Egoli means “gold” and more than a quarter of the RNC has it – Egoli Granite Grassland (EGG) – an endangered vegetation type. What makes this grassland so valuable? It is exceptionally species-rich, there’s very little left of it and it is endemic to Gauteng – meaning it is not found anywhere else in the world.
Originally there were about 110 000 hectares of EGG in Gauteng. More than 50% of it has already been “transformed”, a polite word for “destroyed”. While the target is to conserve 25% of this grassland, only 0.67% was under formal protection until recently.
The Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment (GDACE) has disappeared in name. After the April election it was replaced by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and to date nobody is sure exactly what that means, nor how it affects conservation and environmental issues.
The new MEC is Ms Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, formerly chairperson of the Agriculture, Conservation and Environment Committee in the Gauteng Legislature. Khabisi Mosunkutu, ex-MEC for GDACE, is now MEC for Safety and Security.
Watching 4 year-old Zander Wessels of Vlakfontein contemplating a fair-sized scorpion lying calmly in his little hand made me realize how most of us grown-ups have been conditioned to regard creepy-crawlies as “the enemy”. One rule only: Kill them!The Scorpion Walk, led by Jonathan Leeming, a leading expert and author on scorpions, in April attracted 45 people eager to learn more about these maligned creatures. The expedition took place on “Ladybird Hill” where carefully upturned rocks and stones revealed many scorpions sheltering underneath.
The Armstrongs of Hills and Dales were most intrigued one morning a week ago, to find a bakkie wedged at an angle down a steep slope on their property. The driver was still sitting in it, contemplating the view over the Jukskei River down below.
Did you know (I didn’t!) that:
Insects and the small creatures are far more important than the Big Five. If they become extinct, humanity goes too. At an exhibition at the Maropeng Visitors Centre in the Cradle of Humankind, Marketing Manager Erica Saunders said: “There are so many species of insects and yet they are given so little attention. They play a huge role in our lives but we pay them little respect.” Or we stomp on them!
The conservancy cast its magic spell again on Thursday, 21 May, when 30 officials were taken on the annual tour of the RNC. They represented Tshwane Planning and Environment, the National Department of Agriculture, GDACE, the Botanical Society and the Cradle of Humankind.“My team could not stop talking about it this morning!” a GDACE official wrote the day after. “Thank you so much for the wonderful tour! It was informative, the place is big and beautiful; and the lunch was delicious and healthy!”
The Wraypex (Blair Atholl Golf Estate) R210 million SLAPP suit against five members of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy is still unresolved. Wraypex withdrew their R40m case against Lynne Clarke earlier this year and had to pay her costs. The cases of Mervyn Gaylard, Lise Essberger and Helen Duigan were consolidated and set for 14 – 24 April. Time was lost because of the April 21 elections and confusion about judges and the case was postponed until March 2010, when Arthur Barnes’ case will be consolidated with the above three.
The application for a 357-dwelling estate north of the Schurveberg was given a negative record of decision (ROD) by GDACE, and the developer’s appeal was also turned down. The developer has since sued MEC Mosunkutu (ex-GDACE) for turning down the appeal. The City of Tshwane, the RNC and the Development Tribunal were also summonsed "insofar as it was a party in the original application before the Gauteng Development Tribunal and insofar as they may have an interest in the matter.” No relief was sought against these Respondents “unless they should oppose the application, in which case an appropriate costs order shall be sought against them" ,the summons stated.
Asking questions, giving comment or objecting to developments or aspects of a development is clearly a thorn in the flesh of some developers. This growing trend of suing objectors has added impetus to the formation of the Centre for Environmental Rights (Cape) and the Northern Environmental Rights Forum (Gauteng). These NGOs aim to assist environmental activists who are targeted by developers when exercising their constitutional rights.