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Watchdog eyes remain open after Wild Coast victory

Durbanites send a message to Shell about its intentions to explore for natural oil and gas off the Wild Coast. Picture: Duncan Guy

Durbanites send a message to Shell about its intentions to explore for natural oil and gas off the Wild Coast. Picture: Duncan Guy

Published Dec 31, 2021


THE tremendous leadership that emerged all along the coastline will continue to inform their communities about the issue of oil and natural gas exploitation, according to Durban activist Janet Solomon.

The director of Oceans not Oil said Shell may appeal, or the review process may change the direction of the outcome of this week’s court ruling, ordering it to stop exploration for natural gas and oil along the Wild Coast.

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“Few are naive enough to think the giant is slain,” she said.

“With the current gas price it’s open season on our seabed and more applications are being rushed through, such as the CGG proposed speculative three-dimensional (3D) seismic survey in the Algoa, Gamtoos and Outeniqua basins off the south-east coast.

Durbanites at Blue Lagoon on a day when some 69 pickets were held along the KZN coast. Picture: Duncan Guy

“(Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede) Mantashe has had a long vision for gas and is hell-bent to see it through at whatever cost, which is why the Oceans Not Oil campaign will continue to follow the money and the deals and expose the ‘economic development’ narrative for what it is.

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“Where the ‘To hell with Shell blasting’ campaign has been effective is to show the deep divide between what the people want, and what Mantashe wants. Eventually becoming a liability for the majority party,” she said.

Solomon said that the recent casualty that saw the death of an SANDF soldier in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province reconfirmed that “gas is married to violence”.

“What happens once those pipelines come up from the seabed to join a national gas pipeline that Mantashe envisions for SA? What do we see in his leadership, or (President Cyril) Ramsphosa’s, to define a gas future as different from the rest of Africa’s?

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“We are not only fighting for our environment but we are also fighting for future peace,” she said.

Protests by various groups against Shell's seismic activity at the Wildcoast in search of oil and gas underwater, were held recently. This protest took place earlier this month on the beachfront. Picture; Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Desmond D’Sa, co-ordinator of the South Durban Environmental Community Alliance said he saw the way forward as rolling mass action, the intensifying of the boycott against Shell “and the building of a massive coalition all over the world to pressurise investors to diversify out of fossil fuel developments”.

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Judy Mann, conservation strategist for the South African Association for Marine Biological Research, based at uShaka Sea World, said it was a wise decision to stop the survey now, and adopt the precautionary principle.

“Future decisions on seismic surveys will need to be based on up-to-date biological research on the impact of these surveys, both in the short and long-term. In addition, the enormous risks of offshore oil and/or gas extraction along the Wild Coast needs to be very carefully reassessed,” Mann said.

Protestors write a message to Shell using invasive alien water hyacinth washed up on the beach beside Blue Lagoon. Picture: Duncan Guy

She said the uproar against seismic surveying along the Wild Coast had revealed a deep love for the ocean and the incredible power of communities standing together.

“This ‘new power’ is challenging the old paradigm of power vested in a few large corporations and governments, and is revealing the incredible influence of social movements that emerge spontaneously in response to an issue.

“The challenge for all of us is to now translate the passion and the energy generated in this movement into longer term and daily commitment to the environment,” she said.

Neither Shell nor the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesman for the oil giant has been reported saying that the company respected the court’s decision and has paused the survey while reviewing the judgment.

Independent on Saturday