A groundWork Special Report


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groundWork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. groundWork is the South African member of Health Care Without Harm and Friends of the Earth International.


The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre and South African Food Sovereignty Campaign call for emergency sitting of Parliament to consider UN climate change report

12 November 2018 - The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre, through and with alliance partners in the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign issued a media release on 23 October 2018, in the form of an open letter, calling on President Ramaphosa to convene an emergency sitting of Parliament to consider the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The report draws attention to the rapidly changing science on global climate change. It also underlines the imperative of bringing down carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change through a 1.5°C overshoot. The report is clear that we are running out of time and decisive leadership is needed over the next 12 years to prevent such a dangerous shift in the Earth's climate.

Read more here.

Court victory for South Africa’s protected areas in Mabola case

Montane grassland in the Mabola Protected Environment

Montane grassland in the Mabola Protected Environment.

08 November 2018 - Today, the North Gauteng High Court set aside the 2016 decisions of former Mineral Resources Minister Zwane and the late Environmental Affairs Minister Molewa to permit a new coal mine to be developed in the Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga.

The case was brought by the coalition of eight civil society organisations challenging a range of authorisations that have permitted an underground coal mine in a strategic water source area and a protected area.

The Mabola Protected Environment was declared under the Protected Areas Act in 2014 by the Mpumalanga provincial government as part of the declaration of more than 70 000 hectares of protected area in the Mpumalanga grasslands. This followed years of extensive research and planning by a number of government agencies, including the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork sends open letter to Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on the occasion of the first global meeting on “improving air pollution, combating climate change and saving lives” to be held in Geneva

26 October 2018 - Leading health scientists are now characterising climate change as the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century, threatening all aspects of the society in which we live. The severity of the impacts of climate change on human health are clearer than ever before and will worsen if significant action is not taken to tackle climate change now.

Indeed, climate change threatens to undermine over a half-century’s worth of global improvements in health, achieved through dedicated and targeted action by policy-makers and health professionals around the world. In the South African public health system, air pollution is ignored and is contributing to a heavy burden of disease in SA that needs to be accounted for with accurate health statistics.

For this crisis to be tackled meaningfully, the Health Minister must be willing to be open to productive engagement with community stakeholders and to acknowledge the health impact evidence presented by the Life After Coal Campaign and many other experts and organisations.

These are just some of the points made in groundWork's open letter. Read the full text of the open letter here.

Concluding the draft 2018 IRP public hearings: NGOs write to Energy Committee

26 October 2018 - At the closing of the public hearings on the draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), 2018 convened by the Portfolio Committee on Energy from 16 to 25 October 2018, Energy Governance South Africa, a network of concerned individuals and organisations dedicated to promoting good governance in the energy sector, including prominent NGOs working on energy, have addressed a joint letter to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee.

Read the open letter here.

The myth of “clean coal” - why coal can only ever be dirty

25 October 2018 - South Africa is the biggest coal producer in Africa. Over the past 10 years alone, we have produced an average of 254 million tons of coal per year. 70 million tons of the coal we produce is exported, and the rest is used locally.

Eskom burns about two-thirds of coal used in South Africa in its coal-fired power stations annually, while Sasol Synfuels uses about one-fifth. The rest is used in a variety of industries, including steel and cement manufacturing. The direct impacts of using coal on health, water, land, and the climate are devastating.

Proponents with vested interests in the survival of the coal industry are promoting the idea of “clean coal” technology as the lifeline that will allow governments to continue to depend on coal as an energy generation option, while supposedly limiting its risks and impacts.

There is no such thing as “clean coal”. An overview of the coal value chain (mining, production, supply, and disposal) proves that “clean coal” is impossible. There are no solutions to neutralise all - or even most - of the dire environmental, health, and climate change impacts caused by coal. This is especially so in the context of the significantly cleaner and cheaper alternative energy sources - such as wind and solar power - that are available in such abundance in our country.

You can download the fact sheet prepared by the Centre for Environmental Rights here

Electricity Integrated Resource Plan:  Are Black Lives Cheap?

22 October 2018 - Government’s electricity plan (the Integrated Resource Plan, IRP) will result in thousands of South Africans dying prematurely because of pollution from coal fired power stations, fan the fires of climate change with increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and make electricity unaffordable for millions of poor South Africans who are already excluded from the economy.  This is groundWork’s oral and written submission to the IRP, which is supported with our Coal Kills report to parliament tomorrow, 23 October.  The Coal Kills report is a first ever compilation of local research highlighting the damage that coal causes.  Based upon this evidence - Another IRP is necessary!

In 2015, at a groundWork (a partner of the Life After Coal Campaign) community meeting and toxic tour of the Mpumalanga Highveld, then Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, Mr. Jackson Mthembu requested for local research to highlight the evidence of the social and environmental impacts of coal rather than focusing on international studies.  The Coal Kills report responds to that request and is produced for submission to the Department of Energy as local evidence of the damage coal has done to people’s social fabric, their health and their environments. 

Read the full media release here.

CER calls on JSE to include climate, environmental, social rules for listed companies

Impage: James Oatway for CER

Photo: James Oatway for CER

22 October 2018 - The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) has called on the JSE to strengthen its requirements for listed companies and their directors to include climate, environmental and social impacts.

