Last week, The Green Connection and Natural Justice challenged the decision of Minister of the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Barbara Creecy, to allow Karpowership to submit a Generic Environmental Management Programme (GEMPr) for Saldanha Bay. The organisations argue, in a letter to the DFFE, that the decision is unlawful.
The DFFE has admitted that the views of these non-governmental organisations were not heard by the Minister. The DFFE overturned a decision of the Chief Director: Integrated Environmental Authorisations to deny Karpowership SA’s request to submit a GEMPr for Saldanha Bay, well past the regulatory deadline.
The eco-justice organisations say that the Minister’s decision was unlawful because she did not consider nor address their arguments against Karpowerships’ appeal of the Chief Director’s decision.
According to the DFFE, the Minister never received their responding statement to Karpowerships’ appeal document, due to an administrative error. They believe that if their statement was before the Minister, it would materially have affected her appeal decision.
The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “As South Africans, we have a right to raise our concerns, which must be considered by the deciding authority. The Minister did not have The Green Connection and Natural Justice’s submissions before her when she made her decision.
We believe that Minister Creecy’s decision to now allow for the late submission of Karpowerships’ Generic Environmental Management Programme report (GEMPr) is incorrect, since she did not consider all the information that should have been available to her. So, in the spirit of fairness, and because of the Department’s admitted error, we believe that the Minister must approach the courts herself, to get her decision overturned.”
“The Karpowership matters have tested the right to administrative justice, as it stands in the Constitution. We believe there are real concerns about how Karpowership has conducted the Environmental Impact Assessment process in South Africa and will continue to raise these concerns so that the public is aware of them. We call for the DFFE to consider our letter,” says Melissa Groenink-Groves, Programme Manager at Natural Justice.
The organisations say that, if the Minister does not approach the courts to review her own decision, they will be forced to do so themselves.
Sierra Leone power cuts a sign of SA’s future
The news that Karpowership has cut off electricity supply to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, should be a warning to citizens of what could happen if South Africa resolved to go with Karpower to address the energy crisis.
The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “Since it was first announced that Karpowerships was a preferred bidder to supply emergency electricity to South Africa, we have pointed out several problems with the process to progress these deals. Just in terms of the financial implications, we believe that Karpowerships will be too expensive for a country like ours, whose economy has been severely weakened by poor governance, corruption, and mismanagement.
What is happening in Sierra Leone is just another example illustrating why this is another bad energy idea from our government. We do not want expensive Karpowerships here. In addition to the load shedding crisis and the rising cost of everything, South Africa cannot afford to go down the same path.”
The Green Connection and other NGOs have gone to court to obtain relevant info. In August 2023, The Green Connection submitted a replying affidavit to KarpowershipSA companies and National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) opposing affidavits in The Green Connection’s application to compel the full record of decision.
This application forms part of a case brought by The Green Connection against NERSA to challenge its decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to the KarpowershipSA companies to operate powerships in the ports of Saldanha, Ngqura (Coega) and Richards Bay, which case is still pending. This court case was initiated in April 2022.