Cullinan & Associates: Our Year In Review16 September 2016
It’s been a busy and exciting year so far at Cullinan & Associates.
We are working on a range of important matters around South Africa – from litigation and training to supporting environmental campaigns.
Please read more about our on-going projects and get in touch if you would like to get involved!
Harrismith Business Forum vs SANRAL
Cullinan & Associates, led by Director Greg Daniels and Candidate Attorney Tendai Bonga, are representing the Harrismith Business Forum in their efforts to prevent the construction of the proposed De Beers Pass Route, an extension and bypass of the N3 from Keeversfontein to Warden in the Free State.
The Harrismith Business Forum contends that the proposed road would have long-term negative consequences on both the local economy and the eco-systems around the proposed construction sites.
Specialists brought in by the Harrismith Business Forum have noted numerous shortcomings in the Draft Environmental Impact Reports (DEIR) submitted by SANRAL – particularly in relation to the impact on the local economy. SANRAL’s own environmental specialists concluded that the environmental impact of construction is “unacceptable”, and that the proposed route is the least viable of all options.
In addition to the disturbance and destruction of wetlands, nesting and feeding areas of numerous endangered birds, the proposed “bypass” is estimated to cost R3.5 billion – at 2013 prices - to construct and will only shorten the existing journey by around 10km.
In June, the Department of Environmental Affairs rejected SANRAL’s final environmental impact assessment and has ordered SANRAL to amend its assessment and explain why the De Beers Pass Route is its preferred alternative, given that its own experts have concluded that the social, economic and environmental impacts make it the least viable option.
Cullinan & Associates, in representing the Forum, have repeatedly raised concerns about the many unsubstantiated conclusions in the final environmental impact report submitted by SANRAL and we are delighted that the Department has rejected this deeply flawed report.
Baboon Management in the Cape
Cullinan & Associates, led by firm Director Sarah Kvalsvig and Candidate Attorney Tendai Bonga, are representing the City of Cape Town in making an application to the High Court to clarify the constitutional and statutory responsibilities of all parties involved in the management of baboons on the Cape Peninsula.
The contentious issues surrounding baboon management in the City and surrounds are complicated by the fact that the baboons occupy and move between land controlled by the municipality, Table Mountain National Park and CapeNature. The Minister of Environmental Affairs, SANParks, CapeNature and the provincial Minister of Environmental Affairs are all respondents in the application as the City has committed significant financial resources to baboon management and hopes to obtain a more equitable agreement with all parties to share the burden of managing local chacma baboon troops.
Read more about baboon management on the Cape Peninsula here.
Makhasaneni Community Association
Cullinan & Associates Director Gregory Daniels and Candidate Attorney Siqhamo Ntola have been working with the Makhasaneni Community Association in KwaZulu-Natal.
We have been working to hold the minerals company currently prospecting on the land to account over its lack of full and proper consultation with traditional communities residing on the land.
Many of the local communities on this land are strongly opposed to mining of community land by the mining company, Jindal, and its BEE partner, Sungu Sungu. Extensive prospecting for iron by Jindal and Sungu Sungu has left Makhasaneni scarred with roads and holes across sacred areas containing graves, as well as in the community’s grazing lands.
Cullinan & Associates have submitted PAIA (The Protection of Access to Information Act) requests to the Department of Minerals and Resources to obtain the prospecting license which was granted to Jindal and its local partner.
In late July the Makhasaneni communities were delighted to hear that Jindal was pulling out of the area, with its personnel and machinery hastily withdrawn. However, reprieve may only be temporary as Jindal continues to maintain a Melmoth office and has stated that mining may resume should commodity prices stabilise at profitable levels.
We will continue to monitor closely any further mining developments in the area and support the local community in their quest to ensure that any such developments are carried out in full and open consultation with the people who live on the land.
Uranium Mining in the Karoo
Cullinan & Associates has continued to support the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Initiative (SAFCEI) in their vocal opposition to potentially disastrous uranium mining in the Karoo.
Two of our Associates, Davide Bishop and Walter Anderson, submitted separate objections against uranium mining in the Karoo and we were pleased when the Australian mining firm Tasman Pacific Mineral Ltd and their South African partner Lukisa JVCo announced the withdrawal of their joint mining rights application for almost 88% of the original proposed mining area.
A new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will now have to be submitted for the remaining 12% of the proposed uranium mining area and we will continue to support SAFCEI in their push to ensure that not only is the mining application turned down, but that Government and landowners now clean up the damage done by previous uranium mining projects.
