FILE (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Durban - “Go away. We don’t want you here. Stop the flying. Stop the process.”

This was the vociferous message Drakensberg farmers, guest house owners, hotel and land owners sent to representatives and shareholders of Rhino Oil and Gas, the South African subsidiary of the American-owned Rhino Resources Ltd, at a meeting in Bergville on Tuesday, where it was consulting the public on its application to explore for oil and gas in the area.

Rhino Oil and Gas, in October, lodged an application for an exploration right with the Petroleum Agency SA, to explore for oil and gas deposits beneath a vast swathe of prime farmland in KwaZulu-Natal and has lodged additional applications for rights in other parts of the country.

Areas affected in the KwaZulu-Natal application extend from Mooi River and Estcourt North to Winterton, Bergville, Van Reenen and parts of the Free State.

Farmers and landowners who attended public meetings this week have vehemently opposed the firm’s plans to explore for fossil fuel and have raised concerns that if the company found gas beneath the surface it would lead to “fracking”, a process that is used to extract gas that can lead to a risk of earthquakes and water contamination.

Adele Slater, who identified herself as a “farmer’s wife” with “some legal training” asked Rhino Oil and Gas chief operating officer, Philip Steyn, to identify its shareholders and BEE partner, who would stand to benefit from the discovery of oil and gas.

She asked Steyn to explain the relationship with Jacob Zuma’s former lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, who is listed as a former director of the company.

Steyn said it was “just a pure coincidence” that Mantsha happened to be working at the time for the law firm that had “set up the structure and sold us the shelf company”, he said.

He said the firm’s BEE partner, which would have a 9% stake in the business that would sell the rights to extract the fuels, was Glen Blue Oil and Gas.

A search of company records reveals that Mantsha was a director for a day on June 11, 2013, when he opened the company and then resigned.

The record search shows Everton September, the former vice-president of Petro SA, is one of the directors of Glen Blue Group subsidiary Glen Blue Southern Africa, listed on the company website, along with Glen Blue Oil and Gas, as the two firms through which it is “a local player in the African oil, gas and resources space”.

Glen Blue says on its website it signed a participation agreement with Rhino Resources to be its “local partner for all their South African exploration and production activities”.

Farmers and residents raised concerns about the contamination of ground and surface water, and expressed fears of earthquakes following possible fracking.

They said it would affect residents from Durban to Gauteng, which relied on the Drakensberg as the source of around 25% of the country’s water.

A representative for a local tourism organisation, Drakensberg Experience, Belinda Spence said tourism created more sustainable jobs in the mountainous Okhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site than mining would be able to create.

The Mercury