Grave concerns over Xolobeni mine plan - Daily Dispatch article - 30 April 2008

ENVIRONMENTAL Affairs officials had “grave concerns” over the proposed mining at Xolobeni in Transkei – but only objected after deadlines for submissions had closed.

They said the mining would have a significant and permanent impact on several rivers and estuaries.

Their objections were contained in a letter written by Pamela Yako, the former director-general of the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

“The department has grave concerns with regard to the proposed mining developments in the area and object to it,” said Yako, in her December 20, 2007, letter addressed to the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME).

SAHRC raps ministers

Business Day article By Franny Rabkin - 23 April 2008 CONFUSION reigned at a South African Human Rights Commission hearing yesterday into a dispute over the right to exploit mineral sands at Xolobeni, on the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape. The ministers of minerals and energy , agriculture and land affairs, and environmental affairs and tourism were subpoenaed to appear before the commission, which is trying to investigate the problem. Xolobeni residents disagree over the possibility of a mining licence being granted to an Australian company, Mineral Resources , and its South African subsidiary, Transworld Energy Minerals. Some support it, in the hope that it will bring development. Others are against it on environmental grounds.

Masimanyane Mussel Rehabilitation Project

  • Posted on: 20 April 2008
  • By: MRP
Click here to view a scanned copy of the Daily Dispatch article. The Masimanyane Mussel Rehabilitation Project in Coffee Bay celebrated their first official harvest of mussels on Saturday 19th April 2008. A few years ago there were no mussels on these rocks where participants in the project can be seen harvesting: The event was attended by tribal leaders, representatives from Environmental Affairs & Tourism (DEAT), Marine & Coastal Management (MCM) & Walter Sisulu University (WSU). Approximately 60 "harvesters" who had contributed to the project were involved in the actual harvesting of mussels. The harvesters used screwdriver-like implements with thin (1.5 cm) blades, and each harvester collected one 5 liter container's worth of mussels. To provide sustainability and encourage natural re-propagation, no more than 60% of the rehabilitated rocks will ever be harvested at one time. It is interesting to note that the subsistence limit currently enforced is 30 mussels per day, and the founder of the Mussel Rehabilitation Project, Dr. Gugu Calvo-Ugarteburu, is also passionately involved with attempting to reform legislation that is prejudicial to impoverished subsistence-level gatherers reliant on their own natural resources.

Wild Coast Tourism

"Mining the Pondoland Wild Coast is the moral, cultural and aesthetic equivalent of quarrying Ayers Rock for granite, or the Great Barrier Reef for calcium carbonate." ~Richard Spoor

The Wild Coast is the most beautiful coastline on Earth; and is host to the Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE)... one of 34 internationally recognized biodiversity hotspots on our planet Earth.

This site is essentially a tourism information portal - where local businesses can register and upload their details and photos on the internet for free. Unfortunately, despite the fact that South Africa is a signatory to the Convention on Biodiversity, our government and certain vested interests are flagrantly threatening the PCE with titanium strip mining - and doing everything in their power to pave the way for autocratic control over the mining industry regardless of environmental impact issues.

Until such time as government declares the PCE a national park as was promised, this site will remain an environmentally conscious and active protest forum.

We appreciate your registration on this site - whether in solidarity, disagreement, or simply to promote your Wild Coast business venture. Registration and (basic) hosting on this site is, and always will be, FREE! Click here to register

"Occupants of public offices love power and are prone to abuse it." ~George Washington

Final Notice: Public Hearings: National Environmental Management AB (B36-2007)

  • Posted on: 1 November 2007
  • By: JB


Comments due by today !!!

Public Hearings: National Environmental Management Amendment Bill (36-2007)

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism will be conducting public hearings on the National Environmental Management Amendment Bill (36-2007).

Deadline for written submissions: November 2nd, 2007
Public Hearings: November 6th, 2007

Ms. Albertina Kakaza
Fax: 021 403 2808

Click here to obtain a copy of the Bill.

Ms. Albertina Kakaza 021 403 3765

(Note: basically the amendment appears to remove the mining industry from the NEMA (National Environment Management Act) and places overriding authority at the discretion of the minister of minerals and energy. Further, it vitiates environmental controls in favor of the commercial consequences - and allows decisions to be made by any minister or MEC . . . without public consultation.)

Camagu ~*~

  • Posted on: 2 October 2007
  • By: JB

Environmental Affairs and Tourism: Minister Valli Moosa's 2002 Budget Vote Speech

It's not really news, nor yet history, but I hope the sentiments expressed in this speech (full speech link above... excerpted below) are carried through by the SA government.

There has been ominous posturing and shuffling of issues and circumstances to try and cater towards the estimated $70 - $220 Bn wealth in the heavy sand deposits of Xolobeni and its surrounds. (E.g. exclusive powers of DME not subject to EIAs, removal of smelter from TEM's EIA until a "Bankable Feasibility Study" is undertaken... pursuant to the issue of a mining license... Eskom's power upgrade (to 5 x current capacity) and extension to TEM's doorstep in Xolobeni, Jeff Radebe's and the ANC's party line (read ORT and KSD municipalities public attitude of welcome) toward the N2 toll road and all its ramifications... And most importantly: the combined effect of all these environmental threats smack in the centre of the Pondoland Centre of Endemism and the greater Maputoland Corridor.


