Talks this week between the national environmental authorities and the well-known Watson family of the Eastern Cape could prove crucial as to whether, and how, the family’s contentious Inyanda-Roodeplaat wind farm project is developed.

A TimesLIVE report notes that the family has been in the news this year with astounding revelations, at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, about alleged corruption involving the Bosasa group of companies headed by family patriarch Gavin Watson.

The 187.2MW, 47-turbine wind farm project in the mountains near Uitenhage is being proposed by Inyanda Energy Projects, a company established in July 2012. The directors are Ronald and Valence Watson, two of Gavin’s three younger brothers; Ronnie’s daughter Tandy Snead; and Valence’s son Jared.

Ronnie Watson is also the owner of the farms where the project is planned.

In April last year, despite strong opposition from many conservation and tourism authorities and non-government groups, as well as several neighbouring landowners, the national Department of Environmental Affairs gave the go-ahead for the wind farm.

However, five formal appeals against this authorisation were upheld almost exactly one year later – on 15 April 2019 – by then acting Environmental Affairs Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who sent the decision back to the department for further consultation and re-evaluation, to be assisted by an independent review specialist (or specialists).

The department said no specialists had yet been appointed. However, it also revealed that Jared Watson had requested a meeting with the department to ‘clarify the conditions of the appeal decision and the way forward’.

This meeting is scheduled to be held at the department’s offices in Arcadia, Pretoria, on Thursday, 20 June.

Full TimesLIVE report