Scenes from the Frontline: The Days that Durban Burned.

Durban violence

Let’s face facts, as a nation we expected fallout from the incarceration of ex-President Jacob Zuma, at the same time as we cheered the ConCourt for this long overdue course of justice. Yet none of us, myself as a political analyst included, were prepared for the incendiary violence that began the night of July 11. I arrived in the absolute epicentre of the chaos on Monday morning the 12th of July at King Shaka airport. It was eerily quiet, all shops at the airport were closed and there were hardly any taxis. The friend who was to fetch me had to turn around as so many roads were closed. I was stuck and stymied. What to do next?

Finally, a BOLT arrived for a man going to Ballito and I hitched a ride, unsure of where I was going. My driver, Ntuthuko Vincent Malamba from Amanzimtoti, who remains my personal hero of the day, promised me that the he could get me to the Bluff. Are you sure? I questioned over and over as I had heard the CBD was a warzone and we had to drive through it as the other roads were still blocked. “Don’t worry”, said Ntuthuko, “it has turned to looting in the CBD now, they aren’t interested in anything else, we will be fine”. He was right. We drove straight through the CBD where groups were congregated wearing designer clothing and deciding where to next to go for some free shopping. Nobody was carrying food, nobody cared about us. Ntuthuko constantly reassured me of this, when my fear was clearly radiating as brightly as the red traffic light that halted us for what seemed like eternity.

I arrived safe on the Bluff to see groups of civilians of mixed ethnicity standing in front of shops …

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.

State pushes ahead with its toxic zone

State Goes Ahead Toxic Zone
Toxic MMSEZ Zone

The flawed public participation process of the proposed mega-toxic Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ) left people in the dark about its negative livelihoods and environmental risks.

The dirty energy metallurgical cluster centres on a huge coal plant for mineral extraction and processing, of which, according to the MMSEZ’s master operational plan, 70% of what is produced is destined for China. The list of proposed industries includes a coal washery, a coking plant, a thermal plant, a ferrochrome plant, a ferromanganese plant, stainless steel, high manganese steel and vanadium steel plants as well as lime and cement plants. 

The initiative — described in the final environmental impact assessment (EIA) as “the largest single planned SEZ [Special Economic Zone] in the country comprising 20 closely linked and interdependent industrial plants — will be run by a Chinese conglomerate, Shenzhen Hoi Mor Resources. Its chief executive, Yat Hoi Ning, is on the Interpol watch list after being charged with fraud by a Zimbabwean mining conglomerate, Bindura Nickel Corp and Freda Rebecca gold mine group, both listed in London.

This does not bode well for due diligence on the part of the department of trade and industry, who awarded the contract in 2017, when the charges against Yat Hoi Ning were already public, nor for accountability practices in the future, especially as there are so many oversight warning bells clanging at the start of the project. The rushed-through EIA process is a disturbing case in point.

Objections sidestepped

Between September 2020 and 31 January 2021, environmental organisations and activists hoped to stay the approval of the first high-level EIA on a variety of concerns, including the fact that Limpopo is a climate change and biodiversity hotspot. The 8 000ha site designated for the MMSEZ, situated between Musina and Makhado municipalities …

Development Dilemmas of South Africa’s Special Economic Zone Industrialisation policy- the Case of Musina-Makhado Energy Metallurgical Special Economic Zone and its potential socio-economic impact.

Table of Contents

i.    Executive Summary

i.i.  Introduction

i.ii.  Special Economic Zone Legislation in South Africa

i.iii.  The Greenwash of the EIA

i.iv.  Tick-box Public Participation

1.    Introduction

2.    Repackaging South Africa’s Development Policy Past: From Industrial Development Zones to Special Economic Zones- Understanding the difference

3.    China’s Investment Aid to Africa and South Africa- infrastructural megaprojects

4.    Why Special Economic Zones are key to South African Development

5.    The Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone: Geostrategics and the Political Economy of the Global South

6.    The MMSEZ Greenwash: the September Environmental Impact Assessment

7.    Conclusion

8.    Reference list

i.        Executive Summary

i.i.  Introduction

The immediate objective of this policy paper is to critically analyse the lack of sustainable development public policy thinking to South Africa’s largest development mega-project of the Covid era: the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ). Fieldwork undertaken in 2019 and 2020 has established that local municipalities and communities in Musina-Makhado have little, if any, knowledge of the SEZ.

