Friday, 14 November 2014

Greetings friends and wilderness supporters

This update is being written a few days after the devastating news of Tim Condon’s death, on Sunday, 9 November.  Since the very first day of the Save Our iMfolozi Wilderness campaign, Tim has been its strongest on-line support and ally through his regular ZWF Enviro Focus newsletters.  It is particularly sad that he will not be witnessing the launch of the Grrrowd campaign, on 17 November 2014, that shifts the Save Our Wilderness campaign from a largely national battle to a powerful international campaign.  Please see 3. below for more information.

It is astonishing to think that at the time the SOW campaign started opposing the Fuleni mine project towards the end April 2014 there were two registered IAPs and that now the SOW campaign is on the brink of being supported by millions of people.  To achieve all this in less than seven months on a budget of R196 000 is incredible.  So many people have contributed to this success that it is difficult to know where to begin to say thank you.  There is, however, one person I have to single out: Dr Ian Player, my very dear friend, who introduced me to wilderness in 1983.  At 87 years old and from his hospital bed, after suffering a mild heart attack a few days ago, he is still engaging in this battle.  He established the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, a place of deep spiritual significance for him.  This affirmation of something much greater than our rational understanding is echoed by Sifiso Dladla, GET’s worthy and fearless community activist, who often comments, when extraordinary coincidences occur: “We are not alone”.  And he is definitely not referring only to human support!

Below are GET’s main achievements since mid-July 2014, which is when I sent out the last newsletter.  Though I apologize for not keeping CAWA informed, I do believe you will agree GET has been very busy these past four months and produced outstanding results:


  • GET & Save Our iMfolozi Wilderness Campaign – Websites & social media links


For regular updates please check the SOiW webpage, Facebook and Twitter:




Thanks to Rob Symons for getting the new Global Environmental Trust (GET) website up and running:  See




  • Rejection of Scoping Report for the Fuleni Mine


The SOW campaign achieved its first victory on 15 October 2014, when GET’s legal representative, Kirsten Youens, received a positive response from the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DEDTEA) to her letter of 14 August 2014, requesting the rejection of the Scoping Report for the Fuleni mine.  Mrs Lizinda Dickson, Public Participation Manager for Naledi Development Consultants, in Pretoria, stated that DEDTEA requires an extension of the scope of the consultation process and the scope of the environmental studies.  This has slowed down the speed with which Ibutho Coal’s Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP) Jacana Consultants and Naledi have been proceeding with the EIA process.  Jacana anticipated completing the EIA by 31 October 2014 and expected a decision from the Department of Mineral Affairs regarding the mining right on 27 January 2015.  In the event of this right being granted, GET would appeal this decision with the possibility of going to the Mining Tribunal before going to court.


GET’s legal strategy is to object at every opportunity – all the way to the Constitutional Court.  We are challenging the rationale of exporting the coal to China, India and Spain, leaving South Africa with serious environmental impacts, human rights issues and economic injustices that extend from the local Fuleni communities all the way to the iSimangaliso World Heritage site.


GET has also been engaging with the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) in Pietermaritzburg and Kirsten Youens has written a letter to the ITB Chairman in which she queries the two prospecting licences issued to Ibutho Coal without evidence of following correct procedure.  GET has also alerted them to the concerns of the Fuleni communities based on what they have seen has happened to the Somkhele communities affected by Petmin’s open cast coal mine east of HiP.



  • Legal Support and Funding: EDLC and The Grrrowd International Campaign


Through the Environmental Defenders Law Centre (EDLC) in Bozeman, Montana, GET started working with Grrrowd in October to prepare for the launch of its international campaign on 17 November 2014.  SOW was chosen as one of four campaigns worldwide to launch this global crowdfunding platform to raise money for legal battles against social, environmental and economic injustices around the world.   Grrrowd is based in The Hague, the city where the International Court of Justice resides.

Visit Grrrowd’s website and watch their powerful short video (1:34 mins) explaining their objectives:

Our rallying call to unite the efforts of GET, SOW and Grrrowd is “Soul NOT coal.”



  • Strengthening SOW network


The focus of the SOW campaign, through the Global Environmental Trust (GET) has been to build and strengthen networks.  Hence the formation of the Communities and Wilderness Alliance (CAWA), which currently comprises 65 organisations.  GET works very closely with three CAWA associates, viz. Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) a growing national movement; GroundWork, an NGO in PMB with its own coal mining campaign in Mpumalanga and Limpopo; and with the Gaia Foundation, UK, and its international network of organisations opposing coal mining.  On 13 November 2014, Gaia launched the “Yes to Life! No to Mining!” campaign, which has GET’s full support. See:  GET also recently linked up with the International Coal Network (ICN) part of Earthlife in JHB, which is all set to become another powerful ally.



  • Engagement with affected communities


GET is putting much of our energy and resources into informing and capacitating the four affected Fuleni villages about the reality of living next to an open cast coal mine.  In this, we have the support of the Somkhele communities east of the iMfolozi Wilderness Area.  They are fully committed to preventing the Fuleni people from suffering what they have had to endure since the Somkhele coal mine started its operations in 2007.  Exchange visits between Fuleni and Somkhele are proving to be the most effective and impactful way to inform Fuleni residents of what to expect if Ibutho Coal starts operating an open cast coal mine in their area.


These exchanges, at R15000 a day for 60 people, are expensive and it is not possible for GET to accommodate the estimated 4000 people in Fuleni who will be affected by the proposed mine.  On 7 November 2014, GET submitted a proposal to ICN for funds to extend and strengthen the Fuleni and Somkhele community outreach programmes through the production of a 5 minute educational documentary on the issues and concerns in Somkhele that the exchange visits have highlighted.  With the help of Colwyn Thomas, we are hoping to complete the video by the end of November 2014 and hold two large community meetings in Fuleni in December to showcase the movie, also available on DVDs for distribution.



