Death threats to development workers real, says Cogta

2015-03-11 00:00

THE threat that government workers may be killed while operating in the Dukuduku Forest are real, says the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Lennox Mabaso.

Last week the KZN Department of Economic Development and Tourism Affairs brought an interim interdict to the Durban high court against several leaders from the northern KZN region preventing them from threatening, physically harming or killing teams employed to clear or demarcate new boundaries, the Mercury reported this week.

“In the past there have been threats on the lives of workers and community leaders as well as murders allegedly linked to disputes over the development of the region,” said Mabaso.

In 2008 a multi-disciplinary task team was appointed by the provincial government to inject an estimated R1 billion investment into the area. This is the largest single socio-economic development project in KZN into a rural area, which includes the construction of over 5 500 houses, several schools and multiple clinics. The development also hopes to leverage benefit from the region’s tourism trade neighbouring St Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The group of nine interdicted, led by Almond Sithole, have also been accused of illegally selling off and clearing parcels of land in the ecologically sensitive forest. Authorities believe if this continues unabated it could threaten the Unesco status, which stretches from St Lucia towards Kosi Bay on the Mozambique border.

Sithole and his supporters have until June to file opposing affidavits.

Cogta is the leading agent on the project.

“People need to understand the value of the world heritage site. While most of the community accepted the government programme, there has been pockets of discontent,” said Mabaso.

He said the interim order gives government the authority to pursue legal action against local “ringleaders”.

Mabaso said several projects have already been completed and that the key to ultimately diffusing the pockets of resistance will be education and time.

“There has been compromises made and the community is happy with the progress so far but there is a need for education and persuasion still.”

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