Several readers who did not attend the EIA meeting at St Francis Links on Tuesday evening have spoken to St Francis Today asking about the reported “fracas and fisticuffs” during the meeting. Sitting some 20 meters from where the alleged incident occurred, nothing untoward was apparent so we cannot honestly comment if was merely a threatening gesture, an intention to strike or an actual hit. One thing that was clear however that the recipient of boos and heckles was not a welcomed participant. Certainly there were police officers in attendance but whether it was because of this heckling incident or a pre-considered precaution is a subject for SAPS to confirm or deny.
Investigating the matter a little further it appears that certain members of the gathering felt that as the recipient of the heckles, a nuclear physicist, was not a resident of the St Francis area and the fact that he works in an advisory capacity to certain state organisations, he had no right to make statements in support of Thyspunt from the floor and should have rather sat with the Eskom and consultants table to answer questions rather than promote his personal views. There certainly is some value to this in that the meeting was intended for St Francis residence to voice their concerns and ask questions rather than listen to a PR exercise in support of Thyspunt. Certainly the doctor had a right to speak but possibly given that he is not a resident and given the emotion of the subject, it was ill advised.
As to members of the audience being inebriated, St Francis Today certainly did not see any drunkenness and it is a certainty that the management of St Francis Links would not tolerate such. Considering the meeting started at 6:00 pm it seems unlikely there would have been time for more than a couple of beers or scotches before proceedings kicked off, unless the inebriates had enjoyed a good lunch somewhere prior to the meeting which seems unlikely on a Tuesday afternoon. Yes certain members of the audience certainly did show their disdain for the good doctor but to call them drunk would be somewhat derogatory and an insult to the event host’s management.
It was encouraging that the panel made up of the consultants and Eskom representatives did assure that certain questions would certainly be looked into. One particular concern was the 3, or was it 6 (different values were mentioned) million cubic metres of sand that was to be pumped into the sea would affect the squid spawning grounds. An excellent suggestion from St Francis Bay Residents Association chairman, Nigel Aitken, was that should Thyspunt indeed go ahead it would be far better to transport the sand from the construction site to the eroding beaches of St Francis than pump it into the sea and risk damage to the chokka industry. The consultants certainly took note of this and agreed to look into it further. Whether it is feasible or not will no doubt be the subject of another environmental investigation that in turn will have its own objectors.
If Thyspunt goes ahead which seems a fait accompli, it is important for residents to voice their concerns and as many questions were left unanswered, this cannot be the end of the process. It is important that concerns are noted and dealt with to ensure any such development has as little negative impact on the lives of all in the region and the environment as is possible.