Climate activists call for sustainable solutions

One of the demands of the protesters was for Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, to step down. All photos by Vincent Lali

Activists called for a change of leadership at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, and for the capitalist economy to be uprooted.

Scores of climate activists and environmentalists handed their memorandum to officials representing the Office of the Speaker of Parliament, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, and the Office of the ANC Chief Whip outside Parliament on Friday.

The memorandum demands that “the leadership structure of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) be transformed to fulfill the mandate for an inclusive socially, economically, and ecologically just energy and mining future.”

“Mantashe must step aside to allow new progressive leadership,” says the memorandum, and calls for “a rapid and just transition to a more socially owned, renewable energy powered economy, providing clean, safe and affordable energy for all, with no worker and community left behind.” It also demands one million climate jobs and rejects as “corrupt, costly and unnecessary” the Karpowership programme to bring the floating Turkish power stations to South African shores.

According to the memorandum, the Climate Alliance calls for “a Green New Eskom driving a just transition to a more socially owned, renewable energy future…. Mantashe and DMRE must stop blocking and inhibiting Eskom’s transition to renewable.”

Victor Ngaleka received the memorandum and said he would hand it over to the Speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Deputy Director General of the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, Dr. Thuli Khumalo, said she would give the memorandum to “the relevant minister.” “We support your struggle. The speaker has monitored the campaign and growth of the alliance and is impressed with your effort,” Ngaleka assuaged the protesters.

Richard Dyantyi and Khaya Magaxa received the memorandum on behalf of the ANC Chief Whip. “We will monitor how the memorandum is being attended to,” offered Dyantyi, while Khaya Magaxa suggested that the protesters work with “other anti-capitalist organisations”. “It would be nice to see Cosatu here. It’s strange that you don’t stand with other anti-capitalist organisations,” he said.

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The activists made connections between environmental degradation and changing weather patterns and the capitalist economy.

Yola Mgogwana, an activist from Earthchild Project and African Climate Alliance, said: “Currently, drains are blocked and we are literally swimming in sewage in Khayelitsha. Clearly the system is broken. We need change,” she said, adding that she faces “gender-based violence and other dangers” when collecting water from a communal tap in Site B, Khayelitsha, where she stays.

Athenkosi Baba, a Project 90 By 2030 youth coordinator, said: “We are here to force the government to move away from using coal.” The government must introduce solar energy systems because it is cheap and doesn’t pollute the air, he said. The use of coal to generate electrical energy costs billions, pollutes the air and makes residents sick, especially those staying close to mines, he said.

Nevil Sonwabo, community coordinator for Green Connection, works with fishing communities and finds that they don’t enjoy their full rights because, he believes, indigenous rights are not respected. “This system is oppressive,” he declared, “Why is the government using this dirty oil and gas and coal while the country has world-class renewable [energy] potential?”

Mpumelelo Mhlalisi, Western Cape coordinator for Eastern Cape Environmental Network, said the government doesn’t act in line with its climate policy. She said, “We want the government to take meaningful action and address the issue of the climate and not just pay lip-service.”

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