Appeal for a reconsideration of the EIA authorization for the Wewe Mixed Use Development

 Executive Summary

The Environmental  Authorization for the construction of the Wewe Driefontein Mixed Use Development was granted on 30/4/2015 to the developer KDC Projects and Developments cc, Mr Pat Conway, and received by interested and affected parties on 07/05/2015, including the The Friends of Sibudu Association, who hereby appeal to the MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in terms of the National Appeal Regulations, 2010,to reconsider and amend the conditions placed on the developer in terms of:

  1. The proximity of the Wewe development’s Ilembe housing opportunity component to the internationally recognised archaeological site, Sibudu Cave and the effect this could have on its tentative World Heritage site listing .
  2. The inadequate mitigations to protect the cultural heritage of Sibudu Cave and ensure that it is not vandalised or damaged by an influx of new residents  in the absence of ability to enforce protection.
  3. No alternative uses for the area currently planned for the Ilembe housing opportunity zone were presented in the final EIA as required by  NEMA 1998
  4. The irreversible damage to the tourist potential of this site if this high density residential area is positioned so near
  5. There was inadequate public consultation of residents on the south side of the Tongaat River
  6. The delays in formulating a Management  Plan for the site, and delays in gazetting its heritage status due to lack of staffing capacity in the relevant Municipal, provincial and national authorities are hindering an understanding of better uses for this site


Proximity of Wewe Driefontein low cost housing development to Sibudu Cave


 As per the attached Appendix 1, showing the layout of the Wewe Driefontein development, the Ilembe housing opportunity portion, coloured yellow in the diagram, for approximately 370 new houses is adjacent to the Sibudu Cave site .

The EIA Authorization makes allowance for a 300 m buffer zone between the Sibudu Cave and the Ilembe housing development.

  We are not objecting to the whole Wewe plan, and this appeal focusses ONLY  on any housing , or industrial development  so near Sibudu Cave



Recommendation to the MEC


R1 That the MEC repeal the EIA decision for the Ilembe housing  zone of Precinct  1C, labeled “Ilembe housing opportunity” and marked in yellow on the Layout map of the Wewe Driefontein development until there is finality on the National Heritage Site Status and World Heritage Site status for Sibudu Cave  and the requirement of a Management plan in accord with this status  is fully understood.

Further recommendations to authorities and other interested parties


R2 That alternative uses for this site are investigated.  One such alternative is a tourist theme park as proposed by the National Department of Environmental Affairs in its World Heritage Status application for the Sibudu Cave.

R3 The whole site (the Cave, the riverside walk, the theme park zone) should be adopted as a KZN Premier’s special Project and the land expropriated, with due compensation to the current owners,  for public use

R.4 The Management Plan should be expedited by  SAHRA hiring a competent agent to do it, with terms of reference that include not just the Cave but a theme park and the surroundings of the Cave

R.5 Once this Plan is accepted by all stakeholders, investment in this heritage development can commence:

a) from public SA fiscus this could include grants from SAHRA , KZN provincial funds, EZEMVELO, Enterprise Ilembe , KZN Museums

b) from local private enterprise for  the indigenous planting, the drama groups, souvenir shop, restaurant, ancillary suppliers to these

c) tenders for building and infrastructure that will be needed related to these, for example, house for park manager and accommodation for guards, guides, student interns, and purpose-built display building.

d) International investment, for example a grant from UNESCO, and the funds that international tourists would spend for access and services. See Annexure2– the numbers of people who viewed the 2011 news of “The Oldest Bed” found at Sibudu ( Over 500m =7% of world population If only 1 in 100  of these ever come to see the site, that is still 5m tourists !)


Who is the Appellant?


Since 2014, when Life LifeLong Learning kzn (LLLKZN), started to organize public education about Sibudu, there  has been considerable growth of public interest: over 22000 views of the website, including international; over 100 attendees at 3 Sibudu education events in 2014, and more so far in 2015. The Friends of Sibudu Association was formed in April 2015 as a direct result of the realization that a harmful development might just go ahead if the authorities are not speedily made aware of much more beneficial alternatives


Grounds for Appeal


1.World Heritage Site Status for Sibudu Cave

1.1a On 15 April 2015 the National Department of Environmental Affairs lodged with UNESCO an application for the Sibudu Cave along with 5 other significant archaeological sites in South Africa to be listed as a World Heritage Site and it is currently on the UNESCO tentative list. (See Appendix 3. attached - submission documentation downloaded from the UNESCO World Heritage Council website.

        This submission  states “Each of the proposed sites included in this serial nomination are significant in their own right in terms of their contribution to the knowledge we have about the origins and behaviour of early modern humans. When all this information is combined with the greater story of modern human origins it is certainly significant on a global scale. The combined information from each of these six sites has given researchers a unique insight into modern human origins and behaviour.”

