DURBAN: A legal battle rages on between EnviroServ and civic group Upper Highway Air (UHA) over the licence conditions for the controversial Shongweni landfill site. On Wednesday, UHA lawyer Charmaine Nel, on behalf of the organisation and environmentalist Desmond D’sa, approached the Durban High Court, seeking an interdict forcing EnviroServ to reconvene last week’s monitoring committee meeting which her clients could not attend due to alleged threats by Vincent Mkhize of another community organisation, the Siyathuthuka Environment Development.
The purpose of the committee is to create a forum where community representatives can monitor compliance with the conditions set out in the waste management licence, and to provide a forum where their needs and concerns can be addressed with EnviroServ and relevant authorities.
UHA directors and D’sa are members of the committee, but on Tuesday they were absent from the meeting held at KwaNdengezi, where the committee’s new terms of reference were discussed.
In one of the e-mails to D’sa, Mkhize wrote: “You don’t live in our area but you come causing chaos in every meeting with your people from Hillcrest You and your troublemaker friends are not welcome in our communities.”
In the founding affidavit, UHA co-director Neville Kaiser said that the co-ordinator of the meeting, Pravin Singh, was made aware of the threats days before so he could change the venue but that was not done.
He inferred EnviroServ never wanted them at the meeting because they were not informed about it or given the agenda and other documents before Tuesday’s sittings, which is in breach of the conditions of EnviroServ’s licence.
“Aside from the fact that the venue for the monitoring committee meeting is to be determined by the monitoring committee and timeous notice of the meeting is to be given (none of which have happened), the threat against our clients that they are not welcome in the communities where the meeting has been unilaterally scheduled to take place has made it clear our clients are being prevented through threats of violence from attending and discharging their duties as existing members of the monitoring committee,” said Nel.
The UHA is also seeking access to the technical information, monitoring data and additional information relating to April’s toxicology and Airshed reports.
They are also seeking an order directing local authorities to “investigate the necessity for remedial and precautionary measures Enviroserv should be compelled to take in order to avoid the spills it says will result should it not be allowed to trench excess leachate, brine and contaminated storm water” and in the event of the eThekwini Municipality not granting it permission to discharge at Cuttings Beach.
EnviroServ’s spokesperson Thabiso Taaka said due process was followed. He said no one’s safety was threatened and UHA and D’Sa were welcome to attend the meeting.
“When the meetings were held in Hillcrest, people from KwaNdengezi attended, but when it is in KwaNdengezi suddenly people do not feel safe,” he said.
Mkhize said he did not threaten anyone, but was concerned that some people were turning the issue of the landfill odour into a circus.
“We just want fair representation of black people in the committees and meetings because we, in fact, live closer to the landfill than people from Hillcrest,” he said.
Meanwhile, workers from the landfill site came out in numbers to support their bosses, EnviroServ’s chief executive Dean Thompson, coastal operations manager Clive Kidd and technical director Esme Gombault, when they appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
The trio along with EnviroServ and its treatment and disposal specialist, Dr Johan Schoonraad, who was ill and could not come to court, are facing charges related to the flouting of the waste management regulation which has resulted in the malodour which lingers over the Upper Highway region.
The Department of Environmental Affairs has since suspended operations on the landfill site, and the announcement on the result of the ongoing remedial action is expected later this month.