We have been intrigued by the name Sungu Sungu ever since we spotted their exploration concession on the PASA map a year or so ago. They don’t seem to answer their phone and we once tried to track them down in Gauteng, where they have an rather empty looking and nondescript office in Bedfordview. Now Sungu Sungu has appointed EIMS as the environmental consultant to begin the Scoping Phase to allow them to explore for oil and gas over 565 000hectares in the Berg foothills.
“Exploration Right ER313 – The proposed exploration area is located within the Okhahlamba, Phumelela, Dannhauser, Emnambithi/Ladysmith and Maluti a Phofung Local Municipalities, extending south from approximately Memel, north of Winterton, east from Swinburne and west of Watersmeet. The approximate centre point of the site is located at: 28°19’20.44″S; 29°28’19.20″E. This includes Bergvillle, Verkykerskop, Van Reenen, Spioenkop.”
Are you familiar with these areas? Stoep-sitting with convivial conversation and spectacular views are regular activities.
In the grass covered hills surrounding Geluksberg on the border of KwaZulu Natal and the Free State, youngsters still explore the hills, ride bareback, climb cliffs and swim in the streams. Enjoying whole days of freedom which are unknown to most children today, often from the top of the iconic hill Tintwa. When viewed from the East, this hill is shaped like a wagon tent, which earned it its name during the Great Trek.
Local resident Andre Venter – “We accidentally stumbled upon this whole fracking business and never realised that the issue is so big. We were caught totally by surprise. Had it not been that my wife enjoyed lunch in Swinburne and that the owners told her about the situation, we would never have known. We have no municipal infrastructure. Geluksburgers and the farming community are totally dependent on borehole water. So, now that we have become aware of this unwelcome invasion into our area, we will need to play catch up rather fast and do everything and anything in our power to preserve our tranquil environment, particularly our water resources. To us everything is still very new, perhaps even foreign to some. I, for one, have been under the impression that fracking was limited to the Karoo. We have all registered as Interested and Affected Parties.”
Van Reenen is full of surprises – including the best scones on the N3 – here one can spend the morning in a Zulu kraal, the afternoon at a polo match and have coffee on the stoep with an Afrikaans farmer in the evening. In the village, tucked beneath tall gum trees, are more fascinating ingredients in the Van Reenen mix. Most travellers, don’t venture this far (100 metres!) off the highway and what a pity that is. Little has changed at the much loved Green Lantern Inn over the years, it is still the centre of the village.
Tourism Officer Mbuso loves walking down to the Bushman paintings in a rock overhang on the edge of the village. “This is real history and through learning about this art, I have become more interested in history.” Mbuso’s cousin, Bonginkosi, is a local bird guide who has started an enviro-club – Nakakele Nature Heroes. Youngsters gather after school around the small pan in Enthokozweni where they have seen yellow billed ducks, red cormorants, whiskered terns, little grebes, and African shelducks. On special occasions they venture up onto Nelsonskop to see the Bearded Vulture – izingwony zenkosi.
Caroline Bruce of Oaklands Country Lodge is horrified at the application. She immediately registered her concern on behalf of her community. “Please let it be known that we as individuals, a community and businesses strongly object to any suggestion of fracking in our area and fracking in general! We will not support any suggestion of fracking in South Africa and —No Exploration Ever. Permitting fracking is gross negligence and will create environmental and human devastation. We will not allow our water to be polluted and our environment to be destroyed. We insist that there is an organised presentation by the parties planning on Exploring for Oil and Gas in our area and that the local community is informed adequately of the meeting and that the meeting be held in English, isiZulu and seSotho.”
The Klip River is the lifeblood of this town providing water to thousands of residents, businesses and agriculture. Ladysmith made world headlines at the end of the 19th century when it was besieged for 118 days during the most crucial stage of the Anglo-Boer/South African War. Its historic heritage is its main claim to fame, with many fascinating sites to discover – cemeteries, forts and battlefields. The legendary Mahatma Gandhi served with General Buller’s relief forces after the Siege of Ladysmith.
The Elandslaagte Farmers Association and Sundays River Irrigation Board have registered as Interested and Affected Parties early and will be following the process carefully to protect their water resource and livelihoods.
Durban Resident, Elana Bregin understands that many millions of people rely on the water from the rivers that start in the Berg foothills. She has registered as an IAP, commenting “The environmental destruction and contamination of water reserves and other natural resources that fracking entails – and the huge amounts of water it requires – is absolutely criminal in a country already experiencing high water scarcity and a province where rivers are dry and some communities have not seen rain for 2 years – and are reliant on the kindness of NGOs to survive. In KZN in particular the relentless scope of the exploration will leave hardly an area and a community untouched. So much risk, so much damage, so much cost to so many – for the profit of so few. We cannot drink oil! Environmental destruction is forever! Communities in the path of this destructive practice will never regain what has been lost.’Amanzi Awethu!’ We don’t know nearly enough of the short and long-term consequences of this highly damaging process to allow it to go ahead. but we need at the least to take heed of the experiences of communities elsewhere, in Texas, California, Colorado and Canada who have already felt the effects.”
Spioenkop looks out over the Mfazimnyama valley, aloes and thorn trees. The name Spioenkop (Spy or Lookout Hill) was given to this impressive hill by the Voortrekkers in 1837 as they settled along the Tugela River Valley and is the site of a major Anglo-Boer War Battle attracting thousands of tourists every year. Over 300 bird species have been recorded in the area including Cape Vultures, Lanner Falcons, White-bellied bustards, Buff Streaked Chats & Fairy Flycatchers. In the winter months (when the aloes are flowering) many mountain-dwelling species descend to the foothills to take advantage of the warmer climes, sweet nectar & insects that adorn these spectacular plants.
Interesting plans are afoot to develop Verkykerskop into a small scale agricultural town, with alternate energy sources, food gardens, water harvesting –revitalising the agricultural history of the area – agrarian urbanism is the term. The VKB depot is filled with enormous sacks of fertilizer and plenty of diesel, the trading store doubles as the pub and pizzeria and provides a gathering place for farmers at the end of long dry days. People barter a lot – strawberries for chickens and pumpkins for pork – it is an old fashioned community, not all that keen on having their lives turned upside down by mining.
Kevan Zunckel, Environmental and Ecological Consultant, has already registered, expressing his grave concern for the proposal: “Up front please register also my extreme concern at the absolute and complete unsustainability and incompatibility of the proposed activity. South Africa has many other renewable energy options that need to be explored and utilised and simply cannot afford an activity that will threaten our scarce water resources. I believe that it is highly irresponsible to even consider the possibility of unconventional gas extraction and that the environmental and social rights of affected communities will be substantially infringed if this has to go ahead. On top of this, the development proponent will never be e to internalise the extensive externalities that will be generated by this activity.”
Register now with Zizo Siwendu for ER 313 ERsungu@eims.co.za and with Nobuhle Hughes at KZNMotuoane@eims.co.za for PASA Ref: 12/3/316 ER and for applications in neighbouring areas of Emnambithi Local Municipality, Ladysmith, through Watersmeet, east of Besters and south of Droogdal, and PASA Ref: 12/3/315 ER Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Moqhaka Local Municipalities including Theunissen, towards Kroonstad, east of Virginia and Henneman.
The Sungu Sungu Value Statement reads: “We strive to extend our boundaries and spheres of influence to effect positive change. Sungu Sungu is about collective success.” We intend that to include OUR success at stopping them from settling anywhere near our stoep.