Communities in the Vhembe District celebrate UNDP MoU withdrawal from Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone

  • Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and several of the vibrant communities in the Vhembe District have celebrated a significant victory as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Compliance Unit has recommended the withdrawal from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ).

The MMSEZ – which many view as a major ecocide threat – is a metallurgical cluster, an industrial zone which would be created by destroying around 3000 hectares of near-pristine natural and sacred environment. The mega-project has been anticipated since the early 2000’s, when the local council announced plans to develop Musina from a village into a city. However, there has been opposition to these plans because this area holds huge cultural significance for the local Venda people, and the affected section of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve is home to diverse fauna and flora, which can only be found in the Baobab Belt.

According to Earthlife Africa’s Director Makoma Lekalakala, “This is a huge win for the movement toward sustainable and inclusive development and an even bigger win for the people of the Vhembe District who, as a result of the MMSEZ, were living with the threat of possible mass destruction of their natural resources. We welcome the decision, especially because it affirms our concerns about significant procedural shortcomings in the UNDP’s handling of the MMSEZ MOU.”

According to the independent UNDP Social and Environmental Compliance Unit (SECU) report, the UNDP Country Office (South Africa) deviated from prescribed protocols, specifically selecting an inappropriate form for the MOU, thereby bypassing essential policies. These policies related to due diligence, publicity, use of the UNDP emblem, and mitigation of reputational risks. This oversight resulted in a failure to comply with UNDP’s Policy on Due Diligence and Partnership with the private sector, as well as the associated Risk Assessment Tool, particularly in assessing high-risk projects involving coal and other minerals.

Earthlife Africa and its community-based partners call upon the UNDP Country Office to swiftly act upon the SECU’s recommendations and disengage from the MOU with MMSEZ. Moreover, the environmental justice organisation urges all stakeholders to prioritise human and environmental rights, and always consider the wellbeing of affected communities, in any future developments.

The report is publicly available here: https://secu.info.undp.org/case-file/secu0020

For more about Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, check out the website www.earthlife.org.za or follow the socials: Facebook and Twitter

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

Source: Earthlife Africa 

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