Greenpeace Africa’s Solar Romance
One of our newest clients, Greenpeace Africa, joined us just as they were launching their “Solar Romance” campaign that is part of a broader strategy to identify and engage with Renewable Energy Champions across South Africa.
Associates Walter Anderson and Danjelle Midgley assisted Greenpeace Africa during the roll out of various initiatives based around the concept of Solar Romance. Solar Romance invited South Africa’s five major retailers to pledge their commitment to a 100% renewable energy target and culminated with the presentation of an “engagement ring” at Pick n Pay’s Cape Town headquarters.
Read more about Solar Romance and how you can get involved here.
West Coast Environmental Protection Association
We are representing the West Coast Environmental Protection Association in their bid to halt the prospecting and strip mining of phosphate in Elandsfontein on the West Coast. Senior Associate Janah Miller and Associate Walter Anderson have launched a review application in the Western Cape High Court seeking to review and set aside various decisions in respect of the approval of the mining right on local farmland.
The mining activities raise major concerns about long-term environmental impacts on a delicate eco-system and the climate change resilience of the area. The mining are falls within the buffer zone of the West Coast National Park and is planned to penetrate the upper aquifer unit forming part if the Elandsfontein aquifer, which likely feeds the Langebaan Lagoon. We argue that the mining right was granted without the necessary information being available to, or serving before the decision-maker in respect of the impact the mining activities will have on ecological degradation or damage to the environment. Additionally, no environmental authorisations were obtained in respect of the mining or any associated activities. No water use licences have been granted to date. However, the preparation of the mining site has already commenced.
Please see our clients fundraising efforts and give what you can, here.
City of Cape Town vs SANRAL
On the 16th of August Director Cormac Cullinan and Senior Associate Janah Miller were in Bloemfontein representing the City of Cape Town in the Supreme Court of Appeal. This is a continuation of the City of Cape Town’s legal action against SANRAL over plans to toll sections of the N1 and N2 highways in Cape Town.
SANRAL appealed against portions of the decision of the Western Cape High Court, including the decision to review and set aside the declaration of portions of the N1 and N2 highways leading into the City of Cape Town as toll roads.
In representing the City of Cape Town, Cullinan & Associates have continued to argue that SANRAL’s initial declaration of toll roads was unlawful and did not follow due process, as there was no board decision as required in terms of the SANRAL Act, and crucial information regarding the impacts tolling would have was either not available at all at the time or were withheld during the public participation process. This information includes what the likely toll tariff would be, the financial viability of the project, the severe social impacts on low income communities and potential financial burned on the fiscus as a result of the proposed reimbursement clause contained in the concession contract.
Harmony with Nature Dialogue
Director Cormac Cullinan facilitated the African input into the UN’s Harmony with Nature Dialogue. This project provides a platform for legal practitioners, academics and researchers to advance the aims of Earth jurisprudence in a massive online knowledge-base.
Learn more about the project here.
Wild Coast Communities
Cullinan & Associates, led by Director Cormac Cullinan and Associate Danjelle Midgley continue to represent communities in the Wild Coast in their efforts to prevent the construction of a new toll road highway along the Wild Coast. The proposed new toll will bisect the ancestral lands of the coastal communities, the majority of whom are strongly opposed to its construction. SANRAL is however pushing ahead with the tender process for the construction of two mutli-billion Rand bridges despite the fact that the matter has still not been resolved before the High Court.
While it is not illegal for Sanral to begin the development before the legal appeals are finalised, we believe it is highly inappropriate for a parastatal to enter into binding contracts while the matter is still up for review. Given that environmental authorisation for the whole project is up for review and may be over-turned, the potential for a major waste of state resources is high.
We are proud to have been listed as finalists in the ProBono awards 2016 for our work done in this matter.
Sustaining the Wild Coast continue to seek funds to continue their battle to defend the wishes and rights of local communities. If you would like to learn more about this case or contribute please click here.
LexisNexis Occupational Health and Safety Practical Guidance
The entire Cullinan & Associates team has been involved in the drafting of LexisNexis’ new Occupational Health and Safety Practical Guidance focus area.
We have been working with LexisNexis to create a comprehensive and practical guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993 and the more than 20 regulations that fall under it.
Understanding health and safety regulations is key for any employer, as failure to comply can lead to significant fines and imprisonment. The fundamental importance of protecting the health and safety of all working people cannot be understated.
If you are an employer, employee or self-employed, or if you manufacture and supply substances, articles and equipment used in the workplace or are a client in the construction sector, OHS legislation imposes a wide range of legal obligations on you.
Access this definitive and practical guide for a full understanding of the Act and how it applies to you, here.