A stock farmer in Secunda is at war with his neighbour, chemical giant Sasol, because he believes the company is to blame for 60 of his cattle dying suddenly.
Christopher Skosana (52) has been grazing his cattle since 1989 on a piece of land owned by Templemore Trading. He says he has never had any problems, but that in the past six years, half of his herd has died after drinking from a dam on the property.
Their grazing area and the dam are in the shadow of Sasol’s industrial complex.
Skosana believes polluted water has leaked from the complex into the dam and the soil where his cattle graze.
He has a letter from Sasol to Templemore Trading, dated November 11 this year, warning that the water in the dam was not safe for his cattle to drink. But Sasol insists that only one incident can be related to the pollution Skosana says he has witnessed on the land in the past six years.
Sasol spokesperson Alex Anderson said that on December 23 last year, an unexpected crack appeared on the surface of a fine ash dam belonging to the company and excess ash water had flowed onto the property where Skosana was grazing his cattle.
“This is the first time this has occurred on one of our fine ash dams,” said Anderson.
“Top management was notified immediately with corrective actions initiated and an investigation was undertaken immediately.”
After this incident, Sasol commissioned an independent soil and water contamination assessment that showed the “ash water had not caused significant contamination that would require rehabilitation”.
It then conducted another toxicology report, which concluded that Skosana’s cattle could safely drink the water. “Sasol took the additional step of providing a convenient and clean alternative water supply by installing a dedicated fresh water supply,” he said.
He said Sasol had not been notified about any cattle deaths.
“Should we be approached with the deaths of this herd of cattle by its rightful owner on this particular piece of land, we will provide assistance with veterinary postmortem support,” said Anderson.
This contradicts Sasol’s letter to Templemore Trading.
In it, Sasol refused to supply the owners with its ground water monitoring data, saying it was not relevant to the case.
The company said cattle should be taken off the property immediately because of concerns about water quality and the owners’ “perceived” pollution of the soil.
The letter also said: “Sasol Chemical Industries is satisfied that the soil poses no contamination risk.”
The landowners, with whom Skosana had a 15-year agreement, have given him notice to vacate the property because of Sasol’s warning.
“Regrettably, we are no longer in a position to allow you to graze your cattle,” reads Templemore Trading’s notice.
Derick Erasmus, a director at Templemore Trading, said the owners were conducting their own investigation into possible environmental damage.
Templemore plans to create an industrial development on the land.
“Apparently the property is fine to be developed, but Sasol told us to please not drink the water,” said Erasmus.
Skosana is furious.
He said his cattle had been dying for nearly six years, not because of some “small incident just before Christmas last year”.
“Where am I supposed to go? I have been here for more than 25 years and now I have to go because they polluted this land,” said Skosana.