Two principles -- sustainability and partnerships -- have become imperatives in almost all human activity. Just as the system of apartheid was unsustainable -- it imploded on its own immorality -- so, too, will a world which feeds on the earth at a rate faster than it is able to replenish itself. Today, the world harvests fish faster than the fish reproduce -- will future generations have fish to eat? We pump carbon dioxide into the air faster than the production of oxygen by forests. We destroy the earth as we develop. Sustainable development is principally about human welfare rather than merely a "green" question.

It is no accident that the programme for the African renaissance is entitled the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). For the poor of this world, for the marginalised, for the African, the words of poet John Donne ring truer than ever.

"No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main."

Working in partnership -- acting together with others -- makes it possible to tackle local and international needs with the urgency needed.

In his novel, The Heart of Redness, Zakes Mda takes us to Qolorha-by-Sea on the Wild Coast:

"The developers, two bald white men and a young black man, come early on a Saturday morning and insist that the meeting be held at the lagoon. ... The young black man is introduced as Lefo Leballo, the new chief executive officer of the black empowerment company that is going to develop the village into a tourist heaven. ... The two elderly white men -- both in black suits -- are Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. ...

"Mr. Smith talks of the wonders that will happen to Qolorha-by-Sea. There will be boats and water-skiing and jet-skiing. ...

"'Right here,' says Mr. Smith, 'we shall see the biggest and most daring rides of all roller coasters in the world ... over the rough sea.'

"'That is not all my dear friends,' says Mr. Smith excitedly. 'We are going to have cable cars too. Cable cars shall move across the water from one end of the lagoon to the other.'

But Camagu is not impressed.

"'You talk of all these rides and all these wonderful things,' he says, 'but for whose benefit are they? What will these villagers who are sitting here get from all these things? ... These things will be enjoyed only by the rich people who will come here and pollute our rivers and our ocean.' ...

"[Zim, an elder, says] '...This son of Cesane is right. They will destroy our trees and the plants of our forefathers for nothing. We, the people of Qolorha, will not gain anything from this.'

"'You have nothing to offer these people,' says Mr. Jones to Camagu. 'If you fight against these wonderful developments, what do you have to offer in their place?'

"[Camagu replies] 'The promotion of the kind of tourism that will benefit the people, that will not destroy indigenous forests, that will not bring hordes of people who will pollute the rivers and drive away the birds.'

"'That is just a dream,' shouts Lefa Leballo. 'There is no such tourism.'"

This is the universal challenge of sustainable development faced by humanity today! This is the challenge before the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The Johannesburg Summit is about the construction of a global partnership for the environmentally sustainable social and economic development of the poor.

The decade since the Rio Earth Summit held in 1992 has seen the process of globalisation create unprecedented wealth, productivity and trade, while many developing countries, and Africa in particular, have been pushed to the fringes of the global system. Each year in the past decade an additional 10 million people have joined the ranks of the very poor in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For these people, the fine words of Agenda 21 has meant little.

The last decade was marked by unprecedented level of global concern for the protection of the Earth's fragile environment. South Africa is of the view that the Johannesburg Summit must negotiate a new global deal or partnership that brings the economic and social pillars of sustainable development back into the equation. Our watchwords are "People, Planet, Prosperity".

A new global deal on sustainable development is possible because of certain key international developments:

* the decision of the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 to halve world poverty by the year 2015;
* the World Trade Organisation's Doha decision to embark on a development round of negotiations; and
* the adoption of the Monterrey Consensus by the UN Finance for Development's conference, providing a framework for development financing.

The main task of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development is to focus on implementation plans. It must result in a programme of action whose elements will include access to fresh water and sanitation, access to energy, food security, health care, primary education and technology transfer.

For us on the African continent, this programme of action will be informed by NEPAD.

The formal intergovernmental negotiations will be paralleled by a wide range of side events, cultural activities, the Civil Society Forum, and many interest groups expressing their views and contributions on a sustainable future for the planet. These activities are where some of the real dynamism and creativity of the Summit will be expressed, and where most of the large number of people visiting the Summit will be engaged.

Parliamentarians from around the world will also be gathering in a special stakeholder event. Members of this House are playing a key role in facilitating this event. I would like to commend the role played by the Portfolio Committee and its chairperson, together with Globe South Africa, in promoting dialogue on the key issues to be addressed at the Summit.

Logistical preparations for the Summit are at an advanced stage.

Government has established a dedicated non-profit organisation, the Johannesburg World Summit Company (Jowsco) to manage these preparations. Jowsco is managed jointly by national government, the Gauteng Province and the Johannesburg Metro.

In preparing the logistics we have paid careful attention to issues such as black economic empowerment, community participation and environmental best practice.

We aim to make the Summit "carbon neutral' by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and investing in forestry projects that will absorb the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions generated by Summit activities. Gauteng is leading the project to "green" the Summit, and I would like to commend MEC Mary Metcalfe for her visionary role in this regard.

