 1980's" said one farmer. Farmers also said that they paid rent to ACSA and in addition, collectively contributed R6000 per month to them for security. People of the informal settlements fear being relocated as it may mean losing their jobs and not being able to afford any other place to stay.

This is the third case of relocations due to pressure from heavy industry in south Durban in past two years. There appears to be a trend of pushing people out to make way for more industry. The value and impact on people living in south Durban are not considered as being important by industry and government alike. When is government going to start protecting people's constitutional rights and addressing the needs of poor people in this country?


For comment, please contact:
" Mr Desmond D'Sa (Chair, SDCEA): (031) 4611991 or 083 982 6939
" Rory o' Connor (volunteer member, SDCEA): (031) 266 1366 or 082 871 7614
" Johnny Kamal (Isipingo Island Institute) - mangroves: (031) 902 3633 or 902 4867 (a/h)