“No protests – we’re a National Key Point“. This is the message from Engen refinery in South Durban to community activists.
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), an active member of R2K KZN, is one of the organisations behind a ‘Cancer Walk’ on Saturday 11 October 2014 to highlight the high rate of cancer and asthma in communities surrounding south Durban’s petro-chemical industries. The area is sometimes referred to as ‘cancer alley’ because of the health problems that occur there.
The Cancer Walk will include a procession to Engen refinery, where the SDCEA organisers have announced that they intend to hand over a memorandum to the general manager.
Yesterday, SDCEA organisers received a threatening letter in response, signed by the general manager of Engen refinery, warning that the site is protected by the National Key Points Act, and claiming that any protest action directed at Engen refinery would be “wrongful, unlawful, malicious, defamatory or damaging”.
Read the full letter here.
In it, the refinery general manager, Mr Jehan Zaib, states that:
Engen objects and does not accept that the protest march should proceed to Engen refinery as this suggests and implies that the march is directed against Engen as an organisation responsible for the alleged cancer and distresses of chemical impacts to the community… Without scientific evidence to prove that Engen is responsible, Engen regards the march as an unlawful, wrong and malicious act, intended to injure and defame the name of Engen.
Engen refinery is also a known National Key Point (one of about 200 across the country). The letter states that “Engen has an obligation and a right” in terms of the National Key Points Act “to take any such actions as it deems necessary in the interests of the National Key Point Installation”.
The letter ends with a warning that it will hold SDCEA responsible for
any unauthorised interference with its property or any of Engen employees [sic] that may occur during the protest march… any use of or reference to Engen’s name in a way that is wrongful, unlawful, malicious, defamatory or damaging.
According to SAPS documents, “more than half” of all sites protected by the National Key Points Act are private companies, although officially the list of sites that have been declared National Key Points is secret. There have been a number of known incidents in recent years in which the Act has been invoked in dubious circumstances to prevent or discourage protest.
It appears that the Cancer Walk organisers intend to go forward as planned. The event will start 8am at the Badulla Road sports grounds and proceed to the Engen Refinery, before walkers head to the Highbury Road sports grounds where the walk ends and other activities are set to take place.