This policy paper further explores how the MMSEZ is part of the Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) and Forum on China -Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Global South development strategy led by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to accelerate ‘inclusive’ development and to rewire trade and developmental aid globally. The MMSEZ mega-project is linked to China’s Global South development narrative, and links to China’s da Yuanzu, or “going out” as a global economic strategy to reconfigure the geographical epicentre of the world economy to China, rather than the Global North. Central to the strategy is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The policy paper focuses on infrastructure led industrialisation in the Global South through Special Economic Zones. Two main aspects are examined, namely the impact on the environment and on local communities, given that the Zones are purported …

Muddying the waters in the Musina Makhado economic zone

Meshack MbangulaHazel ShirindaLisa Thompson

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is touted by the government to be the new “regional economic epicentre” much like other mega-projects in the Global South. 

Many of these projects drain the fiscus with heavy infrastructural requirements, heighten foreign extraction of resources and raise carbon pollution levels. Multinational companies, endorsed by governments for the fiscal kickbacks, commit to alleviate people’s poverty where the primary goal is to shift their need for Africa’s rich mineral resources and to offset their national carbon footprint. 

The Musina Makhado SEZ, or MMSEZ as it is now called by the government, is a perfect case in point. The zone will be the first in South Africa to be operated by a foreign (Chinese) company, Shenzhen Hoi Mor. The company has committed to investing $3.8-billion to its operational success. This will mean an unprecedented level of foreign control. To make matters worse, of the proposed industries in the metallurgical cluster, nearly all of them are carbon intensive, environmentally destructive and a threat to the livelihoods of communities in the medium term, as even the EIA admits they are environmentally red-flag carbon dioxide emitters.

Post-Covid Development Dilemmas: Reconciling Sustainable Development, South Africa’s Spiralling Debt, and Big Hopes for Special Economic Zones ( Part 2)

Reviewing the state of the economy as the country eases out of lockdown reveals the urgency of public debate on government’s development policies and levels of accountability in its sustainable development strategies.

Starting with the ongoing evils of Eskom, load-shedding in August. News of the SOE’s deepening structural weaknesses, including aging infrastructure, poor maintenance and unsustainable level of debt, is no laughing matter, especially when government starts mentioning using state pension funds to disappear the problem.

To make matters more painful for the South African taxpayer, is how much of the money Eskom has borrowed over the last decade has been inappropriately managed. The World Bank’s 2010 loan of US 3.05 billion for what was advertised to be the largest coal fired power station in the world, Medupi, could be regarded as odious debt.

Medupi is still incomplete 10 years later, and the state of its infrastructure and maintenance is appalling, as Eskom’s Operating manager Jan Oberholzer, self-confesses.

In February 2020, ESKOM CEO Andre de Ruyter confirmed a rumoured critical design flaw in both Medupi and Kusile, the two power stations lauded to end South Africa’s electricity problems. De Ruyter revealed that the boilers had design flaws. Business Day reported on the return of Medupi and Kusile’s Chickens to their Boilers:

“…(d)esign is one aspect that underpins this negatively, affecting cost and time frames. Other failures — procurement, construction, commission and testing, and operations and maintenance — are evident. An Eskom board minute requiring all projects to be commissioned on a turnkey basis was overridden and ignored, and construction at Medupi and Kusile were embarked upon for all the wrong reasons, including the accommodation of graft in a scenario that had no plan”.

The sheer ignominy of this incompetence is compounded by the corruption scandal surrounding Chancellor House Holdings and …

Post-Covid Development Dilemmas: Debt and the Dream of a South African Developmental State (Part 1)

On the 8th of July 2020, the ANC’s Economic Transformation Committee released a discussion document entitled  Reconstruction, Growth And Transformation: Building a New, Inclusive Economy”. The document, described by the head of the committee, Enoch Godongwana, as the basis for a social compact, argues for the South African government to play a larger role in steering the tattered South African economy into the post-Covid global economic terrain.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s revised budget released in late June, states the cruel reality, “the main budget deficit, estimated at 6.8 per cent of GDP in the 2020 Budget, is now projected to reach 14.6 per cent of GDP”.

There is not much new about this vision:

The ANCs New Inclusive Economy recycles infrastructural spending towards greater localisation of production linked to export led growth.

In 2018,  Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new economic stimulus package at the Union Buildings, “Infrastructure expansion and maintenance has the potential to create jobs on a large scale, attract investment and lay a foundation for sustainable economic expansion.”

Through the Forum for China- Africa Cooperation, infrastructural investment in Africa and the development of Special Economic Zones, lauded by the World Bank as a key developmental tool of the People’s Republic of China, has been granted centre stage in escaping South Africa’s development conundrums.

Local job creation promises are linked to the ANC’s disconcertingly vague vision of large scale infrastructural investments are promoted as part of public-private partnerships and foreign direct investment initiatives. In the past few months, trade linkages into Africa have been reinforced by the belated launch of South Africa’s Sustainable Infrastructure Programme.

Special Economic Zones are being promoted by the Department of Trade and Industry as the way of actualizing all of the above. The Zones, brought into …