Fracking battle destined for court
July 24 2013 at 03:30pm
By John Yeld
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Cape Town – A bruising and probably extremely expensive court battle over the controversial fracking method for shale gas in the Karoo now seems inevitable.
This week ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe threw down the gauntlet and his challenge was immediately accepted by the anti-fracking alliance of Afriforum and the Treasure the Karoo Action Group.
Mantashe’s remarks followed a three-day lekgotla by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) that ended on Sunday. The NEC recommended inter alia that President Jacob Zuma establish a task team to fast-track urgently needed economic growth and to remove obstacles to such growth, particularly in the “critical” areas of infrastructure provision, rural development, energy sources, fuel sufficiency, information and communications technology, and education and skills development.
Speaking at a press conference to explain the outcomes of the lekgotla, Mantashe warned that South Africa risked being “left behind” economically if it did not make decisions, and said it could not debate issues “until we are blue in the face”.
He cited the controversy over fracking for shale gas in the Karoo as an example of the government’s indecision over contentious projects that had the capacity to kick-start the economy.
“At one point we are going to take a decision and say ‘Listen, go ahead’,” Mantashe was quoted as saying. “Those who are against it can take us to court and that’s it. That’s what should happen if we want the economy moving.”
The anti-fracking coalition responded quickly, accusing the ANC of having allowed the decision about shale gas development “to become mired in secrecy and misinformation”.
“And, with the exception of certain maverick statements by various ministers, the ANC has been largely absent in this debate,” action group chief executive Jonathan Deal charged.
“Suddenly, the issues of job creation and economic development are used to push through ‘contentious projects’ even though the public participation process has not been concluded and environmental impact studies indicate that shale gas mining will wreak havoc on the area.”
Saying that “naturally government ministers have no issue with going to court because they are not accountable for the legal costs”, Deal stressed that the coalition would continue its opposition until shale gas development through fracking had been proved acceptable, and he added:
“We’ll meet you in court, Mr Mantashe.” – Cape Argus