The three spheres of government are also jointly making key financial contributions to running the Summit, with a total government contribution of R200m. These funds are being leveraged with donor and corporate sponsorships to make up the total Summit budget of R551m. I would like to give special thanks to those sponsors who have generously assisted South Africa to pull off a major event of this scale. In all, we aim to leverage the national government's budget of R140m four times over. We estimate that this will bring at least R1,5 billion into the South African economy, in addition to the benefits associated with branding, imaging and tourism, which are less easy to quantify.

Madam Speaker, the preparation time South Africa has had for this Summit has been extremely tight. I am nevertheless confident that all our arrangements are on track, and that we have both the capacity and commitment in our management team to do this country proud in hosting this Summit. We look forward to hosting you, Madam Speaker, together with other members of this House, in Johannesburg, and hope that we can continue to rely on your support in the complex preparations for the Summit over the next few months.

The Johannesburg Summit takes place at a time when South Africa's position as a world tourism destination continues to strengthen.

The year 2002 started well for tourism to South Africa, with a growth of 3,7% in foreign arrivals in January. The monthly figures show an increase of 18 479 compared to January 2001.

The growth occurred largely out of the UK and Germany, two of South African Tourism's high-priority markets. Growth from the UK was 14,6%, and growth out of Germany was 14,7% for January 2002 compared with January 2001.

While there was growth out of China and Thailand off a lower base, the biggest gains for Asia were made from India, with a 18,2% increase. Total tourist arrivals out of Africa increased from 362 794 to 374 269 (up 3,2%), despite arrivals from Lesotho continuing its downward trend. The downward trend of Lesotho arrivals has been continuing for the past three years following the restructuring of the gold industry.

Total tourist arrivals in 2001 were 5,78 million, compared to 5,87 million in 2000. The arrivals for the rest of Africa in 2001 increased from 2 668 407 to 2 836 637 (up 6,3%). Total arrivals, without Lesotho, in 2001 was 4 504 585, which is higher than 2000 by 185 697 (up 4,3%).

Arrivals for the year 2001 from the UK grew from 349 652 to 356 759, an increase of 7 107 tourists (up 2,0%). The year 2001 also showed growth out of the East, with Japan up 8,5%, China up 3,2% and India 7,9%. The Netherlands showed the results of continued market activation by the trade in growing by 5,4% in 2001.

Travel patterns out of the USA, one of South African Tourism's keys focus areas, were dominated by September 11. Growth out of the USA pre-September 11 was 2,31%, with 124 153 arrivals up to the end of August 2001, compared to 121 344 arrivals in the same period the previous year. However, again reflecting global experience, the year ended with an overall 2,4% decrease in US arrivals (170 611 compared with 174 728 in 2000).

Domestic tourism remains the bedrock of our tourism industry. The country's domestic market attributes some 67% of the total South African industry and contributes more than R16 billion of the R24,5 billion generated from the combined and foreign tourism spend.

During the period April 2000 to May 2001, 15 million South Africans undertook more than 34 million domestic trips, providing a R9,7 billion boost to the economy.

During President Mbeki's official visit to China in December last year, President Jiang Zemin agreed to grant South Africa the coveted "approved destination status". This places South Africa among only 17 countries of the world that can be promoted as a tourism destination in this huge market. Moreover, South Africa is only one of two countries enjoying this status outside East Asia.

One of the projects which lie close to my heart is ensuring that our country fully exploits the benefits of e-business to leapfrog into the new millennium.

I am proud to say that South African Tourism will launch a state-of-the-art e-business platform at the Tourism Indaba this weekend. It will place us up there among the best in the world and will bring great benefits to provinces and business.

I would like to express appreciation to the tourism industry for the strides being made on quality control and consumer protection. The Tourism Grading Council of SA, appointed by Cabinet in September 2000, has already graded 700 establishments as part of the Star Grading System. An establishment is awarded stars by registered assessors. Of the 33 assessors registered by the Council, 18 are historically disadvantaged individuals. The star grading is the only system recognised by government and the Tourism Business Council.

Black economic empowerment and the promotion of small, medium and micro-sized enterprises continue to be an integral part of government strategy. Last year a record 138 black-owned enterprises were represented at the annual Tourism Indaba. This year the number will increase by 23% to 193.

Madam Speaker, in order to realise higher levels of growth in tourism, we need to increase the number of tourists to South Africa; we need to find ways to increase how much tourists spend; we need to get a broader geographic spread; we need to decrease the seasonality patterns and we need to make more conscious efforts to ensure that tourism growth creates opportunities for empowerment.

[. . . snip . . . Ooh this is interesting]

The creation of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal has consolidated 16 parcels of land into a single world heritage park. To date 87 expressions of interest for the investment opportunities in the park have been pre-qualified. It is expected that contracts will be concluded in the course of this year.

South Africans can truly be proud of the success in the sustainable use of our valuable marine resources. Not only are our fish stocks among the best managed in the world, but it is also a sector in which very satisfactory advances have been made in transformation, transparency, fairness and black economic empowerment.

I am pleased to report that in 2001 the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism took its most confident step yet towards resolving the issue of black economic empowerment and the role that it should play in the allocation of commercial fishing rights.

The first phase of the rights allocation process was completed in February 2002.

