Olifantsfontein community and surrounds
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

THERMOPOWER COURT CASE POSTPONED TO APRIL 2013

NPA and Green Scorpions called to address delay in court case hearing

13 November 2012 – Today, the court case involving Thermopower Process Technology was once again postponed in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court [1]. The case will be heard on 14 April 2013, this being the sixth postponement. The community of Olifantsfontein has been left wondering whether justice will ever be delivered and, together with groundWork [2], are looking to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Green Scorpions for answers.  

In 2009, the NPA and the Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) Green Scorpions charged the toxic waste disposal company for a list of nine contraventions relating to environmental health and worker safety [3]. This was as a result of the community of Olifantsfontein having alerted the authorities about the continual health impacts to the people and accidents that occurred on site at the Thermopower plant [4].

The magistrate presiding over the case called for the postponement of the case as experts need to be outsourced.

groundWork finds this postponement unacceptable as it is very clear from the charges that procedural issues do not need expertise or technical assistance.

Olifantsfontein community leader, Kgomotso Modiselle, who was at the court hearing this morning raised his concerns:

“As a community we are disappointed as justice delayed means justice denied. The continual postponement of this case creates suspicion as to whether it will ever be heard in court and whether Thermopower will settle outside of court. If this happens, it means us, the common people, will lose out and have to continue to live with this company in our backyard”.

The community were calling on the South African government (1) to close down Thermopower in Olifantsfontein, and (2) for the NPA to investigate the continuous operational transgressions by the company, and the discrepancies in the manner in which the minister of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has dealt with previous appeals lodged against the waste license issued to Thermopower.

groundWork and Modiselle, on behalf of the community, will be seeking to meet with the NPA and Green Scorpions to enquire why this case has been delayed on so many occasions.

FOOTNOTES

[1] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Quality, Climate Justice and Energy, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International.

[2] groundWork press release. 09 November 2012.“Toxic waste: Still a reality in a democratic South Africa.”

[3] Thermopower Process Technology has been charged by the NPA and DEA for the following contraventions: (1) untreated and treated waste remaining on the site for a period of longer than the permitted (three months); (2) failure to dispose of some of the residue as legally required; (3) burying residue in one of the buildings on site; (4) disposing of residue in storm water drains; (5) storing waste in leaking containers not properly labelled and sealed; (6) treating healthcare risk waste and general waste together; (7) not submitting charge papers to the authorities; (8) not ensuring either that all residue generated in the treatment process was disposed of at a permitted hazardous waste landfill site on a regular basis or reclassified for delisting and disposal at a permissible disposable landfill site; (9) and not taking steps to ensure all floors were cleaned and disinfected.

[4] groundWork media package. 09 November 2012. “Worker and community profiles.” 

 CONTACTS

Kgomotso Modiselle, community leader in Olifantsfontein at 084 807 7121   

Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork at 033 342 5662 / 082 464 1383  or bobby@groundwork.org.za

Megan Lewis, Media and Information Campaign Manager at groundWork at 033 342 5662 /083 450 5541 or megan@groundwork.org.za