Gag order bid against Shongweni activist postponed
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Durban – The case in which waste disposal giant EnviroServ is seeking to gag an activist for allegedly defaming the company and its Shongweni landfill has been adjourned to March 7.
On Wednesday, the Durban High Court adjourned EnviroServ’s urgent application against London-based Jeremy Everitt, who owns a house in Plantations Estate, Shongweni, in which his sister and her son live.
The interdict was scheduled to be heard on March 13, but was brought forward by EnviroServ to seek “interim relief”.
The company claimed Everitt had stalled the main application through technical processes. Everitt in turn accused EnviroServ of stalling the case by refusing to supply him with necessary documentation.
EnviroServ operates a hazardous waste landfill site in Shongweni that has incurred the wrath of community members in Hillcrest, Shongweni, Dassenhoek and surrounds.
Residents contend that fumes from the landfill are responsible for increased rates of asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, eczema, nosebleeds and other illnesses, with children being particularly badly affected.
About 40 protesters from the Hillcrest and Shongweni area were outside the court on Wednesday, some with gas masks, wearing EnviroServ must fall T-shirts, in support of Everitt, who was represented by advocate Natalie Lange. EnviroServ CEO, Dean Thompson, said on Wednesday that the company had instituted court proceedings against Everitt after repeated attempts to engage with him in a professional and open manner had failed.
“Everitt, who lives in the United Kingdom, has waged an on-going campaign of harassment of staff, shareholders and customers. His continued defamatory attacks intended to cause irreparable harm meant we had no choice but to seek an urgent interdict. As the matter is now before the court, we will issue no further comment,” said Thompson.
But Lange told ANA that EnviroServ was trying to “brow beat” her client into seeing the application as urgent.
“This [case against Everitt] is a side show. The real urgent thing is that [EnviroServ] stops making a mess of our environment.”
“We are not prepared to be shoved into a situation where we have to jump around to accommodate EnviroServ’s timing, because that is exactly what they want – for us to direct all of our resources and energy into fighting this gagging order,” she said.
In December, EnviroServ issued an ordinary application against Everitt, saying that he was making unlawful utterances and threatened him with defamation.
Lange said that EnviroServ had an opportunity then to get an interim interdict but didn’t do so. Nothing had been done differently on Everitt’s side since December to the launching of the urgent interdict, she said.
“For a person to come to court seeking an urgent interdict, they have to show that there is a new circumstance that has arisen, which makes it urgent. EnviroServ hasn’t complied with the laws once again and are not prepared to address the real issue [of the noxious odour].”
She said the Upper Highway community and surrounding communities would not be taking their eyes off the main battle.
According to Wednesday’s “order by consent”, EnviroServ has to deliver their replies to affidavits and their heads of argument by 6 March. On 7 March, they are expected to make submissions about why the matter should be heard on an urgent basis.
Everitt has said he would continue to engage in “non-violent public protest until EnviroServ resolves the problem that it has caused”. This is not the first time EnviroServ has tried to silence activists.
Last year, environmental activist Desmond D’Sa and now Upper Highway Air NGO director Lauren Johnson were both served legal letters by the company, accusing them of waging a public campaign against the company.
On Monday, the KZN Directorate of Public Prosecutions’ Advocate Moipone Noko said the company would be criminally charged for contravening the National Air Quality Act.
A decision is yet to be made by the Department of Environmental Affairs on whether to revoke or suspend the licence for the Shongweni landfill, after a notice to that effect was issued by the DEA this month.
The department has repeatedly ignored emails, messages and phone calls as to when a decision will be made in this regard.