Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Rights group wins court bid against Engen

The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) has won a bid to join the high court battle between a group of south Durban basin activists and petroleum giant Engen as a friend of the court.

The groups want the Regulation of Gatherings Act — which Engen used to have the protests outside its Wentworth refinery banned — to be declared constitutionally invalid by the court.

On Friday the high court in Durban granted the application by the civil society body, which campaigns about access to information and freedom of political activity, to join the case between Engen and the South Durban Basin Community Development Trust as an amicus curiae (friend of the court).

In terms of the order, R2K is given leave to present oral evidence and written submissions to the challenge to the Act by the trust. Members of the trust were involved in a series of protests in 2018 to try to force Engen, which has run the refinery in Wentworth since 1954, to employ local people and involve local contractors in its multibillion-dollar business.

R2K will submit written heads of argument to the court seven days before the matter is set down to be heard. 

Engen responded to the protests, some of which became violent, by securing an interim interdict against the trust and its leaders, Frank Alexander, Melanie Haines, Allen Holmes, Terrence Ogle and Brandon Manique, using the Gatherings Act and the National Key Points Act to secure the order against them.

However, they went back to the court to challenge the interdict and the terms of the Gatherings Act, arguing in court papers that section 12(1)(a) of the Act violated their right to protest in terms of section 17 of the Bill of Rights and their labour rights in terms of section 23 of the Bill.

Engen had unsuccessfully objected to R2K joining the case, arguing in its heads of argument that the protests had been violent and potentially “catastrophic” and that the application of the Act had been appropriate under the circumstances.

Alexander welcomed the judgment.

The Mail & Guardian has reported in the past on the effects of Engen’s refineries on the community of Wentworth. Cancer rates in the valley where much of the community sits are so high that everyone speaks about it as “cancer valley”. Research by the University of KwaZulu-Natal shows that leukaemia is 24 times higher here than anywhere else in the country. Half the schoolchildren in the area suffer from asthma.

The two largest industries are the oil refineries, but the presence of many other petrochemical plants means there are about 300 smokestacks in south Durban.

These health effects have meant a decades-long battle between the community and Engen and other industries to lower pollution levels. Engen has consistently said that there are other sources of pollution, and that it has spent significant amounts of money to reduce the effect that it has.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Life Esidimeni inquest postponed until August 30

The lawyer for the bereaved families argued that Dr Makgabo Manamela’s requests for postponements have a negative impact on the families of the deceased who seek closure

RECAP: Mbeki tells ANC that land without compensation goes against...

‘This would be a very serious disincentive to investment,’ says Thabo Mbeki in a document arguing that the ANC should not proceed with the Constitutional amendment of section 25

More top stories

Government proclaims 27 October for local elections, but supports...

The IEC has accepted former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke’s recommendation to postpone the vote to February, but still needs Constitutional Court approval to do so

ANC Free State endorses three names for Mangaung mayor

The three candidates the province has put forward are said to be Ramaphosa supporters, who will further alienate Magashule from his power base

ANC’s provincial executive committee endorses three candidates for Joburg mayor...

Sources say that the PEC gave the nod to the three names put forward by the Johannesburg regional executive committee

Covid-19 draws the bulk of health sector’s focus, at the...

Children have accounted for a relatively low number of coronavirus cases, but other facets of their healthcare and wellbeing have suffered
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×