THE Southern Cape Land Committee (SCLC) has joined the fracking debate, calling on the government not to allow the controversial shale gas exploitation practice in the Karoo without allowing landless residents a voice in its final decision.
SCLC chairwoman Angela Conway said the committee recognised that the fracking issue was "one of the most crucial campaigns we have ever faced”.
"The perception that fracking is confined to a struggle by white farmers seeking to retain the status quo and obstruct job opportunities is simply not true. Fracking will affect the whole country and all her citizens, especially in a water-scarce country like ours,” she said.
The SCLC called on the government to extend its fracking moratorium, implemented last year, and to ensure that all Karoo residents were engaged in the debate.
The committee said issues that needed addressing included if and how fracking would help the country address patterns of skewed land ownership in the Karoo and job creation for the poor.
"The conversion of agricultural land for projects like fracking and other leisure development for the elites should be discouraged in order to engage in proactive, state-driven land redistribution,” Conway said.
The SCLC said the state had a key role to play in putting people first.
"South Africa is not for sale. We call on all peace-loving South Africans to urge our government not to fall for the empty promises of multinational companies, promises of creating jobs at the expense of future generations of our beautiful country.”
Earlier this week, the Treasure the Karoo Action Group warned the government to prepare for a legal battle that could end up in the Constitutional Court.
The group expected the government to soon approve exploration licences that would clear the way for fracking. Some estimates reportedly put South Africa’s potential shale gas resource at 485 trillion cubic feet of gas.
According to a report by Econometrix, commissioned by Shell, the shale gas industry could add up to R200-billion a year to the country’s gross domestic product and create 700000 jobs.
The controversy over fracking (hydraulic fracturing) stems from concerns about the safety of the technology, which uses large amounts of clean water mixed with sand and chemicals to crack underground rocks and release shale gas.
Detractors of the practice fear contamination of ground water supplies.