Last year Noseweek speculated (nose205) that the SA National Road Agency Limited (Sanral) planned to forge ahead with the construction of two mega bridges so that the fiercely contested multi-billion-rand N2 Wild Coast toll road becomes a fait accompli before the matter gets to court.
Well, it looks like that’s exactly the case. Sanral contractors have already started building approach roads to the site of the Mtentu mega-bridge on the toll road – in breach of the environmental authorisation for the project.
And residents in the Njanda and Ngwenyeni villages, that will be directly affected by construction of the bridge, have refused to sign grave-relocation affidavits, despite having been threatened with arrest by Sanral’s consultants for not signing.
The Njanda and Ngwenyeni villagers (as opposed to the Amadiba villagers nearby) were initially in favour of the bridge development, having been promised jobs and compensation for their homes and grazing rights. But none of these promises have materialised, and the disillusioned communities are now fighting the development.
Well-known human rights lawyer Richard Spoor has agreed to act for the community.
In terms of the earlier agreement, the mapping of all graves in the community, their new locations, and agreements with households must be done before work can start. This has not been done, says the Amadiba Crisis Committee in a press release.
The residents of the neighbouring village, in Amadiba area 24, are currently trying to raise funds to apply to court for an interdict to stop Sanral constructing the approach roads that cross their territory. A decision is expected in the coming month.
The Crisis Committee has called on Sanral to “stop avoiding negotiations” in relation to their demands.
“Sanral has been aware of the list of demands since October, but has pleaded ignorance. With Sanral’s consultants refusing to engage them on their demands, the residents have been forced to seek legal representation.”
A Sanral contractor recently tried to drive villagers to a police station to sign affidavits.
“He managed to collect three affidavits. A woman present at a community meeting on Sunday said she had been fooled and will retract her signature. A granddaughter of a blind woman who had been taken to the police station told the meeting that her grandmother did not know what she had signed.
“The consultant said that Sanral had told him to go from house to house and to avoid community meetings. The contractor said to Ms Phumla Cabela that if she has signed relocation papers and now refuses to sign the grave-relocation affidavit, she will be arrested.”
The crisis committee claims that the unlawful relocation contract signed earlier by many residents, deprives the households of all rights.
Their attorney, Cormac Cullinan told Noseweek: “Sanral has not even shown the communities exactly where the road will go, nor have they discussed relocation plans with the people. They just came in and secretly put steel pegs on people’s land, some were even put into graves,” he said. Cullinan’s firm brought a court application in 2012 to review and set aside the environmental authorisation for the road “but Sanral has just adopted delaying tactics …it’s now clear their strategy is to go ahead and build the two bridges before the court rules on whether the environmental authorisation was lawful.
“It’s a case about the rights of rural people to have a say in the decisions that affect them. The toll road will also severely affect the Pondoland Centre of Plant Endemism, a global biodiversity hotspot, one of only 36 in the world, and which has an estimated 1,900 plant species that are found nowhere else on the planet.
Copyright © 2018 www.noseweek.co.za