Monday, 21 May 2018

Feedback: Local News Articles regarding Community Meeting with Sasol

Concerns raised at oil drilling meeting

Daily News / 19 May 2018, 4:00pm / Mphathi Nxumalo

Desmond D'Sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance pulled no punches during a community meeting with Sasol on Thursday, railing against plans to explore for oil and gas on the SA coastline. Picture Mphathi Nxumalo. Durban - Civil society organisations have come out strongly against Sasol which wants to explore for oil and gas off the coasts of Durban and Richards Bay.
Sasol executives went to Austerville on Thursday to engage the community about their views.
Desmond D’Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, who had invited the executives, said he would never accept the oil industry.
Referring to the problems in the oil-rich Niger Delta in Nigeria, he said people in the area were living in poverty.
“We have fat cats making billions,” he said.
The meeting, attended by about 100 people, came as a result of concerns raised by various non-governmental organisations.
As part of legal requirements, Italian energy and exploration company Eni South Africa BV (Eni), have held public hearings.
The companies plan to drill at about six sites.
D’Sa said companies from Europe came to Africa to plunder its resources because they had exhausted their own.
David Naicker, a fisherman from the South Coast, said the exploration would have a devastating impact on them. There were about 30000 people who made a living off fishing along the KZN coastline, he said.
“If this comes to pass, all these fishermen’s livelihoods will be destroyed,” he said.
The meeting was also attended by people from outside the province.
Sibongile Mazia, of the South African Green Revolutionary Council, said the mining activities of Sasol had a negative impact on the community. She said the blasts during mining activities made women miscarry and people suffer heart attacks.
Mazia, who lives in Secunda, also said: “The other problem we have with Sasol is that we can see that they make profits in our country, but they never give us experience. Sasol employs people from overseas.”
John Harris, Sasol’s executive vice-president “for upstream”, said they had come to the meeting to listen to the concerns. He said he found the proceedings honest and respectful.
Harris said Sasol spent more than R700 million in social responsibility programmes in South Africa and Mozambique.

