S. Africa: Environmentalist sued for objecting to proposed projects by property developers
‘Property developers slap Jo’burg environmentalist and conservancy with R197m lawsuit’ 1 March 2021
A Johannesburg environmentalist and the conservancy she runs have been slapped with a R197-million lawsuit by two property developers after raising what they allege are “obstructive, delaying and frustrating” objections to their projects in Riversands and Helderfontein. Century Property Developments and Riversands Developments are suing Kristin Kallesen and her nonprofit, Greater Kyalami Conservancy (Gekco), for the income they have allegedly lost because of objections raised by her and Gekco against development approvals in and adjoining the conservancy.
…Helen Duigan, of Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers, said Kallesen’s objections were made in terms of her rights as an interested and affected party. “This threat against Kirstin and Gekco should be opposed vehemently,” said Duigan. “Gekco has been a bulwark against unremitting pressure from development, pushing the urban boundary further and further into natural areas that include essential wetlands and threatened species such as grass owls.”… In legal papers, the developers say that Kallesen and Gekco have “abused” the statutory objection and public participation procedures because “frivolous and baseless” objections were filed against all the township applications by both defendants, none of which were upheld by the City of Johannesburg.
…For Duigan, the lawsuit is a stark reminder of the Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit brought in 2005 against five members of the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy, now proclaimed as the Crocodile River Reserve, by Robbie Wray, the developer of Blair Atholl Estate. “We were sued for R210-million — my share was R45-million. The case was concluded in December 2010 with the developer given short shrift, with costs at the maximum level against him.” This was the first major SLAPP suit in South Africa, garnering astounding publicity, particularly after the verdict, she said.