The sites also fulfill the principle that African heritage recognition should highlight cultural achievements and the role of Africa in the development of humankind, enriching common global civilisations (Recommendations, Second Global Strategy meeting, UNESCO, 1997:143)


The UNESCO application under Statements of Authenticity and/or Integrity states:

In terms of national and provincial heritage legislation, archaeological material enjoys automatic, blanket protection of a fairly strict order.  These measures are applicable to all six sites and any associated material.  Sibudu Cave is in the process of being nominated as a grade 1 National Heritage Sites,  with the highest order legislative protections offered by the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999).

It states further that because of their sensitivity these caves have not been open to the public. “As a resource they are fragile, vulnerable to damage by visitors and are non-renewable. Policy has been to limit access to minimize visitor impact.”

1.1b The  Heritage report on the Sibudu Cave understated the dates of habitation of the site. The latest archaeological finds (as of March-April 2015) are dated at between 90 000 and 100 000 years, far older than the 2011 data of between 35 000 to 77 000 years.

1.1c The Friends of Sibudu have recently engaged with the Premier’s Office with regard the Sibudu Cave and the attached Memo(Appendix4) to the Premier is currently working through the line functions.


2. Inadequate mitigations to ensure proper protection of the  cultural heritage of the Sibudu Cave

2a. AMAFA and the developer recognise the international importance of Sibudu Cave and that it is currently physically unprotected. However, they do not fully consider the cave’s vulnerability and the impact on it of many new residents into the proposed  housing to its fullest extent, because:

  • The cave is not on the Wewe Driefontein development site and,
  • The cliff face of the cave faces southwards towards the Ndwedwe area across the river creating  the supposition that the cave would not be accessed by the new residents, especially if it is protected by the proposed mitigation of fence and buffer zone of 300 metres

2b. To protect this internationally significant archaeological site from casual visitors and possible vandalisation (as experienced with other unprotected sites in the province) the archaeologists have purposely:

  • Kept the whereabouts and significance of the archaeological finds “secret” and;
    • Have also formed a relationship and understanding with the local Wewe residents ( the Dasa family) nearest to the current access route across the river and up the cliff
    • AMAFA pays this family a token amount monthly to “guard” the site, but their duties have not been formalized,

2c) It is here argued that the proposed “mitigation” is inadequate because:

i poor families will want to harvest wood and so will tend cut down the proposed trees and destroy the fence to do so

ii there is inadequate means of enforcing regulations about the buffer zone or the site, as SAPS are  designated “heritage officers” but the nearest police post is 9 kms away in Tongaat , and to date SAPS have received very little training on their heritage enforcement functions

iii young people new in the area will tend to explore the cave for courting, braais and graffiti unless there is a round the clock paid-for security team which requires more finance than AMAFA has so far budgeted for

iv  Not enough investigation has been done into access routes through from the Wewe side by wading the shallows of the river

3. No Alternatives considered

According to NEMA principle 3 “ the best practicable environmental option” should be selected, defined as “the option that provides the most benefit or causes the least damage to the environment as a whole, at a cost acceptable to society, in the long term as well as the short term” See also 7b for NEMA under Implementation

In the final EAI, p151, the ”No-Go alternative” is leaving the land as agricultural. Alternative lay-outs for the development are barely discussed, and not in relation to re-siting the western high density residential zone to a site nearer existing infrastructure for water and sanitation. Friends of Sibudu propose the developers should be asked to thoroughly explore and cost out alternative sites for this housing

The 1999 Heritage Act objective 1  is the cultural and environmental protection and sustainable development of, and related activities within, World Heritage Sites; AND a defined function to

promote, manage, oversee, market and facilitate tourism and related development in connection with World Heritage Sites.

It is submitted that the EIA does not take account of the possible tourist needs and impact of the Sibudu Cave as a world heritage site, and DOES NOT outline alternatives to the No-Go of continued sugar cane agriculture, or the developer’s plan of high density human habitation – this is in spite of the fact that the Heritage report by the consultantvan Jaarsveld states “in future the Sibudu Cave site could become a major archaeo-tourist attraction”

An alternative use for the area designated for the Ilembe housing opportunity is NOW proposed under section 4 below.

This alternative, which involves replanting the cane field with indigenous vegetation for a theme park, would be more compatible with nearby  agricultural use of land, and with the current job needs of the nearby Ndwedwe residents, who would thereby gain employment sooner than with the proposed industrial parks which may take longer to get into business

 It would also not require as much expensive infrastructure of water and sanitation

Alternative calculations of economic benefit would be the ripple effect of tourists staying an extra night in the locality with income for local restaurants and B and Bs  in order to visit the “must see” of a well developed world heritage site

4. Irreversible damage to the tourist potential of the site.

The potential area which could be developed for tourist use includes the riverside  path from east to west toward the Cave; the entire slope of the hill from the R614 to the river (the zone for the housing), a no-development zone south of the river beside the current wading ford, the strip of forest to the north of the river below the cliff, and , of course, the cliff itself with the Sibudu Cave. Appendix 5 outlines the activities which could be developed on this area.

