Illegal beach camp finally demolished after long legal battle

2010-05-12 00:00

A HOLIDAY camp constructed by two businessmen in the ecologically sensitive iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which has been the subject of a protracted legal battle in the high court in Durban, was finally demolished yesterday.

According to a joint statement issued by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the demolition was carried out under the authority of Durban’s sheriff with the support of the SA Police Force Area Crime Combating Unit and staff of iSimangaliso and Ezemvelo.

Businessmen Madolwane Mthembu and Simon Tembe were ordered by the high court on November 23 last year to begin removing structures and to rehabilitate the site of the beach camp at Bhanga Nek by April 30, but they allegedly continued with construction.

The park authority launched a separate case for contempt of court against Mthembu and Tembe in terms of which the iSimangaliso Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the the Water and Environmental Affairs Minister are requesting their imprisonment for three months.

The two men strongly opposed the application and vowed to continue with construction.

The case came before Judge Chris Nicholson on May 7, who reserved judgment on the contempt of court issue, but commented that court orders have to be enforced or anarchy will prevail.

iSimangaliso said yesterday that the two men were given notice by the sheriff on May 8 that he would be executing the demolition order, and they were asked to remove personal belongings. The iSimangaliso board’s chairperson Mavuso Msimang said: “Demolition was our last resort following years of warnings, written and verbal. We would be failing in our duty to the people and our international World Heritage Convention commitments if we had not acted to stop this development.”

He said iSimangaliso is mandated to deliver meaningful benefits to neighbouring communities where some 70 000 people live. “Unauthorised and ecologically unsustainable developments, where the benefits accrue to a few businessmen, threaten sustainable development and tourism,” he said.

 

The coastal forest reserve section of iSimangaliso is 80 km long, stretching from Sodwana Bay to the Mozambique border. It contains marine, terrestrial, estuarine and fresh water ecosystems with an extremely high biodiversity and many endemic species of fauna and flora.

It is also the only protected area in SA where palm veld is conserved. Much of the remaining swamp forest in the country lies within the Coastal Forest Reserve. This regulates and filters water entering the Kosi lakes and is vital to the ecological health of the system on which communities, tourists and the protection of biodiversity are dependent.

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