Throughout the process, the Department was mindful of the allegations of corruption, racism and nepotism that have for decades plagued the allocation process. Indeed, one of the Department's most significant achievements has been to establish a fair, rational and transparent system for allocating rights -- a system that has been praised by a wide range of stakeholders in the fishing industry.

Furthermore, a preliminary analysis of the Department's allocation records indicates that the South African fishing industry has transformed into an industry that reflects a high degree of black economic empowerment, both in terms of asset ownership and employment equity, specifically at senior management level.

[. . . snip . . . It's still long as hell... but hang on a bit, it's getting interesting again]

Madam Speaker, the Deputy Minister will in her speech address, among others, matters related to pollution and waste management.

The recent period has been characterised by heightened awareness among South Africans about waste management and the litter that pollutes our living spaces. The publication of draft regulations almost two years ago proposing a prohibition on the production, trade and distribution of thin plastic bags had the effect of focusing the public mind and, in particular, that of industry on the problem of litter.

Today, having taken into account, the results of an extensive consultation process, we promulgate regulations ending the free-for-all in the production and distribution of plastic bags. Rather than a blanket prohibition, the product is subject to regulation. The regulations place a lower limit of 30 microns on the plastic bags, and prohibits advertising on bags thinner than 80 microns. Acceptable industrial tolerances, SABS standards and acceptable levels of printing will be developed in consultation with the Department of Trade and Industry. An important challenge is the need to promote collection and recycling. Consideration is therefore being given to a new tax on plastic-bag production in order to subsidise collection and recycling in accordance with the polluter-pays principle. In order to ensure sufficient time for implementation, these regulations come into force 12 months from today. We believe that this approach takes into account the main concerns of labour and industry and, at the same time, achieve the anti-litter and anti-waste objectives of broader society.

[. . . snip . . .]

I thank you.

Issued by the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 9 May 2002

Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources Remove Smelter from EIA Process!!

  • Posted on: 28 September 2007
  • By: JB

Letter to Xolobeni IAPs re Revised Scoping - September 2007 Final

The most significant change in the Revised Environmental Scoping Report is therefore the exclusion of the smelter from the Xolobeni Heavy Mineral Sands Project. This implies that the smelter will no longer be considered as part of the project and will also not be assessed in the Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Xolobeni Mineral Sands project is situated approximately 250 km south west of Durban and approximately 60 km south east of Mbizana and 30 km south of Port Edward in the Eastern Cape Province. The prospecting activities undertaken by TEM have indicated the feasibility of mining heavy minerals in the area. In accordance with the requirements of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and the regulations promulgated under Section 24 of the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998) (NEMA), an Environmental Scoping Report was compiled and submitted to the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) on 
25 May 2007.

As a result of comments from the DME and relevant Environmental Authorities, a Revised Environmental Scoping Report was compiled and submitted to the DME during September 2007.

It was previously indicated by the applicant (Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM)) that a Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) for the Mineral Separation Plant (MSP) and smelter would only be undertaken once they have been granted a mining right for the area. As the technical design would only be addressed during the BFS sufficient information would not have been available to include the MSP and smelter in the current EIA process. Therefore a separate EIA under NEMA was proposed at the time. The DME indicated that the smelter should be included as part of the existing process to avoid the situation where the establishment of the mine is used as motivation for establishing the smelter irrespective of the potential environmental impacts associated with such step. However, TEM have indicated in the interim that they the project would be feasible without constructing the MSP and smelter and have decided to only construct a Wet Separation Plant (WSP).

The most significant change in the Revised Environmental Scoping Report is therefore the exclusion of the smelter from the Xolobeni Heavy Mineral Sands Project. This implies that the smelter will no longer be considered as part of the project and will also not be assessed in the Environmental Impact Assessment.

Should you wish to obtain a copy of the Revised Environmental Scoping Report, please contact us in this regard.
Tel: +27-11 807 5478
Fax: +27-11 803 5745
Postal Address: P O Box 2597, Rivonia, 2128


Nanette Hattingh
Environmental Unit Manager

63 Wessel Road Woodmead
PO Box 2597, Rivonia 2128
South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 803 5726
Fax: +27 (0)11 803 5745"

Buy Dwesa Arts & Crafts online

Fort Hare and Rhodes universities' Centres of Excellence have established an e-commerce portal to sell art and crafts manufactured by the community members of Dwesa / Cwebe. Please support this initiative and visit their website at The site is maintained by the Siyakhula project - which aims at developing and field-testing the prototype of a simple, cost-effective and robust, integrated E-business platform in the rural communities of South Africa.

Wild Coast Walk

Bookings for the "hotel-hopping" Wild Coast Walk between Kob Inn (north) and Cintsa (south) can be made through SA Adventure Trails. Phone Paul Colvin on 082-3234022 or email The 5 day 4 night trail covers 60km+ of pristine coastline : wide, shell-filled beaches, rocky headlands, coastal forest, estuaries and river mouths. Walk between 15-20 km per day with a guide while your luggage is transferred round to the next hotel in the chain. Stay overnight in comfortable hotel rooms with good food and company and leave next day after a hearty breakfast. After your last night stay you will be picked up and taken back to your start point where your cars will have been safely parked or driven round to East London airport to catch your return flight. Optional side activities include canoeing on the Kei River, horse riding on the beach or spending your last night at a bush camp in a private game reserve.

