Parliament, Friday, 5 February 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries today concluded a two-day oversight visit to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province.

The committee conducted an oversight visit to the Isimangaliso Wetland Park on Thursday, where the entity highlighted the 10 jewels of the park that attract tourists, the improvement of relations and engagement with communities and local municipalities, efforts to restore the natural system of how the rivers, the estuary and the ocean interacted and upgrades of the existing infrastructure, construction of lodges and facilities that are legally the responsibility of KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife to enhance tourism.

The committee also held a meeting with community members and stakeholders of the park. It noted the positive remarks made by the stakeholders of Isimangaliso, on the new chief executive officer (CEO), Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini. It also heard that the CEO has worked hard in resuscitating relations between the park and the surrounding communities, involving communities in the decision-making process and improvement of their livelihoods by supporting local businesses.

He has also restored the availability of fish by opening the river mouth (estuary), thus increasing fish catches for the local fishermen. The resuscitated relations and successful restoration of the estuary have resulted in reduced poaching and the involvement of the community to combat poaching. The committee noted, however, that the farmers were not entirely pleased by the river mouth opening because their fields and homes got flooded, and there is no disaster relief for them.

After the visit to the park, the committee resolved that the current working arrangement between iSimangaliso and Ezemvelo was not sustainable and required clarification of their roles and responsibilities in the park. The committee also believes that iSimangaliso should go to the communities to seek and employ people with disabilities and ensure that it must meet its target in the next financial year, and should explore the sourcing of funds from financial or development institutions to meet its sustainability objectives.

The committee conducted an oversight visit to the Engen refinery in the South Durban Basin where an explosion occurred last year. Engen informed the committee that their operating permit has been revoked, due to the explosion, until the refinery submits the investigation report and preventative measures to the authorities. The committee was informed that the explosion site was inaccessible due to health and safety hazards and lack of clearance from the Department of Employment and Labour, and that private investigations are ongoing; hence the closure of the refinery.

The committee also met with the affected community representatives and associated stakeholders. They expressed lack of trust in Engen, the municipality and the provincial government due to their lack of holding Engen accountable for the incident. The committee was told that the community suffers long-term health conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes and other respiratory illnesses, and Engen does not take responsibility. Similarly, Engen has not repaired damages caused by the explosion in people’s homes.

The committee resolved that it will not accept the blame-shifting by Engen, instead of taking responsibility for the explosion and other associated problems. The information supplied by Engen contradicts what Members of the committee saw in photos about chemicals flowing into the community water canal from Engen. The committee has requested Engen to submit all reports related to the incident and it will give feedback to the communities after considering and deliberating on all submissions, including from community members.


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