The Climate Justice Coalition on Friday called for the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe to step down from his position, to pave the way for a renewable future in South Africa.
The Coalition said it viewed Mantashe as the biggest obstacle to a just climate, energy, and mining future. Activists have in the past accused Mantashe of being pro-coal.
The group describes itself as a coalition of South African trade unions, grassroots, community-based and non-profit organisations. It said it had a diverse array of members working on a variety of social, labour, health, environmental, energy, education, gender, human rights, and climate justice issues.
The Coalition hosted a People’s Tribunal to put the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on trial “for their polluting and harmful policies and practices”. It also called for the just energy transition so that advanced environmental, energy, climate, and economic justice can happen.
Activists from across the country spoke about how the mining industry has impacted the communities in their respective provinces.
Eastern Cape’s Lungisa Ngapi from Extinction Rebellion said DMRE was posing a danger to the province’s marine ecosystem.
He said the Karpowership floating power plants project and the testing done by Shell before drilling for oil and gas all posed dangers to the marine environment.
“All of this has been done to maintain the dependence on fossil fuels. This is unnecessary, we have an abundance of the sun to produce energy. We want the DMRE to get out of our way as they refuse to help us,” Ngapi said.
Recently, Shell lost its bid to appeal against an interim interdict for seismic survey operations after small fishing communities protested along Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape shores, voicing their stance against seismic activity. Mantashe criticised the treatment that Shell received in South Africa.
Themba Ncezi from Tswaranang Africa, a representative of the Free State, said the province was the country’s food basket as it had many mines.
“Those mines now are shelters of crime. When we approach the DMRE about this, it is always hiding in a private building, we can’t easily access it,” he said.
Ncezi said the department was also licensing foreign companies which rehabilitate tailings.
“When the tailings are rehabilitated they go through reprocessing, this affects the water and air quality. People are getting sick because of it. There is no process to the communities that says we recognise you,” he said.
A Western Cape representative said: “We have the Koeberg power station that is not running at full capacity as it is not maintained correctly. Mantashe has a plan to extend nuclear energy, which is a problem. Mantashe and the DMRE need to hear the people and let our people tell us how to go forward,” she said.
Most speakers said the department doesn’t consult communities about the mining activities that it gives licences for.
A Limpopo representative said: “In the Lephalale area, most of the mining rights that the department grants to the mining companies were done without the participation of the communities, especially those that are going to be affected by those operations.”
Themba Khumalo from KwaZulu-Natal said the grazing land for cattle in the area is no more because of mining operations.
“We are grieving. We are saying to Mantashe, and the DMRE enough is enough. They are granting unlawful mining permits to these mining companies, who extract our resources and leave us with dumps.
“We don’t need new coal, forward with just transition. We demand the DMRE and Mantashe to find new ways of working,” Khumalo said.
Meanwhile, in Cape Town on Friday, a protest was held as part of the Global Climate Strikes led by youth climate activists globally.
Some of the demands on the memorandum included a call to prioritise how people will be affected by the climate crisis over the profits that come with extraction and continued coal use.
This article was first published by Independent Online