Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
The entire Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) unit of the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (DEDET) has come to a standstill, after the Sherriff of the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court attached its assets, apparently due to the non-payment of office rent.
The department’s EIA unit was located in 44 Murray Street Nelspruit, and the DA has reliable been informed that after a lengthy dispute about the rent payable for the office space, the Sherriff last week closed the doors of the unit – attaching all electronic hard drives and furniture of the EIA unit, halting their entire operation. We have also learnt that the Department of Public Works sprung into action, and urgently removed several furniture items from the office, possibly to prevent them from being attached.
The consequence of this occurrence is severe, as the consideration and approval of all EIAs in Mpumalanga has now stopped, threatening the progress and continuation of several development projects in the province. According to an independent environmental consultant who spoke to the DA, several development projects are at risk of not proceeding. Now some developers are considering legal action against DEDET for loss of income, as their projects have either been unduly delayed or have been halted due to the outstanding final EIA approval from the department.
Developers plan their projects, cash flows, work force, contractors and development deadlines to the finest detail and within the prescribed legislative frameworks, to coincide with the conducting of, consideration and approval of EIAs. EIA results must be released within a given timeframe, prescribed by law. If DEDET is unable to fulfil this function, the entire development is not only put at risk but is forced outside the ambits of the law. As a result many developments are either halted resulting in job losses or continued without the final EIA approval.
According to DA sources, several environmental case officers have been left in the lurch and are receiving little to no support from senior management of the department, including the HOD, Mr Vusani Dlamini, further compromising developments in the province.
It goes beyond comprehension how the DEDET, through its inability to manage a basic lease agreement, has become a severe obstacle to economic development in our province. Yet again, job security and the progress of our province have been compromised by government. This situation has been created by pure incompetence and could easily have been avoided.
The DA calls on the MEC, Norman Mokoena to investigate this matter and to determine who was responsible for servicing the lease agreement and how this chaotic situation was allowed to develop in the first place and to take appropriate disciplinary actions. We also call on DEDET to do everything required to have the confiscated computer hard drives returned and to ensure that the EIA unit is fully functional as soon as possible, and to ensure that no development in our province is lost due to this absurd occurrence.