Resisting development or imposition? Examining the many dynamics around the resistance of externally initiated, state-assisted, and industry-driven “development” projects in the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, South Africa
The South African Wild Coast communities received the attention of a globally networked mining company, which is supported by the state to extract minerals from ancestral lands. Deploying the political ecology approach and the “sacrifice zones” notion, this paper reflects critically on the struggle of local communities to resist such externally initiated, state-supported, and industry-drivenprojects. It draws evidence from the attempt by a mining company to extract minerals in the area, the attempt by the state to construct the N2 toll road, and the attempts by Shell South Africa to explore oil and gas in the Wild Coast coastline. In all these cases, the state envisages that the projects will bring inclusive development, much to the chagrin of local communities who want to preserve their ancestral lands for economic, spiritual, and cultural reasons. The paper argues that the state’s position in the Wild Coast is aligned with the broader imposition of “development” projects in purportedly weaker communities, albeit with exaggerated spinoffs, while ignoring the local environment, priorities, cultures, traditions, religion, concerns, and views. Given the way the state and industry prioritise the “imposed development” over the local context, this paper uses the experiences of communities in the Wild Coast to interrogate the essence of development, and the nature of the state. This paternalistic conduct of the state to decide on behalf of local communities is inherently flawed, in that it creates an impression that there is a symbiotic relationship between externally initiated “development” projects and local interests.