Campaigners urge Ramaphosa to relocate N2 Wild Coast toll road
The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) sent a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to support their fight against the N2 Wild Coast toll road project, which they say will lead to developments that will disrupt their way of life. life.
The presidency announced that on Thursday, September 22, Ramaphosa will visit part of the road already under construction in Lusikisiki. In its press release, the presidency says the N2 wild coast road “will catalyze economic growth at national, provincial and local levels”.
The ACC, which has its roots in a battle against a sand mine project in Xolobeni, has members from across the coastal region of Umgungundlovu. They say the road will divide the community, threaten the livelihoods of community members and subsidize the proposed mine and other developments. The toll road, they say, will lead to unwanted development that threatens the current use of communal land for subsistence agriculture and destroy sustainable ecotourism in the region. They want the route of the road to be moved to at least 10 km from the coast.
According to ACC, Eastern Cape Public Works MEC Babalo Madikizela told community members of Amadiba in previous meetings that they were “sitting on gold” and that the coast would be transformed into a “smart city”, in reference to Dubai. The CCA sees this as a direct threat to the way of life of the community.
Activists say the MEC has even expressed plans to build its own hotel on the coast. The planning documentation of the local municipality indeed refers to a “town on the coast” and foresees future mining activities in the area.
Madikizela did not respond to questions from GroundUp.
Other community members and local stakeholders are supportive of the road, which they believe will bring jobs and economic development. We have previously reported on the views of community members on the road and the mine.
The current ACC combat is centered around the village of Sigidi, which would cross the planned N2 toll road. Sigidi is the only village of Amadiba to have yet concluded a community access agreement with Sanral. The meetings between the community of Sigidi and Sanral were disrupted by the ACC.
During a meeting in Sigidi on September 10, called by MEC Madikizela, police used tear gas and stun grenades to break up a fight between the ACC and road supporters. Although a community vote was initially scheduled, after the disruption by the ACC, Madikizela instead organized a smaller ‘stakeholder meeting’ with the people of Sigidi, traditional chiefs, delegates from Sanral, members of CCA and other stakeholders.
Sanral told GroundUp that during the meeting, two families who would be directly affected by the road were supporting the project.
According to preliminary aerial surveys conducted by Sanral, four farms in Sigidi are in or just next to the road reserve and the land of six other households is believed to be affected.
There are a total of 107 households in Sigidi, with an average of 15 people per household, according to the ACC. The committee asserts that supporters of letting the N2 pass through the village are a small minority in Sigidi and that the “stakeholder meeting” organized by the MEC on September 10 was not representative of the will of the community.
The committee’s legal argument is based on the Interim Informal Land Rights Protection Act (IPILRA), which states that when land is held in common, as in Umgungundlovu, the community must consent to be deprived of the land. in accordance with custom and usage. of this community ”. The “custom and usage” of the Amadiba community, according to the ACC legal team, is based on traditional courts called Komkhulu (“sweet spot”), which meet every Thursday to discuss issues that arise. affect the community.
ACC says that although Sanral has agreed to attend meetings in Komkhulu in the past, the road agency has instead chosen to hold meetings in areas where it has support or seek majority votes. outside Komkhulu, which the ACC says is incompatible with customary law. .
Decisions in Komkhulu are not taken by majority. Instead, when community consensus is not reached, the issue is settled. “Sanral and the municipality refuse to recognize the Umgungundlovu Komkhulu because the council and the director follow the will of the community,” explains ACC.
According to the committee, MEC and Sanral have chosen to engage with those who will somehow benefit from the mine and other developments, with local politicians and with Chief (iNkosi) Lunga Baleni, who is an executive of the mining company who hopes to extract minerals from the sands of the area.
But Sanral says IPILRA only applies to land acquisition and not community access agreements, which are only for survey purposes. These community access agreements are not legally required and were introduced “for the sake of transparency and good practice”. Community access agreements are usually signed between Sanral, Baleni and the elected city councilor.
Sanral also disagrees with the committee’s interpretation of previous resolutions that the meetings would take place in Komkhulu. The roads agency says it adheres to customary law based on consultations with traditional leaders. IPILRA’s provisions are followed when acquiring land, which involves community meetings that usually end with consensus, Sanral says.
And, says Sanral, most Amadiba residents are in favor of the road.
The female chief of Umgungundlovu, however, did not approve the route, and it is on her affidavit that the ACC bases its argument that the community access agreement should be reached on the Komkhulu coast. . The former chief of Umgungundlovu had approved the road, on the condition that it passes 10 km from the coast.
The ACC also says that because the Sanral surveys involve the digging of land and the installation of steel rods and concrete blocks, they amount to a deprivation of land and therefore IPILRA must be followed when concluding d ‘a community access agreement. In addition, according to the committee, the Sanral law requires Sanral to obtain the consent of a landowner before entering a property for surveying.
Asked by GroundUp to respond to this, Sanral argued that community access agreements are not legally required.
In response to an affidavit from Mpumelelo Mdingi, a resident of Umgungundhlovu, who speaks of an unannounced meeting held between Sanral and supporters of the mine and an alleged intrusion by delegates from Sanral, the agency said that the ACC “are known to have prompted local supporters to sign misleading, speculative and incomplete affidavits.”
Sanral insists that its public participation process, which began in 2001, has been broad and constructive. Although the environmental clearance for the entire road was challenged in the High Court of Pretoria by local environmentalist Sinegugu Zukulu, it was upheld by the court and Judge Cynthia Pretorius praised Sanral for the process of participation. of the public in its decision.
Sanral says the N2 toll road will bring economic development and provide access to markets. Underpasses and overpasses will be provided at regular intervals, safe interchanges for access and improved local access roads will increase accessibility, mobility and connectivity.
Sanral also claims that “the proposed route through Sigidi affects only a limited area of pasture and does not affect any plowed field”. In addition, a biodiversity compensation program is planned to create more than 15,000 hectares of new protected areas. The route will thus create new opportunities for ecotourism adventure tourism and conventional tourism, Sanral said.
But the ACC is not convinced. The committee states that the Sanral environmental impact assessment “predicts consequences for the community, including landlessness, homelessness, unemployment, economic and social marginalization, increased morbidity and of mortality, food insecurity, loss of access to common property resources and social and cultural disarticulation / disruption “.
According to ACC, Sanral did not follow expert advice to mitigate these effects by developing a resettlement action plan in line with best practices defined by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank. “There is no mitigation for the devastation predicted by their own experts,” the committee said.
But Sanral says that although his resettlement action plan does not align with World Bank guidelines, it has been approved by the Ministry of Environmental Affairs.
In response to the ACC proposal for an alternative route for the further inland route. Sanral says this turned out to be impossible for a high mobility freight route in 2008. “The route approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs is the best route from a combination of economic, social and environmental factors,” says Mona .
“There is nothing in the documents submitted as part of Sanral’s environmental clearance application that suggests the interior road is unworkable,” ACC said. “What is most disappointing about Sanral’s lies about the alternative route is that a process has already been started by MEC Madikizela to engage with the community of Umgungundlovu on why we believe that the old route is both preferable and feasible. These engagements never took place. Instead, MEC Madikizela told us that the route decision had been made and was final.
© 2021 GroundUp. This article was first published here.