The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has taken provincial EDTEA MEC, Ravi Pillay, to task over this failure to honour a commitment to absolute public transparency in terms of the findings of a probe into the UPL disaster.
The environmental disaster, which took place during the July unrest, has seen beaches between Umhlanga and Ballito closed for more than eight weeks after toxic elements, including arsenic, were found to have contaminated the coastline.
It is clear from a media report yesterday, that MEC Pillay and his Department have willingly and knowingly shared test results relating to the UPL disaster with a specifically selected media house. In so doing, the MEC has shown a complete disregard for his commitment to community transparency.
Regrettably, we are once again witnessing a selective and deliberate cat and mouse game with information that should be readily available to the public.
It is the Department that should be communicating in the form of a press release, media advisory or a public statement – so that everyone has access to the test results and their interpretation and can make an informed decision about whether they want to use the beaches when they reopen, or not.
To add insult to injury, the MEC’s promise at a meeting with concerned members of the public last weekend, to set up a public stakeholders’ forum, has also not materialised to date.
Furthermore, he has also reneged on his assurances of absolute transparency to KZN’s Environmental Affairs portfolio committee, with members not having been provided with the report.
As the Department’s oversight body, the committee should be the first to see it, particularly after we instructed the MEC to be open and transparent with us. It is also not good enough that we should wait for the next meeting which will only be after the elections, before we get these interpretations.
As elected representatives, it is the committee’s mandate to keep the public informed on environmental issues in KZN. We cannot do this if the Department does not make the findings available to us.
The DA demands that the outcome of the probe, its interpretations and the analysis of whether the beaches are safe to use once reopened be placed on the Department’s website without further delay.
This is a matter of constitutionality and public safety and concern. There should not be a situation where the public, the media and oversight bodies have to demand information.