Bid to protect forest

2014-04-24 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, Meshack Radebe yesterday stepped in after the Church of Nazareth (Shembe), with blessings from the uMhlathuze local municipality, had planned to clear about 16 hectares of forest for thousands of the congregation to gather from April 20 to the second week of May.

In a meeting in Richards Bay yesterday, attended by Radebe, Ezemvelo, uMhlathuze Municipality and the Shembe leadership, the MEC said he would not allow the destruction of the forest.

“We are governed by environmental laws that we all have to adhere to. We have made it clear to the church concerned that the destruction of the forest can have serious environmental implications and can be detrimental to the area’s indigenous forest,” Radebe said in a statement.

He said among those in attendance no one had a different view. “However, I have to stress that, because we respect religious activities of any kind, we are not going to stop this event, which started on the 20th of this month and will end on the second week of May.”

Environmental specialists from Northern KZN will monitor the proceedings to ensure that correct procedures are followed when clearing the bushes and shrubs, and that no trees are cut down.

Only two hectares of the bush will be cleared for the gathering.

Last month, despite environmental concerns over the request to clear the forest, municipal manager Nhlanhla Sibeko told The Witness that the church had made the necessary application to use a portion of the forest and that it had been granted.

“As the city we believe it is their right to worship the way they like and that should be respected. This church has been occupying this area for many decades,” Sibeko said at the time.

Attempts to get comment from the Shembe faction were unsuccessful.

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