26 November 2018

South Africa: Kwathema Residents Protest for Cleaner Air

A group of about 40 protestors from Kwathema, a township in Ekurhuleni, marched to a fertiliser manufacturing plant on Thursday to object to its use of chemicals. They believe these chemicals are not environmentally friendly and is a health hazard to the people living in the area. The Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation led the march.

"Our health comes first," chanted the residents as they marched along Kwathema Road onto Springs Road, where the factory is located. They delivered a memorandum to management at Imithombo Management Pvt Ltd. The factory is about 1.5 kilometres from the township.

The protestors live in the Reedville section which is surrounded by several factories.

"After conducting a social audit on the environmental and health impact that industrial pollution has, your company was listed as violating environmental and health standards. We have noted with great concern the negative effect your fertiliser production has on health and the environment surrounding our community," the memorandum stated.

Sabelo Mnguni of Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation said they had conducted the social audit in October. "We believe that there are many residents who are at risk not only in our section but in all areas surrounding Imithombo Management. This must be dealt with as soon as possible."

The memorandum stated that Imithombo Management's "continuous ignorance of the community's plight to health and clean environment is an infringement of [the residents'] constitutional rights and the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act."

Sonti Nhlengethwa, 65, who lives in Reedville said, "l suffer from chest pains. I cough and my nose is blocked all the time. My nose bleeds at night. It is all because of that fertiliser company."

Another resident, Vusi Mlangeni, 52, said he also suffers from chest pains and is waiting for test results from the local clinic.

Elsie Molopi, another Reedville resident, said, "My four grandchildren suffer from nosebleeds, especially at night. We do not sleep when the bleeding starts. One of the four now has a serious sinus problem".

George Mthidibede, who handed over the memorandum said, "We have approached this company several times but they have been ignoring us. If they continue turning a blind eye to our demands they will force us to intensify our protests".

Troy Momberg, Production Manager for Imithombo Management, received and signed the memorandum. "I'm surprised that the community thinks we are breaking the law. As far as we are concerned our company is law abiding," he said.

The residents demanded a meeting with the management for further discussions and that the company responds within 14 days.

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