KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma, has hit back against allegations that the department was holding up work at the Oxford Fresmarket’s new site in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban.
Oxford Freshmarket said the land was purchased a decade ago and they have been unable to develop the land due to setbacks at various government levels.
In a series of videos on TikTok, Oxford CEO Brett Latimer, claimed that he cannot continue work at his R240 million project because he was being held up by the department.
He claimed that after spending R12m on an access road, plans that were approved by the eThekwini Municipality, he was issued a compliance letter.
@oxfordfreshmarket 🔺 A message from Brett Latimer, CEO of Oxford on the development of Amamnzimtoti Store 🔺 #oxfordfreshmarket #durbansouthafrica ♬ original sound - Oxford Freshmarket
“We were supposed to admit our guilt at destroying 20,000 square metres of coastal grassland. We were incredulous because this is what remains of a golf driving range, built in 2003,” he said.
@oxfordfreshmarket 🔺 A message from Brett Latimer, CEO of Oxford on the development of the Amanzimtoti Store 🔺 Part 2 #oxfordfreshmarket #durbansouthafrica ♬ original sound - Oxford Freshmarket
Taking a dig at government’s recent International Court of Justice case against Israel, Latimer said South Africa is more worried about votes than taking care of running the country.
“Whilst we’re fighting fights all around the world, whilst we’re doing all kinds of things, South Africa is more worried about what votes they’re getting that getting down to the business of running the country,” Latimer said.
@oxfordfreshmarket 🔺 A message from Brett Latimer, CEO of Oxford on the development of the Amanzimtoti Store 🔺 Part 3 #oxfordfreshmarket #durbansouthafrica ♬ original sound - Oxford Freshmarket
According to Duma, Latimer's allegations were baseless.
“Unfortunately, Mr Latimer has conveniently not revealed to the public that he believes he is above the law,” he said.
The MEC explained that in recent years, Durban, which is flood prone, has experienced destruction of socio-economic infrastructure and biodiversity.
“On the other hand, Mr Latimer has flatly refused to take advice to comply with environmental laws designed to protect the environment and ensure that proposed project is authorised,” Duma said.
“Despite his refusal to comply with the law, we have continuously engaged with Latimer and his team, like any other developer to speed up the establishment of his business.”
He added that last year, the department granted approvals for the installation of a stormwater attenuation pond, the completion of the road widening adjacent to the nearby Engen garage and the area along Moss Kolnick Drive, flattening of the sand mound on site and the implementation of a rehabilitation plan once it was finalised and approved by relevant authorities.
“He has rejected the guidance of qualified environmentalists to engage the services of an independent Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) to follow a Section 24G in terms of National Environmental Management Act of 1998 which allows for authorisation for the existing projects,” Duma said.
“There are billions worth of infrastructure development projects that have gone through similar processes in the department. These have created jobs resulting in KZN recording the largest employment for Quarter 3 according to Stats SA. Therefore, Latimer's frivolous allegations have no merit but only peddled to create a perception of a state of paralysis.”
The MEC is expected to visit the site on Tuesday to conduct an inspection.