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The law requires a formal and systematic public participation process in provincial deliberations about proposed developments. For several proposals, the Conservancy has tried hard to be a part of the process. On some occasions, it appears that our  voice is heard, but alas – we later learn that we've made no difference at all in the outcome. My frustration spilled out in the matter of the Thaba Lesodi development, the one that proposed 850 units, two golf courses, and much more, on the  Vrymansrust Road. I wrote the following letter to the Limpopo Department of Local Government and Housing on 26 January 2009. I've re-sent it twice to the same several provincial managers, and still no response.

Dear Pat Nake,

I'm including Mr. Nape Nchabeleng and Mrs. Mihloti Hetisani on this e-mail because I think it is extremely important that managers at Limpopo DLGH are aware of what is going on.

I write as Chairman of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy. As a matter of urgency, I ask for your attention to the following:

As an interested and affected party to the Thaba Lesodi proposal, the Waterberg Nature Conservancy has been involved since the beginning. We have written letters and participated in Development Tribunal meetings. The most recent meeting that I was informed of was on 5 September 2008. At that Tribunal meeting, held in Modimolle, I represented the Conservancy and was the only opponent to the proposal. I made an oral presentation and left a written version of it with the Tribunal. The Tribunal Chairman told the meeting that he and the Tribunal would be meeting by themselves soon after and issue a decision shortly.

I waited and waited and waited. When I finally got hold of Hein Lindeque on the phone, he told me the Tribunal was meeting again with the applicants. I wasn't invited.

I waited and waited again. Next time I got hold of Hein Lindeque he told me the Tribunal had made a decision and I would receive the official decision. Of course I received nothing.

Finally, today, after daily attempts by me to get a response from your department, I received the decision document. It seems to be the final determination and says a hearing was held on 10 December, and the decision itself is dated 10 December.

I was not informed of the 10 December hearing, nor was I provided with this document until today, nearly 7 weeks later, and after I've asked many, many times for some formal news by e-mail and by phone to the Department of Local Government and Housing.

You have clearly not abided by the national laws and your own regulations about the public participation process. I can only deduce that the Department has knowingly and intentionally not included the Waterberg Nature Conservancy in any public  deliberations on this proposal since 5 September.

As I look at the decision document, I see that point 5 has no amendment scheme number, nor does it provide any information of what the amendment might be. I also note that point 2 says the environmental scoping report is adequate, even though the Tribunal Chairman told me and the hearing on at least two occasions that the environmental process was a completely different process and had nothing to do with the DFA hearing. In fact, the Chairman didn't want to hear any environmental issues raised by me or anyone else. He insisted that such a discussion was irrelevant to the DFA process, but  now this decision accepts the environmental scoping report. I also note that the maintenance and access to an existing cemetery on the site was extremely important to the Tribunal, but I see nothing in this decision document that mentions it.

Thaba Lesodi is an enormous project, with dramatic consequences on the Waterberg and on Vaalwater.

As an interested and affected party, we took our public participation role very seriously, but the Limpopo Department of Local Government and Housing did not.

Please respond to my points and tell me what you're going to do about the fact that you did not follow the public participation process.

John Miller

Chairman, Waterberg Nature Conservancy