Daily News

Exploration comes with big risks

News / 18 February 2018, 11:30am / Fred Kockott

Imagine an oil spill of the magnitude of what took place in the Gulf of Mexico eight years ago happening in KwaZulu-Natal waters.
Made into an American disaster film in 2016, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
The film revolves around events on April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the gulf, igniting a massive fireball that killed 11 crew members.
But it was what happened after the explosion that grabbed the world’s attention: the leakage over the next four months, four weeks and two days, of more than 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean. The slick extended over thousands of square kilometres of the Gulf of Mexico, contaminating hundreds of beaches, marshes and estuaries.
Encylopaedia Britannica estimates that 1 770km of shoreline was polluted.
The spectre of a similar disaster happening offshore of KwaZulu-Natal is a core reason Durban environmental activist Desmond D’Sa is objecting to plans by the Italian gas and oil company, Eni, to search for gas and oil at two deep-sea locations off the coast.
One of the proposed deep-sea drilling sites is 62km offshore of Richards Bay; the other 65km off Port Sheptsone’s shoreline.
D’Sa is the founder of the Durban South Community Environmental Alliance (DSCEA). About 50 members, mostly hostel dwellers from uMlazi and KwaMakhutha outside Durban, turned up at a public hearing at the Tropicana Hotel last week to provide vocal support to D’Sa’s objections to Eni’s project.
Eni, one of the world’s biggest producers, has teamed up with Sasol Africa, hoping to locate massive oil and gas reserves by drilling six exploratory wells deep into the sea bed. It was represented at last week’s public hearing by Eni South Africa managing director Allesandro Gelmetti.
Aside from two representatives from Earthlife Africa, a couple of Blue Fund Ocean Stewards and an intern at Wildlands, leading representatives of environmental organisations in the province were conspicuously absent.
A study of Eni’s scoping report shows that, by last week, fewer than 70 people had registered as interested and affected parties in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) phase of the project. This is despite the significantly harmful environmental impacts having been identified in the scoping phase.
These impacts include high levels of pollution caused by drilling and associated destruction of the seabed and, ultimately, degradation of biodiverse marine habitats which could adversely affect commercial fishing. The noise of deep-sea drilling is also believed to disrupt migratory pathways of whales, turtles and other species.
At the hearing, D’Sa voiced concern about the public consultation process.
“Where are the fishermen, tourism operators, and others who are going to be most affected by this project?” asked D’Sa.
He accused Eni’s environmental consultants, Environmental Resource Management (ERM) of failing to properly advertise the public hearing.
So began a lengthy and, at times, agitated engagement between D’Sa and Eni and ERM representatives and their hostile audience. Loud applause followed calls for Eni’s full scoping report to be translated into isiZulu, with a full account of all public engagements about the offshore drilling project.
“It must also all be explained in layman’s terms so people can understand what we are dealing with here,” said Vusi Zweni, chairperson of a hostel dwellers association.
D’Sa further demanded that the public consultation process be extended to all coastal communities from the border of Mozambique down to Mossel Bay in the Cape.
“To say you are consulting with interested and affected parties is a farce,” said D’Sa.
It was only through the skilful diplomacy of the meeting’s facilitator, David Shandler, that Eni and ERM representatives finally got to talk about the offshore drilling plans.
In summary, Eni’s gas and oil exploration project forms part of the South African government’s Operation Phakisa (“Hurry Up” in seSotho) initiative that aims to tap into the economic potential of the ocean. Through Operation Phakisa, more than 95% of the ocean and seabed falling within South Africa’s Economic Exclusive Zone are subject to rights or lease agreement to petroleum companies.
In their presentations, ERM and Eni stated that South Africa imports about 70% of its liquid fuel, which comprises crude oil and finished products. The rest mostly comes from the local production of synthetic fuel from coal and gas.
This, said Gelmetti, had brought about moves to diversify South Africa’s energy mix, resulting in increased interest in exploring the country’s seabed for gas and oil reserves.
“However, uncertainty remains high and further exploration activities are necessary to prove the viability of these resources,” said Gelmetti.
The SA Oil and Gas Alliance had estimated the country has possible resources of approximately 9 billion barrels of oil and about 60 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore.
He said if environmental authorisation was given, the drilling of the first exploration well would take place in 2019.
The subsequent question and answer session became, at times, as chaotic as the start of the hearing.
Amid heckling, Eni and ERM representatives were grilled about a wide range of issues, including exploitative practices of the gas and oil industry and alleged corruption surrounding Eni’s operations in other parts of Africa.
“You are coming here for one reason, and one reason only: to exploit our resources and leave us with nothing,” said Njabulo Ndwandwe.
Gelmetti said: “We are not here to take the resources of the country away. There is a need for energy here.”
He said if the exploration was successful, benefits could be job creation, increased government revenues and the reduce reliance on coal and need to import hydrocarbons like crude oil.
Gelmetti said he shared the audience’s concern about the need for cleaner and renewable energy.
“The climate change challenges that we live with today are very serious. We need to fight global change. Coming from a gas and oil experience, I guess I am sitting on the wrong side of the fence here, but there are things we can do,” he said.
“First, we can reduce harmful carbon emissions in our operations. Second, we can move from using less oil and more gas, which is cleaner. Third, we can invest in cleaner renewable energy.
“The transition to greener energy, in our opinion, has to happen, as quickly as possible, but it is not easy. It will require time, but we are certainly already looking at investing in renewable energy in South Africa and have created a division called Energy Solutions.”
But more questions - and further accusations - kept flying at Gelmetti and ERM.
By the end of the hearing, Shandler’s flipchart notes had bulleted more than 25 issues that Eni and ERM had been asked to provide further feedback on as part of the ongoing public consultation process.
D’Sa’s primary concern - the risk of a disaster of the magnitude of Deepwater Horizon - was not dealt with in the public hearing, but further details of his engagement with ERM about these hazards is contained in the Comments and Responses section of ERM’s draft scoping report.
In his submission, D’Sa states that given the inhospitable character of South Africa’s offshore sea, together with increasing cyclonic disturbances associated with global warming, the hazards of operating an offshore drilling rig in KZN’s waters were exceptionally high.
He also argues that it is highly doubtful that KZN has the potential to launch a sophisticated response capability as is possible in similar operations in the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico.
“Taking this disaster into consideration, this shows that even at an international level, anything could happen. What if the same events that took place in the Gulf of Mexico were to occur here, with the exploration rig just 62km’s from the shore? This is why we have concern.”
In its response, ERM states: “A specialist oil spill modelling study will be undertaken in order to understand the fate and transport of unplanned hypothetical oil spills. Eni will develop an oil spill contingency plan prior to drilling commencement.
“In addition, Eni will prepare a detailed emergency response plan and strategy prior to drilling activities. The contents of this plan will be considered in the EIA. The capacity in South Africa for oil spill response will also be looked at in the EIA.”
On its website, Eni acknowledges that offshore operations in the oil and gas industry are inherently riskier than onshore activities.
“As the Macondo (Deepwater Horizon) accident has shown, the potential impacts of offshore accidents and spills to health, safety, security and the environment can be catastrophic due to the objective difficulties in handling hydrocarbons,” states Eni.
Given this - and the fact the DeepWater Horizon accident resulted in British Petroleum facing more $65 billion (R754bn) in damages (this is more than half South Africa’s annual budget ) - the gas and oil industry has developed comprehensive strategies to systematically manage accident risks, including equipment failures, fires and blow-outs.
While these comprehensive measures might allay some concerns, the fact remains that unforeseen accidents can still happen.
What will be done to prevent an exploration disaster ever happening on KZN’s coastline, clearly needs to be more fully explained during the ongoing EIA process.
People in South Africa, including those who are not literate in English or well versed in the technology involved in gas and oil exploration, should not be able to say, one day further down the line, that they were not warned.
In the meantime, it is clear that irrespective of how much information is provided and what safeguards put in place, many people will still share D’Sa’s view: Don’t bring any fancy oil rigs here. Full stop.
And, as Eni’s public consultation process continues, the overriding question arises: Could the benefits be worth the risks?

