South Africa: Win for Fishing Communities as Court Pauses Oil Giant's Seismic Scanning

(file photo).
28 December 2021

Cape Town — An interdict against seismic scanning by oil giant Shell has been granted by the Grahamstown High Court in Makhanda, IOL reports. This puts the oil giant's fuel exploration activities along the Wild Coast on hold until a second part of an interdict is heard.

This comes three weeks after Judge Avinash Govindjee dismissed a previous interdict application, saying that "irreparable harm" to marine species was not proved by the applicants, which included Greenpeace. In the latest finding, Judge Gerald Bloem, who granted the application, did so in the interests of the Amadiba, Dwesa-Cwebe, Port St Johns and Kei Mouth communities, a collection of small-scale fishing communities whose livelihoods may be severely impacted by seismic scanning that affects the local marine life.

Conversely, Shell's counsel Adrian Friedman claimed that the communities' objections are "speculative" and that any potential cultural or spiritual harm was "subjective". These sentiments were echoed by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe who, along with the Eastern Cape Cabinet, supported Shell's plan. "South Africa's economic development is oppressed in the name of environmental protection when we have an environmental framework that ensures that licensing is done with the utmost environmental care founded on Section 24 of our Constitution. We, therefore, appeal to all objectors to acknowledge this and allow South Africa to exploit its natural resources for the benefit of its citizens," Mantashe said in a press conference earlier this month.

Applicants of the interdict argued that, in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), Shell does not possess the necessary environmental authorisation to perform legal seismic exploration. "In the circumstances, the Minister and Shell should be ordered to pay the applicants' cost of the application, such costs to include the costs attendant upon the employment of the counsels, where so employed," Bloem said in the judgment.

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