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Monday Apr 29, 2013

Durban port process 'is flawed'

South Durban residents and allies campaigning against the port expansion and associated projects are dismayed and outraged at the manner in which stakeholder engagement for the digout port, the Back of Port Local Area plan and related projects has commenced.

A rendering of what the old airport site will look like after its transformation to a dug-out port.

The people who will be affected by the R250-billion project have repeatedly demanded that planning must be interrogated as one holistic public participation process, to create a development vision and plan for an all the people of south Durban. Up until now, the fragmented strategy of government and Transnet has prevented a full perspective on the scope of the project. The result is an extremely high level of alienation by affected residents and a sense that the consultation process is being manipulated.

Hundreds of south Durban people attended the meeting on September 1 last year in Clairwood where Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Mayor James Nxumalo promised a holistic process and full consultation.

We received commitments from the mayor's office at the "developmental dialogue" on November 6, held at Moses Mabhida Stadium, and again on December 5 from the Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, that a holistic stakeholder process would be initiated.

To date we have no clarity from the government about how the promised consultative process will work. Communities still have to deal with multiple processes.

On March 12 we invited the municipal manager, the mayor, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, the Minister of Public Enterprise, the Minister of Finance as well as Transnet to a meeting on April 20. The purpose of the meeting was to initiate an inclusive process and for the government and Transnet to present their plans. This invitation was refused.

Instead the ministries of Public Enterprises and Transport hastily organised a "community engagement" on the Strategic Infrastructure Programme-2 (SIP2) on April 13 at the Austerville Community Hall.

In contrast, it seems that a SIP2 engagement with business on April 12 was organised well in advance. SIP2 is about the eThekwini-Gauteng transport corridor and the port expansion.

The meeting included Minister Gigaba, KZN MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu, the premier's spokesman Cyril Xaba, the Speaker of the eThekwini Municipality, Logie Naidoo, and Transnet's chairman and chief executive, Mafika Mkwanazi and Brian Molefe.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) was notified of the community engagement on April 11.

Some organisations aligned to the ANC in Wentworth were informed the following day in the evening.

No public notices inviting local people were posted in Merebank, Isipingo, Umbilo, Amanzimtoti, and Umlazi or anywhere else. None of the residents' organisations and community groups from Clairwood, the Bluff, and Wentworth, Umbilo or other settlements were notified.

None of the other participants in the campaign against the port expansion, such as Earthlife Africa eThekwini, groundWork or the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society were informed of the meeting.

Only a handful of people from Wentworth came because they were walking nearby and happened to hear about the meeting. The councillor of Ward 68 was only informed on the morning about a meeting occurring at the community hall.

The meeting was called for 9am. It was delayed until shortly before 11am when buses started arriving bringing people from other parts of eThekwini. We fully support the principle of an inclusive community engagement that reaches out to all eThekwini's people.

Nevertheless, the impression was created both that the attendance of these groups was organised at the last moment and that, as SANCO (South African National Civic Organisation) members, they were assumed to support the ruling party and the port expansion.

However, it backfired on the government - members of the audience made plain that it was a charade and not proper public consultation. And from all sides, whether from Sanco or south Durban, they questioned whether the mega projects would deliver the promised jobs and development.

Minister Gigaba told the meeting he was honouring his commitment to engage the community. This was the commitment made to the south Durban constituencies on December 5.

We believe that this commitment would have been better honoured by accepting the invitation to address the community meeting on April 20.

Adrian Peters, of eThekwini Municipality, gave a presentation on SIP2 and the port expansion. This made clear that the big decisions were already made. The primary purpose of "consultation" is to get community buyin. It ignores the enormous opposition that

south Durban residents are expressing about the added pollution, the forced displacement of people starting with Clairwood and Merebank, and the likely intensification of real socio-economic problems.

What we need is not only a genuine participation process but one entailing high-employment, community-strengthening development, and which will not impact on people's lives locally or globally through climate change.

The plans of Transnet and the municipality will have the opposite impact. The track record of these official planners is appalling, and our city is littered with white elephants, construction corruption and socio-economic neglect as a result.

On April 20, the community redoubled its efforts to ensure that the concerns of labour, environment, youth, women and all our neighbourhoods are addressed properly. That meeting - to which government and Transnet officials were invited - helped to provide the information and organising that our communities need to resist the R250bn tsunami of pollution and corporate subsidies.

We have survived in south Durban against all odds, and we will continue to demand that instead of a destructive mega project, our people and environment are allowed to develop in the way we want. We need one consultation for one vision for Durban and south Durban in particular.

This statement is supported by the following organisations: Clairwood Residents' and Ratepayers' Association, Bluff, Isipingo, Merebank Residents' Association, Earthlife Africa eThekwini, Centre For Civil Society, groundWork, Umbilo Action Group, KZN Subsistence Fisherfolks, Airport Farmers' Association, Silverglen Civic Association, Unemployed Movement of Umlazi, Lamontville Informal Settlement, Clairwood Informal Settlement, Folweni, R2Know KZN, Durban Social Forum.

Sunday Tribune


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