Activists prepare for fracking fight
Anti-fracking campaigners are preparing for a legal wrangle with the government, as time ticks on towards the scheduled announcement of the Karoo fracking report, expected in August.
The Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) has set up a legal team to re-focus its legal strategy in preparation for an all-out confrontation to prevent fracking in the Karoo.
The lobby group's chairman Jonathan Deal said Cabinet was expected to make a decision in August on whether to lift the existing moratorium and allow exploratory drilling.
"We have engaged the well-established [legal] firm of Cullinan & Associates, who will bring fresh thinking and decades of experience to our approach at this critical time in our campaign," said Deal.
"We have been preparing for the moratorium to be lifted for a long time. We have selected the best legal minds that we can get to assist us to take this matter to the Constitutional Court, if need be," he said.
Last year, the mineral resources department imposed a moratorium on fracking with the aim of implementing a study into the environmental impact of the controversial issue of drilling for shale gas in the Karoo – a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Mining Minister Susan Shabangu announced last August that the moratorium on prospecting for shale gas had been extended.
At the time, she said her department had to "engage with the public" on the contentious matter and, therefore, the extension of the moratorium was necessary.
Deal said the activists' fears about the awarding of fracking licences were awakened by statements made by Energy Minister Dipuo Peters during a recent departmental meeting.
According to Deal, the minister said: "It would be wrong for us to not use the resources that God left us with. This is a blessing that God gives us, and we need to exploit [it] for the benefit of the people."
She said the people of the Karoo were "going hungry".
"In the run-up to the decision by government we are re-focusing our efforts to present a high-powered, well prepared legal campaign which we believe will halt the minister in her tracks," Deal said in a statement.
"We believe we have the support of right-thinking South Africans. We are not deterred by the fact that a number of people may have been influenced by Shell's relentless pro-fracking propaganda, regarding the size of the gas deposits to the number of jobs that could be created," he said.
"Our message to government is: 'If you rule in favour of fracking, under the current circumstances, prepare for a long and costly legal battle as the people who will be most affected fight back'."