New species of Clivia (Amaryllidaceae) endemic to the Pondoland Centre of Endemism

Clivia robusta (Amaryllidaceae)
is a tubular, pendulous-flowered Clivia species, restricted to the Pondoland Centre of Endemism, South Africa. The unique morphology, distribution, karyotype and molecular fingerprint distinguish it from all other pendulous-flowered species in the genus.

This taxon is endemic to the Pondoland Centre of endemism, with a distribution from Port St. Johns in the south to the Mzimkulu River in the north.

Restricted to Msikaba Formation sandstone, the habitat is characterised by rugged plateaus (100-500 m above sea level) that are deeply dissected by narrow river gorges, within which occur isolated forest patches, containing mixed tropical and Afromontane elements. Mean annual rainfall varies from 1 000-1 200 mm and occurs mainly in the summer months. The mean annual temperature along the coast is around 20°C. The soils are usually sandy, acidic, highly leached and often shallow .

It occurs commonly under natural forest cover, in or near water in a marshy environment, with some populations growing in seepage areas on or below cliffs in humus‑rich soils. In swampy places, plants occurred in big clumps with individuals as high as 1.8 m with buttress roots, but those in dryer, rocky habitats are noticeably 'stockier'.

Plant size
The biggest of the clivias, this species grows up to 1.8 metres high, with an aerial stem of up to 450 mm with buttress roots when growing in swampy conditions.

The smooth soft leaves are rounded at the tip, and some have a faint median stripe. The leaves are 300-1 200 mm long and 30-90 mm wide, with a non-pigmented leaf base.

Flowering in late March to early August (Autumn - Winter), the 15 - 40 orange-red with green tip pendulous tubular flowers are borne on reddish changing to green pedicels.

The round red berries which contain up to 4 seeds ripen the following winter (~ 12 months).

Quote of the day!

"An article John Clarke has co-written with Richard Spoor says the threatened area is of inestimable cultural and environmental value. Hosting the Pondoland Centre for Endemism, a global biodiversity hotspot, it is arguably the most beautiful coastline on Earth.

Taking issue with the Australian company, the article adds, "Mining the Pondoland Wild Coast is the moral, cultural and aesthetic equivalent of quarrying Ayers Rock for granite, or the Great Barrier Reef for calcium carbonate."

Read the full Sunday Tribune article on the threat to our dunes - by Leon Marshall.

New threat to our dunes
As an Australian mining company plans to plunder the dunes of the Wild Coast, Leon Marshall ponders whether the lure of jobs and wealth creation will overcome pressing environmental concerns

May 13, 2007 Edition 2

Leon Marshall

Shades of St Lucia are hanging heavily over the Wild Coast, where dune mining is causing divisions in the community. Even the arguments are the same, as are the rising tensions that have led to allegations of threats and acts of violence.

Dr Ian Player, doyen of South African conservationists, said, "I have been a miner in my life, and so have my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather, and I know the value of mining. But to mine coastal dunes is a desecration of our country."

Accusations of bribery of local leaders, and of intimidation having been flying about. The murder, as far back as 2003, of a headman, Madoda Ndovela, has been ascribed to his opposition to mining.

Fears are that tensions could rise in coming months as the deadline approaches for a final decision on whether or not to proceed with mining in this beautiful part of South Africa.

The climate is not unlike that over the St Lucia mining issue, on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, where Richard's Bay Minerals was, until the mid 1990s, set on mining the dunes on the Zululand coast for titanium and other minerals and where the situation was exacerbated by community disagreement.

The proposed dune-mining site on the Wild Coast, about half-way between East London and Durban, is once again a precious natural landscape that is under siege.

This time it is an Australian company, Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC), which wants to mine the dunes for their billions's worth of titanium.

Heritage site

As with St Lucia, a key justification given for wanting to override the environmental concerns is the opportunity to create jobs in a region beset by poverty. Another is that much of the area to be mined has already suffered ecological degradation and could in fact benefit from rehabilitation after mining.

Again it is a case of environmentalists pitted against a powerful mining concern. In the case of St Lucia, the environmentalists' protracted obstruction ultimately paid off when the new ANC government of president Nelson Mandela put a stop to the mining plans.

The question is, do they have any chance of again prevailing as they did once before, to the benefit of a natural area which has since been declared a World Heritage Site?

From an environmental perspective, the situation does not look rosy. MRC and its South African subsidiary, Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM), have struck up a partnership with the local Xolobeni community empowerment company XolCo and have just lodged their mining application with the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in Port Elizabeth.

MRC chief executive Alan Luscombe has been quoted as describing the acceptance of the application as an important step which clears the way for the company to proceed with the necessary studies required to apply for mining approval by way of mining right.

A spokesman of the department has said that the required process of public participation would come into motion tomorrow (Monday) when consultative and information meetings would start in the proposed mining area between company officials and members of the local communities.

Save the Wild Coast Campaign

Threatened nature in South Africa

Please support the international "Save the Wild Coast Campaign" by sending a letter or fax to the South African President, Thabo Mbeki and the Minister for the Environment, Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

Download a specimen letter (RTF file, 10kb)

Thank you very much for your help.