  • Funding the SOiW campaign


The R2-million funding we have requested from Grrrowd will be dedicated to our court action challenging Ibutho Coal and other relevant parties and so we have to source additional funding for the other many activities we are involved in.  While most professionals and specialists serving on GET’s Subcommittee Opposing Mining Expansion (SOME) offer their services pro bono, funds are required to drive and administer the SOW campaign and GET’s engagement with the Fuleni communities.


We are extremely grateful for the support we have received to date and appeal to individuals as well as organisations to make monthly contributions.  If 50 people donate R100 every month for a next year, we will have R5000 every month.  This is enough for monthly two-day training workshops in Fuleni.  In December we are scheduled to run a Strategic Planning & Project Analysis for elected leaders from the four villages.  We also want to focus on the role of women in the community and in opposing the mine. With sufficient funding this will become a reality.  Wherever possible, GET tries to ensure funds are used within the Fuleni community to benefit and support Fuleni as much as possible.


To date, the total funding received is R 196,000.00.  This is made up as follows:

WILD-USA donated R10 000.00 and the Wilderness Foundation (WF-SA) WF-SA generously gave R20 000.00 directly to the SOiW campaign.

The following donations have been received by GET:

Uzavolo Trust donated R10,000.00

Wilderness Foundation donated R50,000.00

Kathleen Hastie Charitable Trust donated R40,000.00

Magqubu Ntombela Trust Rhino fund donated R20,000.00

Sustaining the Wild donated R1,000.00

Wildlands Conservation Trust donated R25,000.00

Wilderness Action Group pledged R20,000.00

All funds raised are held, dispersed and managed by GET.



  • GET and CAWA’s team of specialists:


It has been difficult to focus on the EIA process with all these other activities to contend with but Roger Porter has obtained specialist reports from Peter Goodman (rhino specialist) and John Forrest (wilderness management specialist). Progress has been made with a desk-top study to estimate the value of the wilderness area (ecosystem services/resource economics, psychological, recreational and sacred values) and the Fuleni land in terms of its contribution to the local economy as well as its intrinsic value for the local residents.  This is a vitally important aspect that the consultants stated will NOT be addressed during the EIA process!


Simon Bundy is our water specialist and Alan Stil is assisting us with information about the serious impacts of dust and air pollution emanating from coal mines.  Loretta Feris from the Institute of Marine & Environmental Law has indicated her willingness to produce a report on the value of “sense of place”.  In addition we require a heritage and cultural expert, a wildlife expert, an alternative energy expert, an economist who is an expert on coal as a commodity,



  • GET’s Subcommittee Opposing Mining Expansion (SOME) around HiP


Besides challenging the Fuleni mine, GET’s legal representative, Kirsten Youens, has also made submissions related to the illegal operations of Zululand Anthracite Collieries (ZAC) on the western boundary of iMfolozi.  GET is monitoring Somkhele’s plans to expand operations on the eastern boundary of iMfolozi.  These documents, together with specialist reports, have been submitted to DME for approval.



  • On-line and off-line Avaaz petition


The Avaaz on-line petition, launched on 28 May 2014 by Avaaz-SA, has been signed by almost 52 325 people.  With so much support from local communities, an off-line Avaaz paper petition in English and Zulu has been developed so that people without email addresses are also able to sign and be part of the petition.  Please contact me if you want a digital copy of the off-line petition.  We are aiming for 100 000 signatures, which will hopefully be achieved quite soon with all the interest the Grrrowd campaign is going to create.  When we reach our target, the petition will be handed to the Minister of Mineral Resources, Ngoako Ramathlodi, in Pretoria.

If you haven’t done so already, please sign and distribute the link to your networks.


Grrrowd discovered a Care2 petition developed by Susan V that has 115 479 signatures.  We are trying to contact the originator to inform her of the Grrrowd campaign and enlist her support.  She gives her address as Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina, USA.



  • Collaboration with Docu-Drama Group


On 2 November 2014, African Conservation Trust (ACT) and Ezemvelo organised a collaborative documentary drama in Zulu, “Understanding Fuleni”.  The work includes five professional actors and Neil Coppen, who has won several prestigious awards for his writing, acting, design and direction.  The play proved to be extremely popular with the Fuleni communities who gathered together for the premiere in Ocilwane village.  The play focusses on a family and their conversations highlight Ezemvelo’s concerns about the impacts of Fuleni mine on the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and on neighbouring communities, as well as the value of wilderness and protected areas.  The intention of the play is to facilitate discussions within the Fuleni community, where many EKZNW staff live, who will also be affected by the mine.


Below is the congratulatory sms sent by Mr Phila Ndimande, an elected leader from Ocilwane village, who is also the main spokesperson for the Fuleni communities on matters relating to the Fuleni mine:

“Good morning.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for … coming to our community. I am pleased to tell you that yesterday’s visit by the Ezemvelo team was one of those hard to forget days of our lives.

The play made it so clear to us all, as the mining affected communities, that we have to carry on fighting the Ibutho Coal Company till the end.  I suggested to the team that they must make a video of the play because it covers almost every aspect about impacts of mining on the community. On that note, I thank you for such a wonderful arrangement.  Regards Phila.   


Currently funds are being sought to perform the play in local schools.  GET is also working closely with the docu-drama team to ensure the play is seen by a wider audience by including it as part of workshops or national meetings addressing coal mining issues.  The intention is to make the movie Phila Ndimande has recommended.  A national radio station has also expressed interest in flighting the play as a 20-episode drama series in February or March 2015.

Please contact me if you require more information or have any questions.




Sheila Berry for GET SOME and CAWA

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