Press Release by the Winelands Action Group:
The Stellenbosch and Cape Town communities affected by the recent application for prospecting rights in the Cape winelands by state-owned and controlled company, African Exploration Mining and Finance Company (AEMFC), are delighted at hearing reports that the Director-general of the DME, Adv Sandile Nogxina has announced that the applications will be rejected, but are continuing with their legal action until they receive a press statement in writing from the DME to that effect.
State-owned and funded by the Central Energy Fund, AEMFC had applied for prospecting rights for tin, zinc, lead, lithium, copper, manganese and silver on the farms Annex Langverwacht 245 (which included Saxenburg, Jordan, Langverwacht and Zevenwacht Estates), Haasendal 222 and the remaining extent of Rosendal 249. Another application included prospecting rights over Highlands, Hooggelegen and David Graaf's farm De Grendel in the Tygerberg/Durbanville area. The Department of Mineral Resources had provisionally accepted these prospecting rights.
Overwhelming support from producer groups such as the various Farmworker Forums, the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG), Wines of South Africa (WOSA), Stellenbosch and Durbanville Wine Routes, conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) and the Bottelary Conservancy, the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, influential international wine writers, heritage groups from all over the country as well as the public at large in South Africa and around the world ensured that thousands of opposition registrations were received by the consultants to AEMFC.
National pride is at stake in the Cape Winelands. With the world's attention focused on South Africa in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and with 2010 having been declared the International year of Biodiversity, this year also seeing the launch of a brand new certification seal for the wine industry, under the banner 'Sustainable Wines SA' (a world first), the prospecting right applications by AEMFC threatened not only the pristine winelands but the very existence of the UNESCO-registered Bottelary Conservancy as well.
The prospecting rights applications in the Cape winelands have highlighted the fact that trust in the Department of Minerals and Energy to deal with environmental matters is currently at an all-time low. In Mapungubwe in Limpopo province for example, one of seven of South Africa's UNESCO-registered World Heritage sites and part of the Transfrontier Conservation area between South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, the DME has awarded an 'unconditional new order mining right' to an Australian coal-mining company despite opposition from the Water and Environment Ministry and despite the fact that several environmental evaluation processes should first have been completed. The communities affected by the winelands rights applications have united to form the 'Winelands Action Group' and have aligned themselves with WWF, The Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Verlorenvlei Coalition and the Mapungubwe Action Group amongst many others, calling on all affected parties country-wide to rise up against the rape of South Africa's assets facilitated by the DME.
With the state acting as both referee and player with regards to AEMFC's applications country-wide, one realizes that there is something inherently wrong not only with the application system but with the very existence of a state-controlled mining house and if this is done to line the pockets of a select group of people, then every citizen in South Africa loses out.