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The bill seeks to provide a framework for marine spatial planning in South Africa, to provide for the development of such plans and governance of the use of the ocean by multiple sectors, among others.
Most of those present at the Durban Exhibition Centre were against the bill and cited many concerns, which included pollution and exploitation of the sea’s resources.
Janet Solomon, of Oceans Not Oil, said her chief concern was that the Bill would facilitate oil and gas exploration along the coastline.
“This is a push for oil and gas development along our coastline and we’re not hearing any answers around oil and gas. We are at a point where carbon emissions have to be considered. We are in a situation where we have a panel that has the power to transform how we view energy needs in the future and they are not doing anything about it,” Solomon said.
She added that pollution was a massive issue and that the South African taxpayer would now be responsible for the financial handling of an oil spill and not the oil companies.
Vusi Zweli, the chairperson of Ubunye Bamahostela, said the bill mentioned economic benefits, but not for whom and this opened the doors to exploitation.
“Big companies are from overseas; those companies exploit our resources in the sea and then run away back to their countries,” Zweli said.
He added that they would not pass the bill because it seemed there was a lot in it that had not been answered.
“There has not been proper planning, so what will the enforcement be like?
“We are Zionists. We use the sea to cleanse ourselves. We’re baptised in the sea and there are many things we do in the ocean. When it has been destroyed by oil, who will take responsibility?” he asked.
He asked for the bill to be delayed so that citizens could ask others to read it and advise them about it.
Desmond D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), said the bill did not say who would be allowed into the oceans.
“It doesn’t talk specifically (about) how things will be done. We need to know about these things.”
He felt the bill should be looking at how it would address the looting and stealing from the coastline.
It should protect the South African people, protect the people of Durban and all those living in KZN.
“This bill is weak and it doesn’t give people a voice. It must be inclusive,” he said.
D’Sa added that the bill must not supersede Constitutional rights.
“If there are other issues that impact on our livelihoods, then we should be able to take you (government) to court.”