Activists call for Sutcliffe to quit

2007-12-29 00:00

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) yesterday called for the resignation of Durban city manager Michael Sutcliffe, accusing him of protecting companies that they believe are killing off the marine life in the bay.

SDCEA chairman Desmond D’sa told Weekend Witness that Sutcliffe should resign because he failed to protect the marine life and environment because he was too busy protecting industry.

He further claimed that the city manager prevented health and water officials from doing their jobs as they feared him.

Sutcliffe told Weekend Witness his response was “simple and clear”.

“I don’t respond to idiotic statements, and when Desmond D’sa is ready to engage in a discussion based on facts then he is more than welcome to visit me at my office,” he said.

Sutcliffe added that if SDCEA had information on intimidated officials or companies polluting the city, then they should come forward instead of making “wild claims”.

This latest battle of words between the SDCEA and the city stems from the mystery surrounding the hundreds of dead fish and crabs that washed up at the bay near the Bluff this week.

Residents described the smell in the area as “strong as rotten eggs” and were shocked at the number of fish that had washed up.

Deputy director of water quality management at the KwaZulu-Natal Water Affairs and Forestry Department Lin Gravelet-Blondin yesterday said the cause of the death of so many fish was a combination of heat, as well as organic mass which caused the oxygen levels to drop.

The fish became stressed as they battled to breathe and most died and washed up at the bay.

He said the source of the organic mass has not yet been established, although there was a strong smell of hydrogen sulphide in the area and this could have been in the water.

Sutcliffe told Weekend Witness that an investigation is under way to establish the source and cause of the mass death of the fish.

Preventative measures have been put into place and there were no reports of more dead fish washing up yesterday.

He said it was too soon to pin the blame on a specific company as the problem was “complex”.

Sutcliffe said one of the city’s main concerns is that people are consuming the fish that washed up on the bay during the week.

“I strongly urge people not to buy fish from people they do not know. The area is very smelly at the moment.

“So although swimming is safe, I doubt people will be going there, but for those who have taken fish, I appeal to you to throw it away,” he said.

It is believed that when the fish surfaced during the week, scores of people took away dead fish or were catching fish that were battling to breathe.

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