Wentworth residents gain ally in battle against Engen

A South Durban organisation is applying to join the high court battle between petrochemical giant Engen and Wentworth residents, whom the company has interdicted from protesting outside its refinery.

Last month Engen secured an interim order in the high court in Durban, barring members of the South Durban Basin Community Development Trust from protesting outside its refinery in Wentworth township’s Tara Road.

The organisation, led by Frank Alexander, Melanie Haines, Allen Holmes, Terrence Ogle and Brandon Manique, had staged a protest march during June, in which residents demanded jobs, contracts and shares in the company.

Engen went to court, claiming the protesters were a threat to public safety, using the apartheid-era National Key Points Act to ask for a ban on protests.

The matter has been adjourned until August 10 to allow the respondents to file their court affidavits in response to Engen’s claims.

Desmond D’Sa, chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said on Wednesday that the organisation had approached the Legal Resources Centre to apply to the court to join the matter as amicus curiae — friends of the court — because the ban on protests negatively affected people’s right to freedom of assembly.

“We will join the matter, as it has an impact on everybody who is living and working in South Durban. We are dealing here with a company that has been bullying communities, disrespecting them and flooding the area with toxins,’’ he said.

“The chemical and petrochemical industries have imposed their will on the people of South Durban for years. This is another example of this. We have to join in this fight as Engen’s action impacts on all of us here,’’ D’Sa said.

Reeves Parsee, lawyer for the development trust, said they had requested an extension from the court to file their affidavits.

Parsee said Engen’s action affected “the entire community’s rights, and those of our clients, to assemble, protest and raise their concerns’’.

Engen spokesperson Gavin Smith had not responded to queries from Mail & Guardian at the time of writing.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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