Report played into hands of lobbyists

2010-12-04 14:49

Iam writing to respond to what I believe is the purposeful distortion of my response in Parliament on August?10 to the statement by the Independent Democrats’ chief whip, Lance Greyling, about the “environmental crisis” of rising acid mine water.

An article by Jan de Lange in City Press (dated November 28) had the following subheading: “After all the warning signs, Manuel still ridiculed the idea of acid mine drainage.”

It is important that I clarify my statement in the National Assembly.

I said, among other things, that “what we need is a rational discussion and debate informed by an empirical basis”.

De Lange confirms this and then sets out to rubbish the appeal for a “rational discussion informed by an empirical basis”.

I believe that this is often referred to as “evidence-based policy making” and ought to be at the epicentre of the approach to taking big decisions that will commit large sums of taxpayers’ money.

I am not sure why De Lange should find this strange, or why he writes as though such an approach should be equated with denialism.

Let me restate what my understanding of the situation is.

There is indisputable proof that there is an accumulation of vast quantities of underground water in voids left by mining in the Witwatersrand complex and that acid mine drainage mainly manifests after a mine has closed
its operations.

As a consequence of contact with pyrites in the ore body and oxygen, there has been an increased formation of acids in the water.

Added to this is the problem of disused and abandoned mines, poor past legislation that did not require mining companies to take responsibility for mines after they had profited from extraction, and negligent behaviour from some companies that currently have mining licences yet are not pumping water.

So the risks increase.

In essence, the risks are that, if left unattended, this water will decant out of mine shafts in the lower-lying parts of the Witwatersrand.

There is similarly no dispute that such an occurrence will do untold damage to the environment.

I have known all of this for some time, and I was certainly consciously aware of this when I made that statement in Parliament.

I can confirm again, that this matter is receiving the ongoing attention of the government.

I am also aware that there is lobbying by a few companies and that, among these, there is one in particular that is punting an unsolicited bid for its proposal.

In fact, the sense is that this company would want everybody to believe that it’s is the only solution possible.

In his previous articles in Beeld and Rapport, De Lange mentions
this company.

My sense is that in order to get its proposal accepted by government, this company is lobbying very, very extensively.

It also appears that its interests would best be served by generating panic among people, hence the “idea that there will be acid mine drainage running through the streets of Johannesburg next week”, which I exaggerated for effect in my response to Greyling during the members’ statements in Parliament.

The almost-daily parliamentary event called members’ statements has the questions or statements unsighted, and ministers are required to respond off the cuff.

Your correspondent is a seasoned member of the parliamentary press gallery and would know this about “members’ statements”.

I assert that he would have followed up if he had the intention to inform.

Despite the fact that more than 14 weeks have elapsed since this matter arose in Parliament, he continues to trundle out this propaganda.

He appears now also to have conjured up some unnamed scientists who are so disappointed by what I have said.

The problem is that he has not bothered to find out what I said or what I meant. It is for this reason that I must raise the rather difficult question of whether your correspondent has an intention other than to inform your readers.

Might he, wittingly or unwittingly, be part of the campaign by this particular company to create the panic, demonstrate that government is incompetent, and set the scene for them to be trusted with billions of rands of taxpayers’ money?

What I cannot understand is that it is plain from all of his articles on this matter that he has difficulty with concepts, such as “rational discussion and debate” and “empirical evidence”, which he quotes me on.

In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that if De Lange has such a profound problem with rationality, there may have to be an editorial investigation into his motivation to assure readers that the interests of a private company are not being served by a lobbyist masquerading as a journalist.

There! I’ve said it.

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