Wednesday, January 26

Activists urge Ramaphosa to relocate N2 Wild Coast toll road


The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) has sent a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to support his battle against the planned N2 Wild Coast toll road, which they say will lead to life-altering developments.

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 that the N2 Wild Coast Highway “will catalyze economic growth at the national, provincial and local levels.”

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The ACC, which has its roots in a battle against a proposed sand mine in Xolobeni, has members from all over the Umgungundlovu coastal area. They say the highway will divide the community, threaten the livelihoods of community members, and subsidize the proposed mine and other developments. The toll road, they say, will bring unwanted development that threatens the current use of communal lands for subsistence agriculture and will destroy sustainable ecotourism in the area. They want the highway route to move at least 10km offshore.

According to the ACC, the Eastern Cape Public Works MEC, Babalo Madikizela, told members of the Amadiba community in previous meetings that they were “sitting on the gold” and that the coast would be transformed to become a “smart city” , with reference to Dubai. The ACC sees this as a direct threat to the community’s way of life.

The activists claim that the MEC even expressed an intention to build its own hotel on the coast. In fact, the local municipality planning documentation refers to a “city on the coast” and foresees future mining activities in the area.

Madikizela did not respond to GroundUp’s questions.

Other community members and local stakeholders support the road, which they say will bring jobs and economic development. Us previously reported on the opinions of community members about the road and mine.

The current fighting by the ACC centers on the village of Sigidi, which would cross the planned N2 toll road. Sigidi is the only town within Amadiba that still has a community access agreement with Sanral. The ACC interrupted the meetings between the Sigidi community and Sanral.

At a meeting in Sigidi on September 10, convened by MEC Madikizela, the police used tear gas and stun grenades to break up a fight between ACC and sympathizers of the road. Although a community vote was originally planned, after the ACC shutdown Madikizela held a smaller “stakeholder meeting” with Sigidi residents, traditional leaders, Sanral delegates, ACC members and other stakeholders.

Sanral told GroundUp that at the meeting, two families who would be directly affected by the highway supported the project.

According to preliminary aerial studies carried out by Sanral, four houses in Sigidi are within or right next to the road reserve and the land of another six households would be affected.

There are a total of 107 households in Sigidi, with an average of 15 people per household, says the ACC. The committee says those in favor of letting the N2 cross the village are a small minority in Sigidi and that the “stakeholder meeting” held by the MEC on September 10 was not representative of the will of the community.

The law

The committee’s legal argument is based on the Provisional Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA), which says that where land is communally owned, such as in Umgungundlovu, the community must consent to be dispossessed of the land “in accordance with the customs and uses of that community.” The “custom and usage” of the Amadiba community, says the ACC’s legal team, is based on traditional courts called Komkhulu (“great place”), which meet every Thursday to discuss matters affecting the community.

The ACC says that although Sanral has agreed in the past to attend meetings in Komkhulu, the highway agency has opted instead to hold meetings in areas where it enjoys support, or to seek majority votes outside of Komkhulu, which the ACC says is incompatible with customary law. .

Decisions in Komkhulu are not made by majority. Instead, when community consensus is not reached, the problem is dismissed. “Sanral and the municipality refuse to recognize the Umgungundlovu Komkhulu because the Council and the director follow the will of the community,” says the ACC.

According to the committee, the 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 it hopes to extract minerals from the sands in the area.

But Sanral says that IPILRA applies only to land acquisitions and not community access agreements, which are for surveying purposes only. These community access agreements are not a legal requirement and were introduced “for transparency and as good practice.” Community access agreements are generally signed between Sanral, Baleni, and the elected neighborhood councilor.

Sanral also disagrees with the previous resolutions committee’s interpretation that the meetings would take place in Komkhulu. The highway agency says it adheres to customary law based on consultations with traditional leaders. The provisions of IPILRA are followed during land acquisition, which involves community meetings that generally end with consensus, Sanral says.

And, says Sanral, the majority of the people in Amadiba favor the road.

The chief of Umgungundlovu, however, has not approved the path, and is in her sworn declaration that the ACC bases its argument that the community access agreement should be taken off the coast of Komkhulu. The previous Umgungundlovu chief had approved the road, on the condition that it run 10 km from the coast.

The ACC also says that because the Sanral surveys involve the excavation of the earth and the installation of steel rods and concrete blocks, they amount to land deprivation and therefore IPILRA should be followed when making a community access agreement. Additionally, the committee says, the Sanral Law requires Sanral to obtain the consent of a land owner before entering a property for inspection.

When asked by GroundUp to respond to this, Sanral maintained that community access agreements are not a legal requirement.

In response to a sworn declaration by Mpumelelo Mdingi, a Umgungundhlovu resident, speaking of an unannounced meeting held between Sanral and mine supporters and the alleged violation of Sanral delegates, the agency says that the ACC “is known for inciting local supporters to sign misleading, speculative and incomplete affidavits ”.

Sanral insists that its public participation process, begun in 2001, has been comprehensive and constructive. Although the Environmental Authorization for the entire highway was challenged in Pretoria High Court by local environmentalist Sinegugu Zukulu, it was upheld by the court and Judge Cynthia Pretorius praised Sanral for the public participation process in her ruling.

Consequences

Sanral says the N2 toll road will bring economic development and provide access to markets. Under and over passes will be provided at regular intervals, safe interchanges for access and improved local access roads that will increase accessibility, mobility and connectivity.

Sanral also states that “the proposed route through Sigidi only affects a limited area of ​​grazing land and does not affect any plowed fields.” In addition, a biodiversity offset program is planned to create more than 15,000 hectares of new protected areas. The highway will thus create new opportunities for ecotourism, adventure tourism and conventional tourism, says Sanral.

But the ACC is not convinced. The committee says the Sanral Environmental Impact Assessment “foresees consequences for the community, including landlessness, homelessness, unemployment, economic and social marginalization, increased morbidity and mortality, food insecurity. , loss of access to common property resources and social and cultural disruption / disruption “.

According to the ACC, Sanral has not followed the advice of experts to lessen these effects by developing a resettlement action plan in line with the best practices established by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank. “There is no mitigation of the devastation that your own experts predicted,” the committee says.

But Sanral says that although its resettlement action plan does not align with World Bank guidelines, it has been approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

In response to the ACC’s proposal for an alternative route for the more inland highway. Sanral says this was found to be not feasible for a high mobility freight route in 2008. “The route approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs is the best route for a combination of economic, social and environmental factors,” Mona says.

“There is nothing in the documents submitted as part of Sanral’s environmental clearance application to suggest that the inland route is not feasible,” says the ACC. “The most disappointing thing about Sanral’s falsehoods about the alternative route is that MEC Madikizela previously initiated a process to engage with the Umgungundlovu community on why we believe the above route is preferable and feasible. These commitments never happened. Instead, MEC Madikizela told us that the decision on the route had been made and is final. “

© 2021 GroundUp. This article was published for the first time here.


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