South Afrtica, September 4, 2002 – South Africa: Yesterday, residents of the Free State town of Sasolburg met with the First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell to share their grievances and concerns around the impacts of the operations of chemical and oil giant Sasol on the environs and people of Sasolburg.
Mr McConnell is in SA attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Sasol has recently invested in his homeland, and he agreed to make a courtesy call at the Sasol head quarters in Sasolburg. While Sasol, no doubt, pulled out the “red carpet” for the First Minister, laying on delicious food and beverages and painting a rosy picture of Sasol’s chemical and industrial genius, those on the outside – the disgruntled community members – gave another side to the story.
Before meeting with Sasol, Mr McConnell and five of his advisors met with members of the Sasolburg Environmental Committee, Mayor Ndaba, and representatives from NGOs groundWork and Friends of the Earth Scotland.
Nicholas Kasa, the Secretary of the Sasolburg Environmental Committee, eloquently conveyed to the First Minister the many negative impacts Sasol’s operations have had on the surrounding environment and communities. He spoke of health problems in the area, of bad smells when the wind blows from the Sasol plants towards the community, and of regular industrial accidents, flaring, fires explosions.
McConnell was also taken to a nearby home to meet with a young child whose legs had to be amputated after being baldy burnt when a Sasol truck was involved in an accident and spilled hazardous chemicals on the side of the road in 1998.
According to Mr Bobby Peek of groundWork, it was a very fruitful meeting. Mr McConnell promised that he would raise the community’s concerns with Sasol when he met the company’s management immediately after meeting with the community.
“We also asked Mr McConnell to request that Sasol supply natural gas (through underground gas pipeline networks) to homes in the greater Sasolburg area, so that the poor residents no longer have to burn cheap coal in their homes”, said Peek.
Ardiel Soeker, of groundWork, said that his organisation and the community had taken several air samples in the area over the past two years. These showed that were high levels of many toxic pollutants in the air in Sasolburg. He said that Sasol has attempted to blame this pollution on the poor people who burn coal in their homes for heat and energy.
” We are working closely with the local community on an ongoing basis to assist them where ever possible with pollution problems, as well as to link them up with overseas communities in the globalised struggle against pollution”, said Soeker.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
Nicholas Kasa: 073 187 6393
Bobby Peek: 082 464 1383.
Ardiel Soeker: 082 940 8669