Disaster hit an upmarket housing complex on Durban's outskirts, December 23rd 2014, when more than 200 000 litres of diesel poured out of an underground pipeline. The pipeline operated by Transnet, pumps fuel inland from the Durban harbour up to Johannesburg.

The Greenpeace Africa local Durban group of volunteers kept their ears to the ground to monitor the situation with expectations of an efficient and speedy clean-up of the affected area.

I did a follow up on the site, about a week after the devastating oil spill. Upon my arrival I was greeted by a nervous security guard outside the Hillcrest Pumpstation, who subsequently fired a barrage of questions my way: "Who are you? You are not allowed to park here! No photos!”. “I'm here to monitor the oil spill, will speak to the person in charge across the road”, I said as I proceeded. The security guard looked horrified. He shouted to the clean-up crew across the road, when one of the workers ran down to call the senior officers. In no time I was greeted by one of the senior officer's. 

I explained to him, who I am, a volunteer from GP Africa, here to monitor the oil spill and take few photo's for my report. I was then told by the senior officer that I can't take any photos as the site is listed as a national key point. 

The National Key Points act is an old piece of apartheid legislation which provides for the declaration and protection of sites of national strategic importance against sabotage as determined by the Minister of Police. The act was designed during the apartheid era to secretly arrange protection primarily for privately owned strategic sites and has been used against environmental justice activist from gaining access to sites in order to protect the states or private vested interest.

I was then given the contact number of Saret Knoetze, the PR Manager for Transnet Pipelines. It appears there are certain points where the media are allowed to film and take photos which begs the question what are Transnet trying to hide? Are they trying to cover up the extent of the damage? Doesn't the public have the right to know? Transnet needs to be held accountable and there needs to be transparency, no? 

According to Professor Patrick Bond, who directs the Centre for Civil Society at UKZN (University of KwaZulu Natal) Howard, “the pipeline, built in 1965 and now at least four years past its official retirement date, annually carries three billion litres of petroleum products for BP, Shell and Malaysian-owned Engen”

As Professor Bond puts it that ‘not only should this become a case for rethinking both our addiction to climate-destroying petroleum and the geographically-illogical Johannesburg region’s excessive air pollution – and what narratives activists might deploy against fossil-fuel facilitators like Transnet’

In the meantime, we will keep pressuring Transnet to be open and transparent during the clean-up operation.