* People have until Thursday, February 22, to comment on ERM’s draft scoping report which is available at A Zulu or Afrikaans version of the executive summary is available on request. E-mail:

P:S Please see link to video feedback from Sasol meeting :


Engaging the Legislature
to improve environmental governance

13th & 14th June 2018
20 Diakonia Avenue, Durban, 4001

Is your organisation committed to promoting a healthy and sustainable environment,
and to empowering communities in Kwa-Zulu Natal?
Or are you a media professional passionate about environmental justice
 who wants to do more to inform and give the public a voice on these issues?

Do you think the public has a role to play in promoting environment and climate friendly policies and laws that benefit all, and holding government accountable?

Then we would love to have you at this workshop!

Places are limited, so don’t miss your chance to apply.
.. and feel free to share with your networks!


'Action 24' is an initiative of South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA), the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP), South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), and Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation (EEO), and co-funded by the European Union.

Action 24 aims to strengthen environmental governance and civic participation, in order to advance decarbonised sustainable and inclusive development in South Africa.

To achieve this, the project intends to build agency among civil society, media, youth and women groups to more effectively engage with the legislature (Parliament and the provincial legislatures) on laws and oversight, so as to achieve a healthier and safer environment, improved livelihoods and resilience to climate change.

Action 24 aims to foster more bottom-up, participatory decision-making processes on environmental issues, and encourage citizens to seek effective representation from the legislative institutions, using them to improve service delivery by the government.

Visit for more information on the project.                                                                                      


This is one of four provincial workshops organised under the Action 24 project. The aim is to empower local activists, organisations and local media houses with knowledge and skills on why and how to engage the Provincial Legislatures and Parliament on environmental issues.
Ultimately, it is expected that participants will in turn apply and encourage such participation within their constituencies. The workshop will also serve as a basis for further collaboration with and support to organisations willing to engage with the Legislature on environmental issues.

This workshop is intended for local activists, members of civil society organisations operating in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, as well as media professionals from local media houses (print, radio, TV).

Due to limited space, the organiser reserves the right to select participants who have applied to attend the workshop.
The participants will be selected based on their profile and motivation. The project seeks to bolster youth and women participation. Although not a requirement, applicants representing these constituencies will be prioritised.

Confirmed participants will be notified by 1 June 2018.


The workshop will last 2 days, and will cover three topics:

  • Public engagement with the Legislature.
This session will be dedicated to reviewing the legislatures’ mandates, the constitutional provisions as well as processes and mechanisms for public participation.

  • Environmental issues.
This session will focus on climate and environmental literacy, exploring key environmental challenges in the province and possible responses, as well as reviewing relevant environmental policies and legislation on a provincial and national level.
Using a participatory and interactive approach, we will seek to contextualise by looking at local case studies and issues, as well as KZN’s climate change response plan. From there, the participants will be invited to consider how civil society and the media can engage on monitoring progress and government action (oversight), as well as influencing decisions in that sector through the Legislature.

