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Wild Coast communities reflect on court proceedings after court adjourned

Coastal communities highlighted critical messages in a debrief meeting in Gqeberha on Wednesday, stating: "When environmental injustice becomes law, resistance becomes our duty." Picture: The Green Connection

Coastal communities highlighted critical messages in a debrief meeting in Gqeberha on Wednesday, stating: "When environmental injustice becomes law, resistance becomes our duty." Picture: The Green Connection

Published Jun 2, 2022

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Cape Town - The case involving Wild Coast communities against Shell, Impact Africa and the Minister of the Department of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, ended ahead of its expected 3-day duration with judgment reserved until further notice.

Applicants included civil society organisation Sustaining the Wild Coast and other Wild Coast residents, represented by Richard Spoor Attorneys and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) while environmental law firm Cullinan and Associates represented Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa.

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They sought to permanently stop Shell’s proposed seismic survey and for the court to set aside the exploration right granted to Impact Africa in 2014 by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), which was then transferred to Shell, to conduct the seismic blasting in search of offshore oil and gas resources.

On Wednesday, applicants and attorneys involved in the case unpacked the arguments heard during the two-day court proceedings and shared their reflections of the court case ahead of the judgment.

During this reflection, Cullinan and Associates attorney Melissa Groenink said one of the key arguments was the failure to consult with communities that lived along the wild coast and those most impacted by Shell’s proposal.

“The tick-box exercise that was put forward by Shell as being an adequate public participation exercise – putting a notice in the Daily Dispatch and expecting those communities to be consulted – was not, in fact, adequate,” Groenink said.

Advocate Albert Beyleveld, who represented the DMRE, argued the fact that the consultative process in question did not reach affected communities should not render the consultative process inadequate – so long as the process met the basic listed requirements set forth in the regulations.

Sustaining the Wild Coast spokesperson Sinegugu Zukulu said: “After listening to the respondents’ arguments, what is most concerning is how the rights of local coastal communities are deemed insignificant by the government, Impact Africa and Shell.”

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Cullinan & Associates Inc attorney Ricky Stone said this case marked the beginning of intense public scrutiny of all activity that exacerbated climate change and accelerated climate-induced crises that communities in the global south were already facing.

LRC candidate attorney Priyanka Naidoo said given the complexity of the case, judgment would most likely be given in three months.

Coastal communities highlighted critical messages in a debrief meeting in Gqeberha on Wednesday, stating: "When environmental injustice becomes law, resistance becomes our duty." Picture: The Green Connection

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