Cape Town - Freedom Front MPL Peter Marais has accused the Western Cape government of being held hostage by land invaders, after the start of the legal process of the withdrawal of the declaration of the Driftsands Nature Reserve.
Speaking at the end of a briefing to the Environmental Affairs and Development Planning standing committee by CapeNature about the process, Marais said: “I must admit I am shocked by the admission by the Western Cape government that the province is now run by land invaders.”
Marais said that the Province had put its hands up in the matter and land invaders were now in charge of the Province and were destroying biodiversity even if the land was unsuitable for housing.
During the briefing the management of CapeNature acknowledged that the scale and nature of the rapid unlawful settlement of the ecologically rare Driftsands Nature Reserve on the Cape Flats, means that the site can no longer serve its intended purpose as a nature reserve.
They said that this realisation had come about as a result of the “irrevocable loss of biodiversity and irreversible impacts on ecosystem integrity” following the occupation of the land that took place in July 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
CapeNature was briefing the committee on the preliminary plan to de-proclaim and abolish the ecologically rare Driftsands Nature Reserve situated on the western boundary of Mfuleni on the Cape Flats.
CapeNature biodiversity capabilities director Coral Birss told the committee that the provincial executive council had noted in a resolution the intention to initiate the legal process to withdraw the declaration of Driftsands as a protected area.
“The withdrawal of declaration status and relinquishing of a nature reserve set an undesirable precedent for the conservation sector and caused reputational damage for CapeNature in the conservation sector and the Province,” she said.
Birss told the committee that Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell had kicked off the Province’s legal process by writing to the Speaker twice, on November 26 last year and on June 6 this year, regarding the withdrawal of the declaration of the Driftsands Nature Reserve.
Bredell published a notice in the Western Cape Province Provincial Gazette on March 31, 2022, requesting written representations on the proposed abolishment of the Driftsands Nature Reserve within 60 days.
Following publication, 20 comments were received. Of these, 19 were objections related to the conservation value and the setting of a precedent for the illegal occupation of reserves.