Wild Coast communities obtain urgent interdict against Shell’s seismic survey

Johannesburg- The Wild Coast communities have been granted an interim court interdict in their bid to stop Shell from conducting the seismic survey along the Wild Coast.

The communities lodged an application with Grahamstown High Court in Makhanda early this month to seek urgent court interdict against Shell’s seismic survey, accusing the petroleum giant of its failure to consult the communities.

The matter was heard by Judge Gerald Bloem at Grahamstown High Court on the 17th December when the legal counsel for the communities, Advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi told the court that Shell did not obtain an environmental authorisation under the National Environmental Management Act and thus rendered its blasting as illegal.

Ngcukaitobi also argued that Shell’s reliance on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act was wrong because it excludes the application of the NEMA.

But Shell’s legal counsel Adrian Friedman, maintained that there was no evidence of harm to marine life, and that communities’ objections are “speculative” and claims of cultural and spiritual harm are merely “subjective.”

Shell held firm that the EMPr under the MPRDA constitutes an environmental authorisation under NEMA.

Friedman also argued that the harm into Shell’s bottomline would be catastrophic as it stood to lose hundreds of millions of Rands, if it was prevented from conducting a seismic survey.

In a judgment this morning, judge Bloem ordered Shell to immediately cease its seismic blasting along the Wild Coast and also slapped it together with the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe with court costs for the application in the interim interdict.

Judge Bloem said that Shell failed in its duties to conduct a meaningful consultation with the communities and individuals who would be impacted by the seismic survey.

He acknowledged that some of the applicants hold a special spiritual and cultural connection to the ocean and that it’s crucial for Shell to consult these communities and understand how the survey may impact upon them.

Bloem said the court was satisfied that the applicants have established a reasonable apprehension of irreparable harm to marine life.

In addition to the harm to marine life, Judge Bloem said the applicants have also established how the seismic survey will firstly, negatively impact on the livelihood of the fishers, and secondly, cause cultural and spiritual harm.

Sinegugu Zukulu of Sustaining the Wild Coast, which is the first applicant, has hailed the judgment for upholding the constitutional rights of the communities against government and multinational corporations.

He said: “The voices of the voiceless have been heard.

The voices of the directly affected people have at last been heard, and the constitutional rights of indigenous people have been upheld.”  Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee said their case was about making sure that profit making does not override human rights. “As coastal communities we have relied on the sea for centuries – and we are glad that the judge has recognised that our ocean livelihoods must not be sacrificed for short term profit,” said Mbuthuma.

The second part of the application which is set to deal with whether Shell has environmental rights will be heard on a date yet to be known early next year.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy did not participate in court activities but instead submitted that she will be abided by the outcome of the court application.


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