On Sunday evening, the petition demanding that the Swartland Municipality reverse its decision to allow more sandmining on the Paardeberg had been signed by over 2200 people. As well as South Africa, signatories came from around the world. Before I stopped looking, I noted supporters from Australia, Austria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA, Virgin Isands…..
On Friday, VinPro (the company which “represents 3 500 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders”) issued a joint statement with WOSA (Wines of South Africa), saying that “sand mining – especially in cases where it is done illegally – poses an increasing threat in the Paardeberg”.
There has been local and international coverage, and tweeted support from major international wine critics, including Tim Atkin, Neal Martin and Jancis Robinson. There is now a Facebook page hosted by the “Protect the Paardeberg Coalition”.
A spokesperson from Swartland Municipality told me, when I asked for comment, that they were considering making a statement – but I’m not aware of anything having been said yet. I think it’s pretty safe to guess that they must be somewhat surprised by the vociferous and wide opposition to their decision.
What became much clearer since I originally wrote about this threat to the Paardeberg, is that there is an appeals procedure, which the main objectors are determined to use. I believe that the notice to appeal will be delivered by a mass of marchers. That should be fun – details will follow.
One question that has been asked a good few times, in recognition that there is a social need for building sand, is whether the sand on the Paardeberg is particularly special, or particularly useful. I’ve been told that it is not – in fact there apparently had been some study made of potentially useful sand mines in the larger area, and the farms for which the latest permissions apply were not included.
For those who want to dig little deeper into these developments, an interesting and ironical sidelight on the recent actions of Swartland Municipality (note, incidentally, that its logo includes a bunch of grapes but no sand, as far as I can see) comes in their lengthy and detailed “Swartland Spatial Development Framework Revision – 2017” (available online here).
I’ve looked at the substantial Executive Summary, and while one of the 15 strategies is to “support sustainable mining” (how sustainable is a sand mine, I wonder?), there’s predictably more about agriculture and the environment? How about these ideas: “Capitalize on existing agricultural activities…”; “Recognize and protect the historical and scenic landscape of the Swartland”. Sounds good for the grapegrowers, huh?
And how about this as one of the five “development proposals for the Swartland region” – did the municipality tribunal notice it, I wonder?:
“Develop the Paardeberg as a world wine destination”.
Now that’s a good idea! But not if it’s scarred by sandmines and sand-filled trucks are tearing up the fragile roads, you wont!