Durban in uproar over development plans

Thousands of working class people in Durban South sent a strong signal to the city's politicians this week: "We voted you into council - so come and talk to us if you are planning to kick us out of our homes to build a new harbour or petro-chemical industry."

Bobby Peek, a spokesperson for the area's Community Environmental Alliance, estimated that about 4 000 residents gathered at meetings in Merebank and Wentworth to voice their fears about the future of the area, amid reports that "tens of thousands" of people could be forced to leave their homes.

Although some sources indicated slightly lower attendances at the meetings, opposition seems to be mounting steadily against further heavy industry in an area characterised by decades of residential/industrial conflict.

A third meeting was held in Brighton Beach last night.

Sapref and the Polifin group are hoping to create a major petro-chemical cluster expansion near the existing Sapref refinery.

Another ambitious proposal is a new dig-out harbour on the present Durban International Airport site.


Though a final decision on these projects may be some time away and subject to central government decisions, the Durban Metro Council is currently studying South Durban development options - heightening concern among residents.

The meetings this week were called by the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance following a lengthy strategic environmental assessment process which indicated that people may have to move from homes in several areas if a decision is made to establish a dig-out harbour or further heavy industry.

The report did not say how many families might have to move, but reports circulating in the community and some media have speculated that as many as 30 000 homes could be involved.

And although the council has not announced any decisions, the community alliance said: "People were shocked to learn that the council plans to uproot thousands of families."

The statement also quoted Deva Govindsamy of the Merebank West Community Coalition, calling on residents to hold politicians accountable for their decisions.

Mr Peek said people who attended the Wentworth meeting wanted any development to increase the pride communities had in their area. Mrs Margaret Winter, chair of the council's exco, could not be reached for comment last night.

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