Background Information:

Wildcoast - Pondoland Centre of Endemism

The Pondoland centre of endemism is located in the Eastern Cape Province on the shores of the Indian Ocean of South Africa. The Pondoland Centre, as part of the Maputaland-Pondoland Region, has subsequently been acknowledged as one of the important centres of plant diversity and endemism in Africa. The area is the smallest of the 18 centres of endemism and boasts 1,800 plant species.

The Story of the Pondoland Ghostbush (Raspalia trigyna)


Around the turn of the century, this attractive shrub was mentioned by Thomas R. Sim in the 1900 “Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope” 16:21-42, 104-114. He states that it was “abundant along streams above the (Magwa) falls”. Later on, he records it in his “Forests and Forest Flora of the Cape Colony” published in 1906. It was only known from the Mzikaba Formation, a sandstone outcropping with which the Pondoland Centre of Plant Endemism (PC) (Van Wyk 1994) is congruent. This is a very small centre of 18,800 hectares located across the provincial boundary between the Eastern Cape (formerly known as the Transkei) and KwaZulu-Natal and lies along the coastline stretching no more than 15 or so kilometres inland with a maximum altitude of about 400 to 500 metres.

This elusive plant with the scientific name of Raspalia trigyna was named for a Professor of Botany in Paris, F. V. Raspail. It was originally described as Berardia, another genus in the family Bruniaceae. This family is nearly endemic to the Cape confined to the winter rainfall region – but with this one exception in the summer rainfall area.

It was known earlier from only four collections: Dr. Sutherland, the Surveyor-General of Natal, collected one but gave no locality; another was found at Murchison near Port Shepstone by the renowned curator of Durban Botanic Garden, John Medley Wood; one was found at Mkweni River by William Tyson when teaching in Kokstad and the fourth was that mentioned above, by T. R. Sim. All these records are from the late 1800s or early 1900s. This gave a total distribution of about 80 km. Since that time, it lapsed into obscurity.

In 1962, the well-known amateur botanist and conservationist, Mr. Hugh Nicholson retired to St. Michael’s-on-sea on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. His retirement interests included the creation of an arboretum on the grounds around his home “Skyline” and the exploration of the vegetation of the surrounding area. One of his early Thursday botanical walks took him to the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve (UNR) and there he found, to his surprise, a single unidentifiable plant growing on a stream bank. It was a shrub standing about a metre and half high and covered with a mass of tiny white flowers. This was sent off to Mr. R G Strey at the Natal Herbarium who identified it as the elusive Pondoland ghostbush. It was in good health growing in very moist conditions on the bank of a small stream where fire was unlikely to invade with any force. With its identification, the strange history was revealed and since then, Mr. Nicholson always encouraged his group of enthusiasts to keep watch for another specimen. The mass of tiny white flowers which makes the plant stand out and so easy to spot but when it is not flower it becomes one of those obscure small fine leaved plants which grow along the sandstone streams.

The UNR plant was apparently the sole surviving known specimen of this species and in the ‘80s, it started to fail. It declined from a healthy one and a half metre shrub to a single remaining 30 cm shoot and finally in 1987, it was clear that it was beyond recovery. Dr Hannes de Lange of the Endangered Plant Laboratory at Kirstenbosch came up to collect material to try and propagate but the amount he dared remove from the ailing plant was so tiny that all attempts at propagation had failed. In November 1987 our Umtamvuna plant finally gave up the ghost and the species, so far as was known, was thought to be extinct.

Prof. Braam Van Wyk of the Department of Botany of Pretoria University is the authority on the Pondoland Centre of Plant Endemism which arose from his research over the years and resulted in the publication of a number of new species. The PC is well known for its suite of endemic woody plants as well as grassland endemics. In July of 1988, Braam had just completed the publication of his Field Guide to the Flowers of Witswatersrand and Pretoria and he was ripe for an excursion. It was clear that we had to undertake a field trip to try and find another plant or plants to perpetuate the species.

A group was made up of interested and knowledgeable people and we set of on this search to the Transkei. This extensive exploration covered the coastal area starting from Mazeppa Bay in the south looking into every stream we came across as we headed north. To everyone’s great pleasure and excitement, our search was eventually successful with discovery of a fine two metre specimen by one of us (Trevor Streever) near Magwa Falls. Nevertheless, it was still only a single specimen. Therefore, in one year it had changed from a KwaZulu-Natal endemic known from a single specimen to and Eastern Cape one. Our floral “rhino” had charged back to life but with an even more tenuous hold on life than the rhino.

An urgent message was sent to Dr. Hannes de Lange of the Kirstenbosch Endangered Plant Laboratory. He came and collected cuttings from the plant and after much trial and error such as attempts to graft cuttings onto other Cape species of Raspalia, sufficient cuttings took successfully and plants were raised which allowed the establishment of small populations in both the U N R and the Mkambati Game Reserve. Naturally, all these plants were clones of the Magwa plant. The Magwa plant survived for some years before it too faded and died in 1995 leaving us with the belief that the species might well be extinct in the wild.

