‘Get the hell out of KZN’

2016-02-03 10:29
Carte Blanche presenter Derek Watts at a fracking meeting at Howick West Town Hall.

Carte Blanche presenter Derek Watts at a fracking meeting at Howick West Town Hall. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Rhino Oil and Gas South Africa, the company seeking a bid to explore 1,5 million hectares for gas reserves in KZN, faced strong opposition at a community meeting in Howick on Tuesday.

But despite the vocal opposition, the company, represented by COO Phillip Steyn and the environmental consultants SLK, soldiered on through the process. They eventually conceded to skip a portion of the agenda and go straight to questions and answers.

This meeting is a continuation of public meetings held last year and forms part of, albeit the early stages of, the environmental impact assessment process.

The atmosphere was noticeably tense with people calling the company representatives “killers” and “destroying the land of our children”.

The Howick West Town Hall perimeter fence and building walls had been adorned with banners in protest to Rhino’s application to explore for hydrocarbons.

Environmental groups remained vocal throughout the proceedings which were a stop-start affair throughout the three-hour engagement.

“I believe in something. Our country has a real problem with our consumption of oil and gas. A lot of people fight that process yet we are spending over R100 billion on just oil. If we could have a fraction of the jobs created in the U.S., in South Africa, by developing an oil and gas industry it would save our tax and keep it in our country,” said Steyn.

Steyn stressed gas and oil would provide multiple jobs.

“No single person can take a decision to stop this [at Rhino] as this would be a group decision. This will benefit everyone in South Africa,” he said.

The approximately 100-strong crowd and the representatives of Rhino remained vocally combative.

As the meeting progressed to the question and answer period it became gradually calmer and more technical in nature.

Stella Hlongwane, the president of the organisation Concerned Young People of South Africa based in Mpophomeni, had objected to the poor translation of material and speakers into isiZulu. He told The Witness the poor will pay the biggest price.

“The people I represent are poor. I brought gogos here who could not understand what is happening. The first time they would ever know about this is when the machines roll onto the farms. Our existence depends on water and livestock. We will be the first to suffer,” said Hlongwane.

Noluthando Nzimande from the SA Youth Climate Change Coalition, UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus, said the Amakhosi had been informed about the process.

Rhino was criticised for not making any of the minutes or documents generated from the previous meetings available to those who are affected. Activist Pandora Long said Rhino was “dictating” and “not participating”.

“I have a list of 650 signatures from this area from school pupils who are against what you are proposing. Get the hell out of KZN,” said Long.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fracking

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