The Heritage report , the AMAFA permission and the final EIA ignore the impact on this entire area because the heritage site is narrowly considered to be just the Cave and its archaeology

The Friends of Sibudu, who include several specialists on indigenous vegetation (Appendix 6), are keen to see the whole area developed so that both the archaeology of the cave AND the beauty of the surroundings can be enjoyed together. This combination would give it greater tourist attraction and potential for job creation.

In order to understand human evolution, it is essential to understand how early human interacted and survived in their environment – the further back in time, into hunter-gatherer societies, the more this is true. Therefore what is proposed is an integrated site, with both the archaeology and the environment managed and marketed together

In any case, there would be problems of access (through the residential sites with unpaved steep roads on the Ndwewe side or through the new  housing zone) if the Wewe development goes ahead without considering how tourists are going to visit the site. And not only tourists – for school parties in their buses will probably be the most frequent visitors, as is the case with local museums

If the  housing is built, then the likely tourist development will ONLY be via unsatisfactory access through Nwedwe land. Visitors will then want to take photos of the cliff from there, and the houses covering the sugar cane field will blight these photos. (see attached photos) It is submitted that the section on “Visual Impact” in both the heritage report and the EIA is inadequate. Van Jaarsveld reports on the view FROM the Cave, and does not appear to have considered camera angles towards the cliff. Thus the EIA in section 105.concludes “low impact” whereas Friends of Sibudu argues that this housing will irreversibly damage the visual appeal of the site.

5a) There was inadequate public consultation of residents on the South Side of the Tongaat River, as clauses 2c ii and 4 of NEMA imply that a public meeting where the information about the development would have been given orally in  Zulu would have been appropriate. There was no such meeting according to our informants (see Appendix 8).

 5b) There was inadequate consultation with Ndwedwe residents over the van Jaarsveld proposal to close off the access path from the road through the cane field to the river, although this is the main route for Ndwedwe pedestrians catching taxis on the R614

5c) There was inadequate consultation with the sugar cane farmer above the site about the proposal to close off the loading road there

But none of the security recommendations of this report were acted upon for reasons under 6 below

6. Phasing of Decisions and Capacity problems

There was a meeting on site between the lead archaeologist (Lyn Wadley), AMAFA  and an Ilembe Enterprise representative August 2010.

Numerous letters (ASAPA  letter – Appendix 7)were written to the EIA consultant in August  2010 from the archaeologists and professional bodies protesting to the proposed housing

Subsequent to that a Heritage consultant (van Jaarsveld) was appointed in Sept 2010, who did fieldwork in 2010 and finalised his report in 2012, without taking account of all these letters from professionals and concerned international scientists, AMAFA then made its decision in favour of the housing zone, but there has been no action by AMAFA to buy the site from the owners or to commission a Management plan as recommended by van Jaarsveld. The proposal to clarify the heritage status of the site went via AMAFA to SAHRA in 2011, but was apparently held up for 4 years by backlogs and staffing problems there.

Nor has there been any action by Ilembe Enterprise to explore the heritage potential of the site up until June 2015, after the EIA decision. The Ilembe Environmental Management Plan, finalized in 2012 has NO reference at all to Sibudu, which shows that the Municipal officials had not been properly informed, even by the Ilembe Enterprise representative who attended the 2010 site meeting.

It is anticipated that National Heritage Site status for Sibudu Cave with the required Heritage Management Plan could be declared at the end of 2016. However, with the capacity constraints and backlogs within the regulatory bodies this may be further delayed.

Meanwhile the housing development is listed for Phase 1 in the Wewe development. There will thus be a momentum of Wewe investment that will be difficult to halt or reverse if work to plan for the full heritage potential of Sibudu begins tardily because of the evident capacity constraints in the heritage authorities as evidenced above.

 A wiser decision is to halt the development of Precinct 1c until the heritage potential is properly investigated



Our concern is with ensuring that our internationally acknowledged heritage is not only preserved but given its rightful place as a World Heritage Site and that the province gain in full from the potential heritage income rather than spoil it  We believe that the conditions as laid out in the approval decision will not preserve the archaeological site in the long term and that the layout of the Wewe Ilembe housing development as approved may actually impede the process of gaining World Heritage site status.

The appendices

Appendix 1 – The Layout

Appendix 2 – International Press Coverage statistics in 2011of “The  Oldest Bed in the World” 2011 news, by counting digital hits

Appendix 3 – The UNESCO Submission

Appendix 4 –  The Memo to the Premier from Mike Newton

Appendix 5 –The Economic Opportunities document from FOS

Appendix 6 – The Plant ListAppendix 7 – The ASAPA letter

Appendix 8 – The Dasa affidavit

Friends of Sibudu Association reserves the right to make alterations to this document up until the 20 day submission limit allowed by the 2010 NEMA regulations 


The appendices may be obtained from the Secretary of the Friends of Sibudu Association