Schoolchildren from St Mary's protest against the development at the former Clairwood Racecourse. Picture: Zanele Zulu
Durban - Merebank residents took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against a logistics park development at the former Clairwood Racecourse.

The protest comes as the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), which is representing residents; Fortress Income Fund, which is behind the project; and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs which green-lighted the project; are set to lock horns in the Durban High Court on Friday.

Desmond D’Sa, of the SDCEA, said they believed taking the matter to the high court was important because they had a strong case.

“This is a major fight,” D’Sa said. He said the expected influx of vehicles and the resulting air pollution would exacerbate health issues in the area.

D’Sa said there was not enough consultation on the process.

The conflict has been going on for more than five years.

One of the people who are affected is Sibongiseni Mkhize, a caretaker at Alipore Primary School.

He said the dust from the construction affected his lungs and made him cough.

Mkhize, who lives at the school, said his washed clothes became dirty while drying.

The dust also settled on his food.

Shanaaz Essop, a teacher at Alipore Primary, said her main fear was the safety of the children when walking to and from the school because of the increased number of trucks at the logistics park.

She said there was a danger of the children being hit.

“They are putting profits before people,” she said.

Essop, a teacher for 34years, said the noise from the construction often drowned out her voice when she taught.

“It is a daily battle for us,” Essop said.

Not everyone agreed that the development would be bad for the community.

Colin Moonsamy, a member of the Alipore Primary school governing body, said the development would provide opportunities in the area which has a high unemployment rate.

Moonsamy, a resident in the area for about 47 years, said there were health issues, but in the long term the community would benefit.

“Construction will go on whether you like it or not,” he said.

“We have to think before we speak,” Moonsamy said.

Bongani Tembe, spokesperson for the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said they were aware of the matter, but could not comment because it it was sub judice.

Nico Prinsloo, Fortress Income Fund’s development manager, said: “We remain committed to being good neighbours in the community, and have a system in place to measure dust regularly along our boundary.

“The system has been approved by the environmental consultants, and regular reports are sent to the authorities.”

He said they had already committed R135million to upgrading the road infrastructure around the area for the benefit of all its users.

Prinsloo said they had more than met the requirements of the environmental impact assessment in their consultation process with stakeholders.

“According to the MEC at the time, Michael Mabuyakhulu, the developer adhered to all requirements stipulated in legislation, and both advertised and engaged with communities,” he said.

Daily News