Public participation is a farce in Musina-Makhado project

Lisa Thompson  Meshack Mbangula

After three public participation rounds in September and October 2020 and in January 2021 it is hard to imagine that the directive for more thorough public participation on the Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the proposed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone could go wrong again. Yet, last week, the meetings exploded as people vented their frustration about inadequate information on the zone.

Ironically, South Africa’s legislation on inclusion is the best in the world, especially on issues of sustainable development and the environment. The National Environmental Management Act (Nema) is inspired by international best practice on participatory sustainable development.

Nema founding principles in chapter 1 state, “… the participation of all interested and affected parties in environmental governance must be promoted, and all people must have the opportunity to develop the understanding, skills and capacity necessary for achieving equitable and effective participation, and participation by vulnerable and disadvantaged persons must be ensured”.

Yet despite the enormity of the MMSEZ in terms of its effect on people, livelihoods and the environment, as field interviews in March 2021 yet again exposed, no attempt was made by Delta Built Environment Consultants (Delta BEC) and the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA) prior to the meetings to inform people of the details of the project. In meetings with key affected groups, the Mulambwane and Mudimeli, leaders expressed outrage at the lack of information and inclusion and have approached the LEDA for focus group meetings.

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