Meshack Mbangula, Hazel Shirinda and Lisa Thompson
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) echoes the promises made by government backed mega projects in the Global South. 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 government, is a perfect case in point. The SEZ will be the first in South Africa to be operated by a foreign (Chinese) company, Hoi Mor Shenzhen. This will mean an unprecedented level of foreign control over the SEZ. 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 due to the health implications of such large CO2 emitters
The high-level EIA, as it is called, was completed by the Delta Built Environment Consortium (Delta BEC) and made public in September 2020. While admitting the environmentally harmful nature of the SEZ, it is still a self-justificatory document. The EIA assessment glosses over the endemic water scarcity issues in the Limpopo Valley stating “… if insufficient water is available in the catchment, and the social and economic opportunities offered by the SEZ operation are sufficiently attractive, additional water may be brought in from a neighbouring catchment”.
Although not unexpected, but still shocking in its lack of community buy-in, is the public participation process that has just taken place. All large-scale developmental initiatives, especially those with huge community impacts, should abide by the principle of “free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)” so that those affected communities can engage from