Environmental activist charged over protest

The South African police service has been accused of "harassing" a community environmental activist after a placard protest at Mondi's paper factory in Durban last week.

Superintendent Vish Naidoo confirmed on Monday that police in Wentworth were investigating a charge under the Regulation of Gatherings Act against Desmond D'Sa, chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.

According to Naidoo, D'Sa failed to obtain permission from a magistrate to hold a demonstration outside Mondi's paper mill in Merebank last Wednesday.

D'sa, however, said Mondi officials and the Metro police were notified of the protest in advance.

D'Sa said he was "shocked" by the decision, noting that police had not taken similar action after several anti-pollution protests around the country, including those outside the Engen and Shell/BP refineries in Durban.

About 100 residents protested last week against Mondi's plan to burn thousands of tons of waste products to produce electricity - right next to their homes. Community members fear the proposal will be detrimental to their health, while Mondi maintains that the emissions will be controlled.

Naidoo said on Monday that the decision to lay charges against D'sa was taken solely by police.

Mondi Paper general manager John Barton said: "Despite the fact that D'Sa held up the plant, we have not gone to the police - because from a publicity point of view that would not be very wise of us."

sign up