Interdict adds extra fuel to Wentworth residents’ ire

Wentworth residents who have been banned from protesting outside Engen’s Durban refinery by the high court have vowed to continue with their fight to force the petroleum giant to give their community contracts and shares in the company.

On Monday, acting judge Burt Laing granted an interim interdict banning Frank Alexander, Melanie Haines, Allen Holmes, Terrence Oglen and Brandon Manique — all members of the South Durban Basin Community Development Trust — from holding unauthorised protests at the refinery.

The five, who are liaison officers with the organisation, were ordered not to threaten or intimidate Engen staff members, suppliers and subcontractors. They were also barred from preventing trucks from leaving and entering the Tara Road refinery.

They have also been prevented by the court from inciting others to protest at the refinery, which was hit by five days of violent demonstrations over the past two months by residents demanding “reparations’’ from Engen, whose refinery has been operating on their doorstep for 60 years.

The protests culminated in a march on June 6, after which residents submitted a memorandum demanding that Engen open a clinic and a training centre, extend contracts to involve local businesses and employ more locals.


Residents are concerned that they will be excluded from the process surrounding the proposed sale of the refinery by majority shareholder Petronas, which controls 74% of the company.

In court papers, the acting general manager of the Engen refinery, Ernest Reid, said the demonstrations had become increasingly violent, with stun grenades being fired by police called in to break up unauthorised protests. He said petrol tankers had been stoned, and that tyres had been burned on the refinery perimeter adjacent to fuel storage areas.

Alexander told the Mail & Guardian this week that his organisation had been unable to engage a lawyer to fight the interdict, as they were only served with a notice for the application by Engen on Thursday.

“We … could therefore not rebut their accusations in court on Monday. We are doing so now, and are confident that when all the facts of the matter are in front of the court, it will rule in our favour,’’ he said.

Alexander said the freedom of movement of all five liaison officers had been curtailed by the court order, as the refinery was situated in the middle of the area where they live. Engen, he said, had acted in bad faith by agreeing to meetings, calling them off and then going to court.

“We live in this community but are not allowed near access points to the refinery. One of the applicants lives across the road from one of these. What is he meant to do?’’ he asked.

Alexander said they had started meeting other civil society organisations to get support for their cause.

“We are already talking to other progressive organisations, which understand our situation, to start networking and generating community support. We are talking to the churches and other structures about the issue,” he said. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

Related stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘Nobody will be able to stop us’ — Desmond D’Sa

Desmond D’Sa, winner of the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize in 2014, tells Paddy Harper how being forcibly removed from his home at the age of 10 taught him to fight for his rights

Calls to cap Eskom tariff increases

The national energy regulator has been accused of not following its mandate to protect consumers by allowing above inflation electricity price hikes

Human contact floats the boats

Discovering the life-sustaining importance of contact with actual people: colleagues, customers, and deputy presidents

Durban’s cruisers may just survive the Covid crisis

Five months of no income means things are touch and go for Durban’s harbour charter industry, but with help they hope to weather the storm

PPE scandal takes the bread out of SMEs’ mouths

The Special Investigating Unit is probing contracts worth more than R5-billion, over corruption allegations regarding the procurement of goods and services needed for the government’s Covid-19 response

Dumpsite fire that smoked out Pietermaritzburg is finally out

Firefighters have finally extinguished the fire at the New England Road landfill site in Pietermaritzburg, which had engulfed the KwaZulu-Natal capital in thick clouds of toxic smoke since it flared up more than a week ago
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years

Former state security minister Bongo back in court

Bongo and his co-accused will appear in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court in Mpumalanga over charges of fraud, corruption and theft
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday