Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
3 Dec 2021
1:04 pm

Fight to save the Wild Coast far from over, say Shell interdict applicants

Nica Richards

The urgent interdict against Shell, brought to the Grahamstown High Court earlier this week, was dismissed with costs of two counsel today.

A protest outside Shells offices in Bryanston on 1 December 2021 by Extinction Rebellion against the companies seismic survey operations along the wild coast of South Africa. Picture: McCartney

Four applicants who attempted to halt Shell from conducting a 3D seismic survey along the east coast have expressed their intense disapproval and disappointment at the judgment. 

On Friday, Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee ruled that the arguments presented by Natural Justice, Greenpeace Africa, Border Deep Sea Angling Association and Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club against Shell and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe were not enough to convince him that the survey should not take place. 

The applicants were successful, however, in arguing the importance of public interest in the case, as well as proving the apparent lack of public participation. 

However, when it came to arguing that the survey, which involves airgun arrays being blasted into the ocean floor to look for oil and gas reserves, Govindjee said the applicants failed to convince him there was a reasonable apprehension of “irreparable harm”. 

ALSO READ: EXPLAINER: What’s the fuss about Shell’s seismic survey?

As such, the urgent interdict, brought to the Grahamstown High Court earlier this week, was dismissed with costs of two counsel.

Natural Justice said in a statement on Friday that the applicants wanted to be allowed to return to court to make further representations and present expert evidence. 

The NGO’s head of campaigns and communications, Katherine Robinson, also said the applicants having to pay costs of counsel was also worrying, since the application “was made in the public interest to protect the ocean and coastal environment”.

Robinson confirmed the applicants would be discussing the judgment and possibly applying for leave to appeal with their legal advisers. 

ALSO READ: Shell seismic survey prompts boycotts and protests

Ecosystem will be ‘blasted’ 

Senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa, Happy Khambule, said Shell’s survey would not only destroy biodiverse ecosystems, but would also destroy the livelihoods of communities, “all in the name of profit”. 

The area Shell plans to cover in their surveys is adjacent to four marine protected areas – Amathole Offshore, Dwesa-Cweba, Hluleka and Pondoland.

“We must do everything we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies,” Khambule said. 

This was reiterated by Natural Justice executive director, Pooven Moodley, who said civil society “cannot relax”. 

“The climate crisis is upon us, and fossil fuel companies accelerating the crisis are posing a serious threat to the planet, our livelihoods, human rights and very existence. 

“We will fight them on the beaches and in court,” Moodley vowed.

ALSO READ: EXPLAINER: Shell’s seismic tests in the Wild Coast

Key Mouth Ski Boat Club chair John Rance said the seismic survey may be going ahead, “but there’s going to be one hellava shindig before mining starts”.

This refers to the survey being step one when the search for fuel sources begins. Should oil or gas reserves be found, exploratory drilling would then take place, followed by extraction.

Rance said he was “saddened” by the judgment, “but happy we did all we could under the circumstances”, and encouraged investment advisors and pension funds to disinvest from Shell. 

“It’s the only language they understand”. 

John Luef of the Border Deep Sea Angling Association said although they were disappointed, they would continue to fight “for our local people, their heritage and the environment”.

Luef called on South Africans to “stand together and protest” Shell’s seismic survey, and any future mining plans.