- 24 Jul 2013
- The Herald (South Africa)
- Cindy Preller email@example.com
Activists to take on Mantashe
NGOS react to ANC plan to defend projects like fracking in court
TREASURE the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) chairman Jonathan Deal has promised “we’ll meet you in court, Mr Mantashe” after ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Monday the government should forge ahead with contentious projects to kick-start the country’s economy – “even if it is taken to court”.
TKAG and AfriForum reacted with anger to Mantashe’s suggestion that the government should “no longer tolerate protracted debates about contentious projects” such as fracking, while local organised business cautiously welcomed Mantashe’s suggestion that a presidential economic task team should be established.
Mantashe made the statement in Johannesburg while giving feedback on the ANC’s national executive committee lekgotla. He raised the executive’s concerns over slow growth in the country’s economy and “low levels of private-sector investment”.
In a strongly worded response Deal said the ANC needed to learn how to consult. “It is the ANC who has allowed the decision about shale gas development (fracking) to become mired in secrecy and misinformation.
“It is the ANC who, with the exception of certain maverick statements by various ministers, has been missing in this debate.
“Naturally the government ministers see no issue with going to court because they are not held accountable for the legal costs,” Deal said.
AfriForum’s head of environmental affairs, Julius Kleynhans, said they were concerned about the ANC’s attitude to addressing these issues. “The short-term rush to economic development will not ensure sustainable job creation or energy in the country and the long-term effects might cost South Africa much more.
“Acid mine drainage in the West Rand is a great example of economic development where a few gained but in the long-term the taxpayer must suffer the environmental damage and financial burden,” Kleynhans said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said it was “vital that the welfare of communities directly affected by planned investment and development projects be taken into account through genuine and effective engagement”.
“Economic development and growth cannot come at the expense of the very communities it seeks to support. Firm decisions in this regard should therefore be balanced with the best interests of the community.”
Hustler welcomed the ANC’s commitment to boosting the South African economy. “The country is in need of strong and decisive leadership. The opportunity costs of an unsupportive investment environment cannot be quantified – local investors do not want to invest further, and international investors are discouraged by a lack of stability, utilities, security in the supply of electricity, uncompetitive pricing thereof and crumbling infrastructure.”
National African Chamber of Commerce and Industry provincial chairman Phumzile Ndendela said a presidential task team that focused on job creation and economic growth was a good idea.
“The task team will . . . unblock the existing blockages and stimulate activities in the key growth sectors and reduce red tape,” Ndendela said.
The problem of slow economic growth was more complex as the government needed to create an environment conducive to private investment since “the private sector invests when the possibility for growth is great”.