  • Budget monitoring through the Legislature.
This short session will focus on general public budget principles, the budget cycle (drafting, enactment, implementation, review) and practical examples of how CSOs – and citizens in general – can engage in influencing budget formulation and monitoring government expenditures and public service delivery through the Legislature.

The detailed programme will be made available shortly to interested parties and on


Applications for interested organisations to attend the workshop will close on 25 May 2018.

-     The organiser will make lodging (full board) available for participants residing outside Durban. Requests for lodging must be made when applying.
-     All dietary requirements will be taken into consideration.

Flat rate transport allowances will be made available to the participants, based on the distance travelled to attend the workshop.


This workshop is organised by South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA).

Question? Please contact Shanice Firmin for the workshop at with 'Action 24 Workshop KZN’ as your subject line, or call 031 461 1991.

Also visit  for more information on the project.

Please download the application form from the link below:

For more information see link below:

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Comments from SDCEA on offshore oil and gas exploration drilling within block ER2369 of the east coast of KZN

Sasol and Eni are set to explore the coast of KZN with offshore oil and gas drilling. KZN is renowned for its famous and beautiful beaches. However, healthy oceans are critically important to marine life and to coastal communities whose economies rely on tourism, fishing and recreational activities. Opening up new offshore areas to drilling, risks permanent damage to our oceans and beaches without reducing our dependence on oil. KZN’s coast could be subject to huge oil spills equivalent to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, with calamitous long-term costs for the tourism and fishing industries. Public Participation is an important part of legislation, yet this process has been flawed on the consultant’s part. The coastal community of KZN has been undermined and this not acceptable.

Impact on the communities, people and environment

When oil spills occur they can bring catastrophic harm to marine life and devastating losses for local businesses. Even routine exploration and drilling activities bring harm to many marine species. Expanded offshore drilling poses the risk of oil spills ruining our beaches, bringing harm to those who live, work and vacation along the coasts, as well as harming habitats critical to plants and animal species. Oil spills can quickly traverse vast distances. Exploration of oil and gas presents multiple forms of environmental degradation. These developments and projects will not only cause catastrophic destruction with the above-mentioned impacts but will also destroy livelihoods to over 50 000 subsistence fisher folk who eke out a living daily. When seismic tests are conducted, they clearly have an impact on marine life. The fish are either killed or forced to leave the area. This impact will increase poverty and lead to more people joining unemployment line.

Emissions to air

The oil and gas industry is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions as well as toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOC in combination with NOx contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and is a known causal agent of acid rain. The atmospheric pollution will have measurable impacts on the surrounding ocean but also become potentially entrapped in air masses moving towards the coastline where it will be deposited as acid rain. The drilling of wells and production process require vast amounts of energy usually provided by the burning of gas and diesel. The impact of this activity needs to be accurately assessed in terms of tons of fuel burnt and hydrocarbons released. Assuming that oil or gas is discovered then this would no doubt need to be flared off until such time as it can be capped and processed. During this time vast quantities of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds will be released into the atmosphere, indeed continuing throughout the production process. In addition the associated fugitive emissions from retrieved product is an additional source of toxic pollutants as the venting from either onsite (barge/tanker) or onshore (storage tanks and pipeline valves) must be evaluated. The carbon generated from flaring will also add to the existing problem and create added negative consequences in terms of climate change.

South African Coastline

Our coastline is recognized as being one of the most hostile and formidable to shipping. Large freak waves, storms and the presence of a year round strong (4 knot) north-south current all spell trouble for any stationery vessel anchored in place. The impact of the dynamic Agulhas current and its vital role in important biological processes must be evaluated. The positioning of the rig is fairly and squarely within this current that is in effect the highway for fish and mammal species travelling down the Eastern seaboard of South Africa to the nutrient rich and breeding grounds of the Agulhas bank. Anything that occurs off KZN coastline will end up being swept to the Agulhas such is the inevitable nature of the current. It will not simply disperse over the vastness of the ocean as you are effectively discharging hazardous waste into a fast flowing offshore river. In addition it is suspected that the south flowing Agulhas current is of critical importance to the spawning patterns of many fish species that move northwards inshore up our coastline with larval formations carried south by the current. Allowing the presence of ecologically destructive drilling and oil/gas extraction is foolhardy and flies in the face of the precautionary principle.

