- In South Africa, Environmental Impact Assessments are a legal requirement for sustainable development.
- A 1998 law, the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) regulates EIAs, including the Musina
Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ).
- South African EIAs follow international best practice to include local communities.
- NEMA (Section 24) insists,
“…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”.
- The NEMA requirements for EIAs below show that the EIA for the MMSEZ avoids public participation
accountability and effective national government oversight.
|A SUMMARY OF NEMA REQUIREMENTS FOR EIA PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESSES Co-operative Governance There must be coordination and cooperation between the all the relevant organs of state on the EIA.When making decisions, organs of state must consider of integrated environmental management laid down in NEMA.Government must consider principles for environmental management contained in NEMA. The decision-maker must show that his or her mind is applied to these considerations. Investigation and Assessment Where it is determined that the environment is likely to be significantly affected by the proposed activity the potential consequences for the environment must be properly investigated.The significance of each of the potential (negative) consequences impacts must be assessed. Public Participation There must be full and proper public information and public participation procedures.All Interested & Affected Parties and local communities must be given a reasonable opportunity to participate in the information and public participation proceduresMeasures to avoid, minimise or remedy adverse (livelihoods) impacts must also be investigated. Gaps in Knowledge Gaps in (scientific environmental) knowledge be reported upon, as well as the adequacy of predictive methods and underlying assumptions used in the assessment of the potential impacts.It is important to report any uncertainties that were encountered while compiling the information. Monitoring and Management of Consequences Monitoring and management of consequences must be investigated and formulated.There must be follow up on the monitoring and management arrangements during the construction and operation of the activity.|
THE MMSEZ EIA PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS AS OF SEPTEMBER 2021
- The 1st MMSEZ EIA was released for comment in July 2020.
- Between September 2020 and April 2021, there have been a number of EIA public participation events.
- Not all communities have been included in the 4 events run by Limpopo Economic Development Agency and the Environmental Consultancy Delta-BEC.
- In late 2020, the then Chairperson of the MMSEZ Board, the eminent Rob Tooley (previously MEC of Public Finance in Limpopo) resigned because of his concerns about sustainable livelihoods issues of the MMSEZ.
- The former Environmental Assessment Practitioner, Ronaldo Retief of Delta BEC also withdrew from the project because of EIA irregularities.
- EnviroXcellence replaced Delta BEC in June/July 2021, led by the new EAP, Ishmael Semenya
- The final EIA was released on 1 September 2021, with a public comment deadline of 12 October.
- This short timeline violates the international United Nations principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, because of lack of community consultation well before the deadline.
- The final EIA was only released to Interested and Affected Parties on 15 September 2021.
- An International Investor Roadshow for the MMSEZ was held on 1 September 2021, where President Ramaphosa and the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition endorsed the MMSEZ.
PROBLEMS WITH THE EIA’S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PROMISES BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY
- The high-polluting “metallurgical-energy cluster” will be run by a coal plant, to provide power for mineral extraction, smelting and processing.
- While the EIA recognises chronic water shortages and supply issues to the MMSEZ, it still endorses it.
- The MMSEZ Master Operational Plan states that 70% of the processed minerals are to be exported to China.
- The MMSEZ will be the first SEZ in South Africa to be run by Chinese operator Shenzhen Hoi Mor, now registered as a South African company. The Chair, Ning Yat Hoi, had company fraud charges laid against him in 2017 by London-based mining companies with operations based in Zimbabwe.
- Many local communities have been excluded from the meetings, so not everyone affected knows about water, pollution and climate-change impacts of the Zone to the Vhembe biosphere.
- The final EIA refers to the MMSEZ as “… the largest single planned SEZ in the country…”.
- Premier Chupu Stanley Mathabatha endorses the MMSEZ will provide local employment and the final EIA promises 53 800 jobs. For the largest SEZ in South Africa, this local employment figure is very low.
SUGGESTED PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS PRESSURE POINTS
- There have been 4 Rounds of Public Participation on this EIA (September – October 2020; January – March 2021). Why were rural communities not invited directly, newspapers/radio are ineffective to reach them?
- Why are some local communities only now being directly consulted, in the 5th round (September 2021)?
- How will community views be included in the final EIA at this late stage?
- How can communities be sure of the EIA promises of 53 800 jobs for local citizens?
- What about the livelihood’s effects of environmental damage (water cooling and toxic carbon dioxide air pollution) from the 1320 MW coal-fired power plant?
- Can local communities be assured of participation and offer development adjustments in future EIAs for the current SEZ, such as for example, an Agri-business and Agri-processing based Zone.
- Can local communities also suggest the MMSEZ become a “Just Transition” SEZ (meaning an alternative low-carbon development project) for labour-intensive basic needs manufacturing to benefit all South Africans?