So matters remained for some years with all of us on the lookout for other plants. At last, on one of Mr. Nicholson’s regular Thursday walks on the Western Heights in August 1995, while the rest of the group relaxed after lunch, one of his apprentices, Jo Arkell, wandered off and returned with a branchlet. This was presented to “Mr. Nic” who, after some consideration, was happy to declare it Raspalia trigyna. This exciting find was located down a stream about 20 metres off the normal path which “Mr. Nic” had walked over the years! Once more Dr de Lange came up from Kirstenbosch to take further cuttings and to assess the possibilities for cross-pollination. He examined the flowers under the microscope and found that them to be self-incompatible but the globe on his microscope blew before checking the cross pollination potential but he felt that the chances of crossing between the new plant and the clones were not good. He cross-pollinated both ways between the two groups of plants but subsequently we never found any seed.

Years went by before another excitement occurred with the discovery of a plant in Mkambati Nature Reserve by manager, Dirk Prinsloo, a plant enthusiast, in May 1999. This small plant was wedged into some rocks in the bed of a stream and its broken look testifies to its struggles to survive the yearly floodwaters. As with all the plants seen, it was in a position where fire would be unlikely to penetrate.

The latest stage of the history of this unusual plant came in May 2001 when Simon Woodley, a keen indigenous plant nurseryman, together with a friend, Matt Williams, found a tiny population south of the Msikaba River. With great excitement, on closer inspection, it proved to be a functioning breeding population. This remarkable discovery seems to underline the vulnerability of the species as the site is a mere 20 metres long by 2 metres up a stream bank. It is on a steep bank facing south west situated at the base of a wetland giving year round cool moist conditions. Many of the plants in the PC which have an affinity with the Cape winter rainfall region survive on these cooler slopes. The population consists of 12 larger plants up to 1.2 metres tall with around a dozen smaller ones but the important point was the presence of a good number of seedlings of different sizes. The preferred habitat for the seedlings is under the overhanging bank is cool shady conditions. The locality of this remarkable colony is not available to the public.

A very small seedling was sent immediately to Braam van Wyk who confirmed that it was definitely a Raspalia trigyna. Seed was collected from the plants and this proved to be fertile. The recovery plan for Raspalia trigyna allows Simon Woodley of Indigiflora Nursery to propagate the plant with the long-term objective of establishing more populations in the wild and making plants available for gardeners. The first seedlings will be planted to create ex-situ breeding colonies to ensure availability of seed stocks as the breeding colony is not protected or conserved in anyway. One will be in the UNR and the other at Mkambati Nature Reserve.

Perhaps, one day you may so lucky as to have a Raspalia trigyna growing in your garden!

Tony Abbott December 2003

Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project

This is an appeal to everyone who cares about the future of the Wild Coast to please send a mail to and register as an I&AP.

Download the EIA and IAP registration form

Who are the Interested & Affected Parties? (I&APs)

They are persons who will be directly and indirectly involved and/or affected by the project.

An IAP's role is to:

    § Register with the environmental consultants, who will include you on a database of I&APs in order for you to receive future project information and/or formally record issues and concerns

Gladiolus oppositiflorus (Transkei Gladiolus)

Gladioli are colorful garden plants that have been grown in Europe for more than 250 years. Interestingly, these garden plants were originally cultivated from hybrids of wild gladioli native to South Africa.

Gladiolus oppositiflorus is an important species in the breeding history of a number of Gladiolus hybrids, and is also an attractive garden plant in its own right.

More info: Transkei Gladiolus

Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC)


4 APRIL 2007

Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) calls upon the government of South Africa to reject out of hand the recent application for a licence to mine dune minerals along the Pondoland Wild Coast by Australian mining company Mineral Resources Commodities and its local associates, Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources and Xolco.

This call is made out of concern that the current process of decision making with respect to mining developments does not fall within the jurisdiction of normal environmental impact assessment procedure, does not allow for an independent process of review, potentially contravenes South Africa’s commitments under the Convention of Biological Diversity, and does not insist on a holistic cost benefit analysis of the merits or demerits of various development options for the region.

Backpacking on the Wild Coast

Wild Coast afterparty a cool, laid-back affair

The termite, the donkey and the rainbow: happy backpacker Leon Marais spills the beans.

South Africa is a backpacker's delight. Thousands of foreign travellers are aware of this, yet many South Africans remain oblivious to this organised and well-run component of our tourism industry.

As a backpacking destination South Africa has a lot going for it: it's different and diverse, organised, safe (when organised) and, while not as cheap as other destinations such as Thailand, still affordable to young travellers.

The most popular route begins with some time in and around Cape Town, followed by time getting acquainted with wine and scenery around Stellenbosch and a hop-on, hop-off meander along the Garden Route towards Port Elizabeth.

At this point most backpackers and self-drive travellers usually opt for a flight to Mpumalanga or Durban or head back towards Cape Town. In planning their routes this way, they miss out on the jewel of our coast - the Transkei.

It seems to be a black hole on the traveller's map. Yet to explore the Transkei coast is to step back in time, to the era before Holiday Inns, beach condos, guest-houses galore and estate developments.

The Transkei is distinctly rural, charming in its simplicity and laid-back in tempo. The day's rhythms come and go at Mother Nature's pace. Lives revolve around livestock and tides, growth seasons, rites of passage and ancestral spirits.

