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Richards Bay residents backing Karpowership told to disperse

A group of Richards Bay residents protested outside the Umhlathuze Municipality, in a quest to urge the government to grant outstanding permits to Karpowership SA. They were dispersed over a lack of a marching permit.

A group of Richards Bay residents protested outside the Umhlathuze Municipality, in a quest to urge the government to grant outstanding permits to Karpowership SA. They were dispersed over a lack of a marching permit.

Published Oct 4, 2021


DURBAN - RICHARDS Bay residents’ efforts to urge the government to grant all outstanding permits to Karpowership SA were dealt a blow as a group of them was turned away by Umhlathuze Municipality for not having a permit to march.

Umhlathuze Municipality spokesperson Mduduzi Ncalane said the picketers did not receive permission to picket.

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“They were requested to disperse. It is everyone’s right to march, but one has to obtain necessary approvals. We requested that they apply for a permit, at which point they will be attended to,” Ncalane said.

On Friday, a group of people carrying placards marched peacefully to the municipal offices, where they were asked to disperse.

Before the picket, Nathi Nzimande, the Economic Transformation Committee chairperson in the Musa Dladla Region, said that the picket was their way of urging the government to grant all outstanding permits to Karpowership SA.

“We cannot afford delays. People need jobs. We need electricity. We need the load shedding to come to an end in order to sustain the SMMEs that are still standing,” Nzimande said.

Karpowership SA won preferred bidder status for three power-generation projects in Coega, Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay, and promised to inject R18 billion in investment directly into local communities.

The Karpowership SA plan was seen as offering a solution to the instability of the national grid, which would help Eskom overcome the shortage in electricity supply.

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On Friday, the Department of Minerals and Energy granted a four-month extension to all the bidders to get their financial and regulatory approvals in place.

Two weeks ago, the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) granted operating licences to Karpowership SA for three of the country’s ports.

In a statement, Nersa said it had approved the issuing of generation licences for the seven Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme preferred bidders, based on the available information and analysis conducted on the applications for generation licences by the seven bidders.

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However, environmentalists and the DA condemned the decision.

Last month, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted a postponement of an appeal against the tender process involving Karpowership. The appeal was brought by a losing bidder, DNG Energy.

DNG alleged that there was corruption involved in the tender process after its tender application was unsuccessful. Karpowership SA and the government denied the allegations.

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According to the court papers, DNG detailed alleged events of July 26, 2020, shortly before the Request For Proposal was published, when “its director was approached by a businessman with close ties to Minerals and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe”.

DNG alleged Mantashe’s “business associate” informed DNG’s director that he should be “assisted by certain undisclosed parties should it (DNG) wish to be a preferred bidder and ultimately be awarded the contract”.

DNG alleged that the “associate” said he would be able to facilitate a relationship, but the applicant claimed he refused to be involved in any collusion and unlawful conduct in relation to the contract.

DNG alleged that the pressure to accept such “assistance” continued.

Its director was informed that a representative from Karpowership had allegedly approached a close family member of Mantashe for an extension of the bid notification date, which was granted on October 30, 2020, by way of text communication.

In an answering affidavit, Karpowership SA director Mehmet Katmer said that DNG’s tender application was “reckless”.

He said DNG had based its application on “incomplete facts”, “unfounded suspicion, and predominantly inadmissible hearsay evidence emanating from newspaper articles”.

“DNG takes the opportunity of repeatedly making utterances of corruption surrounding the tender process that is the subject of this application, only because it was not appointed a Preferred Bidder,” Katmer said.

“Yet, on its version it was aware of facts pertaining to this alleged corruption as far back as July 2020 – some 10 months ago – and did nothing until its bid was disqualified.”

Katmer said DNG’s “opportunism” was more pronounced by virtue of the fact that it did not seek to set aside the tender process as a result of alleged fraud and corruption.

“Instead, DNG seeks to be substituted as a Preferred Bidder in the place of Karpowership, alternatively, be appointed as a Preferred Bidder.”

Organisations like the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and environmental rights group Green Connection have openly opposed the Karpowership deal, saying there were cheaper and more beneficial options available.

But communities, including SMMEs, want the project to go ahead.

Mantashe’s spokesperson Nathi Shabangu said DNG was making allegations in court about people unknown to the minister.

“Nobody is representing the minister out there in any business deal. All interests of the minister are declared in Parliament, therefore there is nothing linking him to Karpowership, or DNG for that matter,” Shabangu said.

He said the allegations would have to be tested in court.

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