The Integrated Coastal Energy Alliance (ICEA), Nelson Mandela Bay residents and local businesses being represented in the Maritime Business Chamber recently arranged a motorcade to protest in support of a powership project in the region.
Turkey-based company, Karpowership, was one of three successful bidders and won government contracts for the gas-to-power project in Richards Bay, Coega and Saldanha Bay.
However, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment blocked Karpowership’s permit application due to concerns about scant environmental impact assessments (EIA).
The project is part of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP).
Community organisation demands
But despite controversy surrounding the 20-year, multi-billion rand 2,000MW gas-to-power project, which has been accused of, among other things, corruption and collusion, lacking in transparency and being potentially problematic for the environment, residents of Nelson Mandela Bay want the ship to dock in their region.
They say they want Karpowership to be the preferred bidder, in light of their engaging local communities and tabling a clear way in which local communities can benefit from the project.
Many posters held by demonstrators also indicated they wished to put a stop to load shedding through the powership project.
In a memorandum handed over to authorities on Wednesday, they demanded the following:
- That the EIA appeal process for the project be completed.
- That the Transnet National Port Authority create jobs to assist local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in their recovery and full operation.
- More local investment in the Eastern Cape, to unlock opportunities in the maritime, power, transport and gas sectors.
- That Transnet create a localisation strategy to benefit local businesses.
“Local communities urge the government to finalise and implement the RMIPPPP together with strategic programmes that will assist in economic growth, skills development, job creation and stable supply of electricity to citizens in the region,” their memorandum read.
The Maritime Business Chamber, the ICEA and the local business committee have given government 14 days to respond to their memorandum.
“We are fed up with load shedding. We can’t understand why a project clearly designed to create a foundation for economic recovery, like the RMIPPPP, keeps getting delayed, Nelson Mandela Bay local business council secretary Masixole Mashelele said.
“As Nelson Mandela Bay, we are angry that our elected officials at national level are allowing themselves to be pushed around by so called environmental groups who send their own people into our communities, pretending to represent us and then creating false media noise.
“We strongly support the Karpowership project and demand that the government stand up against these nuisance makers.”
Fresh corruption allegations
Amidst local protest action, new corruption allegations have emerged from a losing powership bidder, DNG Energy.
According to the company’s CEO, the tender process was rigged, with DNG destined to receive the bulk of the tender before it was awarded to Karpowership.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, based on an affidavit submitted in court papers, that Karpowership and a government official had partnered up, after DNG declined a bribe offered to them.
The allegations have been repeatedly denied by Karpowership and its local partners, Powergroup SA.
The energy department has also been accused of forming part of the alleged bribery involved in the controversial tender.