In much the same frame of mind are the backpackers. Two things that perhaps define these travellers are the lack of formal travel plans and an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of, and insight into, the local people and culture - and for this the Transkei is perfect.

The Transkei, or Wild Coast as it is also known, lies between the Great Kei River in the south and Mtamvuna River in the north, with most of the backpacker accommodation to be found in the southern section as far up as Port St Johns.

There are three transport options. The Baz Bus - a hop-on, hop-off shuttle service - plies the entire coast from Cape Town to northern KwaZulu Natal, and services all the backpackers' lodges along the Wild Coast.

While it does not deviate from the N2, most of the lodges have a shuttle service (sometimes free of charge, sometimes not) running from the Baz Bus stops to the respective lodges - all in all a perfect (but not cheap) transport option for those without wheels.

Self-drive is the ideal way to go if possible, but bear in mind that the roads in the area were not designed for your low-slung sports car. While a four-wheel drive is not necessary, something with a bit of clearance such as a Toyota Conquest will suffice.

Using local transport is also an option. Local taxi services run from the N2 down to all villages along the coast. It must be said that these are used entirely at your own risk.

Many such taxis are unroadworthy at best and, with other decrepit vehicles on the roads and people and livestock wandering freely, accidents are a distinct possibility.

Entering the Transkei on your way up the coast, Coffee Bay is definitely worth a visit. It is a relatively well-developed hamlet along this rugged coast, close to the famous Hole in the Wall rock formation.

It has two legendary backpackers' lodges right next to each other and right on the beach - Bomvu Paradise and ... wait for it ... The Coffee Shack.

Both have dorms, double rooms and camping amenities, lively bars and loads of laid-back hippy atmosphere. Well-worn path lead all along the cliffs and hills that rise up from the ocean, providing exciting walking opportunities to rusted wrecks, waterfalls and ever more beaches.

If you get lost and stumble into the back end of a cluster of aquamarine- coloured huts, just shout out the Xhosa greeting "Molo!" (the household dogs will announce your presence) and shrug your shoulders as if to say: "Where to now?"

Hordes of Xhosa children may follow you around, all dying for a chance to exhibit their photographic poses (in exchange for sweets, of course). Not to be missed is the nightly party that revolves around the bar. For the less sociable, Bomvu Paradise seems the quieter venue and if you want some action you can just stroll across to the Coffee Shack.

Moving up the coast, the next port of call was The Kraal, an aptly named backpackers' lodge situated at Mpande (which doesn't even appear on your road atlas). The Kraal is different, even as far as backpackers go. Quaint dorm huts and camping facilities are available.

Electricity is but a long-lost dream at The Kraal. For a shower, you fill up a bucket with water heated on the fire. Cooking is done on gas and candles and lamps provide lighting - but they do have cold beer.

There is a lovely ambience in the main building after dark. Curious horses take turns to stick their heads into the light through the two-piece doors and travellers gather to swap stories and information, drink quarts of beer and perhaps indulge in a seafood pizza from an authentic Italian pizza oven.

The aspect to the Wild Coast that appeals the most to me is really evident here - animals. While you won't find much in the way of wild beasts (apart from those in the sea), domesticated animals are everywhere and are an integral part of local life. You can easily round up the Transkei's "Big Five" - donkey, pig, dog, feral cat and fowl. There are also goats, geese and horses.

At The Kraal they walk among the tents and in the quiet of early morning you may just wake to a white horse's head looking down on you or a chicken scratching around your tent.

Early-birds will take advantage of the fact that the sea cliff is only about 100m away, and there watch the sun rise over the sea before heading back to the warmth of a sleeping bag.

Donkeys and goats graze on short grasses growing on the most impossible slopes, where one wrong foot could lead to a 150-metre plummet on to rocks.

Late one afternoon, the cloud suddenly broke to allow fantastic sunlight to shine down on The Kraal and surrounding vista. Silhouetted against the sky was a single donkey, grazing right on the edge of the sea cliff.

A full rainbow magically appeared over the ocean as thousands of winged termites suddenly emerged from their nests in the ground and took flight, most heading for Madagascar. It was an enchanting moment.

The local school is a dream realised through The Kraal, and guide development is also taking place. If you want to go on a walk, apply for a guide. It won't cost you much (R20-R30) and will help contribute to the local upliftment vision.

You can also visit a local sangoma - a thrilling nocturnal experience that may even have those normally reluctant to step out showing off their traditional dancing skills (or lack thereof).

Before you become eternally stuck at The Kraal you may want to head on to Port St Johns, a rustic little town with no fewer than four lodges.

If the Wild Coast is special, it is also threatened. There has long been talk of major roads and mining operations. While social development is one thing, the strength of the area as a tourist destination lies in its undeveloped nature.

The last thing we need is another Natal South Coast or Knysna-type development. It is up to people with passion to fight for preservation.

Uncontrolled and inappropriate development is irreversible. Perhaps it is wise to get there before it changes. Pick up a copy of the backpackers' bible, Coast to Coast, pack a tent, a sleeping bag, a didgeridoo and head for the Transkei. It's way cool, man.

This article originally appeared in the Star newspaper on July 23, 2005.