Relations between and Eastern Cape Valley Bushveld game ranchers reached breaking point at an emergency meeting to discuss Eskom’s plan to put up 55m pylons in a 180m-wide serviture for two high-voltage lines to Port Elizabeth. T he ranchers, whose properties are at risk of being dissected by the plan, unanimously rejected the environmental assessments compiled for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by Acer, the consultants appointed by Eskom. ranchers claimed that these were superficially researched, with too little use made of local experts or input from the landowners. They charged that assessors didn’t even know that hunts are booked years in advance. A rthur Rudman of Blaauwkrantz Safaris, who runs a well-known international hunting business near Uitenhage, said one of the many flaws is that the consultants totally underestimated the economic role of hunting in the province, as well as the disastrous effect the 55m pylons would have on the industry. “The Eastern Cape is South Africa’s prime hunting destination and foreign clients spend millions here annually. They visit us for the wild, African experience and don’t want to see huge power lines in the veld or near their lodges. They’ll simply take their business elsewhere. Building those lines – the biggest in Africa – through this sensitive territory will wipe out the international hunting and ecotourism businesses that have been painstakingly built up over decades.” E skom has also been also criticised for threatening uncooperative landowners with expropriation. Although Acer has recommended that should buy out unhappy landowners at market value, Rudman does not see this as a solution. “How do you put a value on a business that’s been built over generations and that isn’t up for sale? Furthermore, compensation policy is hopelessly inadequate because it doesn’t consider the effect the lines will have on our income.” S everal ranchers have emphasised they’re not against progress, but believe that it’s sheer madness to build such huge pylons through largely undeveloped landscape. Donovan Rudman of Kleinpoort suggested that as many lines as possible should go through the 280 000ha Addo Elephant National Park. “It already has a power corridor running through it. Less environmental and visual damage will be caused this way than on a piece of private land.” Others have suggested that all alternatives should be investigated or that the lines could even be built on mountain tops where they could be hidden from sight. Patric Grewar, another one of the landowners, said he’s considering taking the case to the Constitutional Court. “I’ll have my farm appraised before construction begins and again when the lines are completed and we’ll see what the difference is going to be. Besides the fact that the land will lose value because of all the ugly pylons, the environmental destruction will be enormous with trees that are thousands of years old being destroyed by bulldozers.” – Roelof Bezuidenhout
Relations between and Eastern Cape Valley Bushveld game ranchers reached breaking point at an emergency meeting to discuss Eskom’s plan to put up 55m pylons in a 180m-wide serviture for two high-voltage lines to Port Elizabeth.
Issue Date: 14 March 20