South Africa: Killing the Holy Ghost - Inside the R145 Billion Plan That Would Destroy the Limpopo River


When Vasco da Gama anchored off the mouth of the Limpopo River in 1498, he named it Espiritu Santo. Around 520 years later, a Chinese businessman wanted by Interpol would do a deal with the South African government to build an 8,000ha Special Economic Zone on the river's southern bank. The dealmakers would keep many secrets from the ancestral claimants to the land, including their unholy plans for a coal-fired power station.

I. Points of Power

There were many things that the 67-slide PowerPoint presentation failed to explain, but the most glaring omission was the likely impact on the Limpopo River.

There was, for instance, an artist's impression of a 3,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant, but nowhere in the slides was there an indication of what this would do to Africa's eighth-largest watercourse.

There were promises of a 20 million-ton coal washery, a 5.1 million-ton coking facility and a three million-ton steel plant, but the several million peasant farmers who relied on the river for irrigation did not warrant so much as a footnote. There was $1.5 billion earmarked for a ferrochrome plant and $1.2 billion for a stainless steel smelter, but there was no hint of a commensurate investment for...

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