Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe remains ‘unequivocal’ in his support for oil and petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell.
Shell and two government departments, which includes the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are fighting another urgent interdict application, that was heard in the high court in Makhanda on Friday.
This time, the application is being brought by seven other concerned groups including the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), Sustaining the Wild Coast and the Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association.
During Friday’s hearing, Mantashe was described as “ignorant and gravely insulting” for accusing communities living on the Wild Coast of engaging in “colonialism and apartheid of a special sort.”
Mantashe suggested in court papers the communities concerned about Shell’s seismic drilling should have exhausted all options, including an internal appeal before taking legal action.
But Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, who is representing concerned community organisations, said even if residents took the matter up through an internal appeal, Mantashe had clearly “nailed his colours to the Shell mast”.
“He has been unequivocal that he supports Shell,” said Ngcukaitobi.
“The language he used was unfortunate. He accused the communities of engaging in colonialism and apartheid of a special sort masquerading as environmental protection.”
Ngcukaitobi said it was insulting for Mantashe to defend Shell, whose headquarters are in London.
The new application argues that Shell needs authorisation for the seismic survey under the National Environmental Management Act and accuses the petroleum giant of failing to adequately consult with the affected communities.
The Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association represents communities that are holders of customary fishing rights, which are being trampled due to the negative effects of seismic activity.
“The consultation process carried out by Shell was woefully inadequate. The exploration right, which was awarded on the basis of that defective consultation process, is thus unlawful and invalid,” argued Ngcukaitobi.
The Dwesa-Cwebe community has also stated the seismic blastic will trample upon their cultural rights.
Many Nguni clans believe that their ancestors reside in the sea and in certain rivers and streams, and disturbing them will bring “great distress.”
Environmental experts are arguing that the reports Shell is relying on are eight years old.
Dr Simon Elwen and Dr Tess Gridley said Shell needed to provide an up-to-date assessment in order to establish the true nature and extent of the potential harm that may arise from the seismic survey.
Expert Dr Douglas Nowacek argued the effects of the blasts “can aggregate into species-level consequences, which is of particular concern in the case of endangered populations.”
The first application, which was dismissed in the Makhanda High Court earlier this month, involved Natural Justice, Greenpeace Africa, Border Deep Sea Angling Association and Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club.
Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee said at the time the applicants’ argument that the effects of the seismic survey would be detrimental to marine life was “speculative at best”, and that the balance of convenience favoured Shell.
(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)