Health, safety and rescue considerations

In this context consider that the drilling operation lies beyond the rescue envelope of traditional South African rescue services. South Africa simply does not have any capability or capacity to provide long distance rescue effort and certainly not in the weather conditions likely to precipitate a disaster. For example we have no exiting offshore rescue craft capable of providing a rapid response. The NSRI is strictly inshore and the naval capability virtually non-existent. Furthermore, it is not the navy’s role to provide standby services for private institutions. In addition aerial support also requires specialist aircraft that South Africa simply does not possess. The key limitations are restrictions placed on aviation flying over water meaning that specialist aircraft would be required. Where and what are these and who will fund them? Where will they be based? Would they really be able to respond in time in order to assist in event of ecological or human calamity? Consider what occurred on Piper Alpha…and there you had state of the art first world facilities whereas in South Africa things are significantly more third world. The odds therefore that a plant upset could become a runaway uncontrolled event impacting on both life and the environment are therefore significantly greater than the norm of rigs in the 1st World North Sea or Gulf of Mexico where, as we know, enormous ecological harm has been wreaked by this industry despite the proximity of state of the art rescue and repair facilities.

Impacts of Drilling

Discharges from drilling consist mainly of crushed material from the borehole (cuttings) and chemicals used during the operation. In addition brought to the surface is “produced water” that will contain trace elements of oil assuming oily condensate is discovered. This requires evaluation. With regard to the drill cuttings it is not known what alternatives are proposed or whether the cheapest option of discharge into the nearby ocean is the only option being considered. For example is it not possible to injecting everything back into suitable geological formations or take it to shore for further treatment. More drilling muds and fluids are discharged into the ocean during exploratory drilling than in developmental drilling because exploratory wells are generally deeper consequently this is a very real threat to the environment.
Literature on the discharge of drill cuttings and associated drilling fluids indicate that it will cause the death of the benthic (bottom-living) organisms living in and on sediments covered by cuttings in the immediate vicinity of the discharge point. We therefore would demand that a full survey of such benthic biota is established prior to the drilling process and that this be monitored as to its state of health. It is also known that offshore rigs can dump tons of drilling fluid, metal cuttings, including toxic metals, such as lead chromium and mercury, as well as carcinogens, such as benzene, into the ocean all of which must be assessed.
The prospect of a catastrophic spills and blowouts is a documented threat from offshore drilling operations and the near impossibility of introducing a successful capping of the blowout at the depths cited are of deep concern to us. We require significant detail to be presented on this aspect given the learnings of the Deep Water Horizon disaster.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa's very first World Heritage site since 1999 (Unesco), it is also the third largest protected area in South Africa. Nelson Mandela stated that “iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world's biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world's oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world's biggest marine mammal (the whale)”.

The consultants are prone to making wild and unsubstantiated and absolutely unverifiable claims. Consider the following:
The Goodlad Canyon differs significantly in morphology from those in Northern KZN, where coelacanths have been reported and therefore it is unlikely that coelacanths will be found here”.
How can they possibly state this? The first coelacanth was discovered in East London off the Chalumna River. No-one knows where it came from but it certainly did not swim there all the way from Sodwana bay in Northern Zululand. Almost no exploration has taken place in the deep canyons and offshore waters of KZN largely on account of access as there simply are no deep water submersibles available with which to do so, nor is there any funding. The discovery of the coelacanth off northern KZN was purely due to the inshore proximity of the canyon that allowed scuba divers the opportunity of witnessing them. By no stretch of the imagination can it be concluded that they therefore do not occur elsewhere in deep waters off our continental shelf. This statement is therefore entirely false and unprovable and one can only wonder why such bias would present itself in such a report when the coelacanth is considered to be “the most endangered order of animals in the world”1 One shudders to think what the impact on the coelacanth population has been due to the intensive seismic testing that has taken place in these areas during the reconnaissance permit stage!



The Gulf of Mexico oil spill can be made an example of how offshore oil and gas drilling causes detrimental effects to the ecosystem. Do we not learn anything from history? We are under the impression that all tiers of Government are promoting the idea of allowing these activities to go ahead without proper and meaningful consultation with the public communities. This type of reaction from Government is contradictory because whilst they are promoting tourism with the main focus on the Sardine shoals, whales and dolphin sighting points, beautiful marine nurseries, various bird life and small B&BS which thrive on our beautiful beaches and ocean, they are destroying or allowing the destruction of this beautiful ocean we have. It seems that the offshore oil and gas project will only benefit the elite and rich people of society whereby once again the poor gets dealt a raw deal.