Drawing on its extensive work to hold corporates accountable for violations of environmental laws, the CER submitted detailed comments to the JSE Limited in response to its call for input on possible improvements to the regulation of JSE-listed companies.

The CER’s Full Disclosure series of reports has assessed the environmental disclosures of some of South Africa’s biggest polluters. Our research has shown that while companies may publicly claim to advance a “sustainability agenda”, there is little to no robust and independent verification of the claims made by companies. Reporting requirements in South Africa rely extensively on a company’s own assessment of its performance, and companies are given the freedom to report on their environmental impacts and compliance track-record as they see fit.

See the full CER news item here.

Mabola update: Court refuses state’s postponement application, grants punitive costs order

17 October 2018 - The Pretoria High Court has refused the state’s application to postpone the hearing of the civil society coalition’s judicial review application in the Mabola case, and granted a punitive costs order against the state. The hearing of the review application is now underway.

Read the full media release here.

Visit mabola.cer.org

Update on the Mabola judicial review application in court today

16 October 2018 - On Friday, 12 October 2018, more than four years after the declaration of the Mabola Protected Environment, the MEC for Environment in Mpumalanga, Vusi Shongwe, published a notice of intention to exclude the properties that make up the proposed coal mining area from the Mabola Protected Environment, declared in 2014. The notice provides for a comment period of 60 days.

On Monday, 15 October 2018, the State Attorney filed an affidavit in the judicial review brought by the civil society coalition to set aside the joint permission given by former Mineral Resources Minister Zwane and the late Environment Minister Molewa in 2016, requesting the Pretoria High Court to postpone the coalition’s review application sine die, or without a new date. The coalition filed an answering affidavit, opposing this request, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, 16 October 2018, Judge Davis was not happy about the fact that the MEC sought a postponement, but had not deposed to an affidavit himself. Instead, the State Attorney, acting for the state respondents, had deposed to the affidavit, stating that he had not been able to reach the MEC. The Judge accordingly stood the matter down until Wednesday morning, requiring that MEC Shongwe files his own version of events on affidavit – to explain to the court the late publication of the gazetted notice, given its potential impact on the judicial review application to be heard one court day later.

All court papers are available on the CER website here under the drop down headings “Legal Challenges” and “Judicial review of the decisions by the Minister of Mineral Resources and the Minister of Environmental Affairs to give Atha-Africa-Ventures (Pty) Ltd permission to mine in a protected environment in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003″, as well as the court papers relating to the postponement application (highlighted in red), which we will update continuously.

Visit mabola.cer.org

CER attorneys to warn MPs of the dangers of new coal in the IRP

15 October 2018 - On Tuesday 16 October 2018, attorneys from the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) will tell Parliament that an Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) that provides for expensive new coal-fired power, at a time when South Africa needs to be urgently transitioning away from harmful coal, would be in conflict with the Constitution. This means that an IRP that irrationally includes expensive new coal could be held up by court challenges for years to come.

On 16, 17, 23, and 24 October 2018 the Portfolio Committee on Energy will be hosting public hearings on the draft IRP 2018. In addition to the CER, activists from Life After Coal partners groundWork and Earthlife Africa will be making submissions, as well as activists from various affected communities, and many other civil society organisations.

Although the draft IRP released for comment on 27 August 2018 is a substantial improvement on both the IRP 2010 and the 2016 draft, it still proposes the inclusion of 1000MW of new coal capacity to come from the proposed independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power stations, Thabametsi and Khanyisa. This is despite the draft IRP's own acknowledgement that a least-cost IRP would not include any new coal capacity, and despite Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe's admission that forcing these two coal plants into the IRP will cost South Africa an additional R23 billion.

Read the full media release here.

Our Life, Our Water, Our Sea, Our Air, Our Land - Statement from the National Gasdown Frackdown Gathering – 10 - 12 October in Durban, South Africa

12 October 2018 - Over the past 3 days we the community people representing traditional leaders, farm workers, farm dwellers, subsistence farmers, fisherfolk, and those from neighbourhoods affected by toxic pollution, together with people’s organisations and NGOs, gathered to reflect on the environmental, economic and political crisis our country and world presently finds itself in. This engagement afforded us an opportunity to thoughtfully consider our response to this crisis.

Our resistance to proposed fracking in South Africa, and the expansion of offshore oil and gas has brought us together. As a collective we are able to learn from our negative experiences of the corporate and political elite fossil fuel agenda and our successful resistance to this agenda in various parts of South Africa, and to build upon these initiatives.

Read the full text of the statement here.

Inter-sectorial collaboration for Health Equity in South Africa to Improve Environmental Health Practices at Local Clinics in the City of Cape Town.

11 October 2018 - The primary mandate of the health sector is to prevent and cure disease. In the process of pursuing this mandate, health-care services inevitably create healthcare waste that is hazardous to health. The waste produced in the course of healthcare activities carries a higher potential for infection and injury to human, animal and environment than any other type of waste. Wherever waste is generated, safe and reliable methods for its handling are therefore essential.

On the 10th and 11th of October, through the facilitation of Tekano [1] Atlantic Fellows for South Africa, groundWork [2] and the City of Cape Town, a health practitioners training and workshop aimed at improving environmental health practices at Clinics was hosted in the City of Cape Town. This workshop took place at the Isivivana Centre, Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Representatives from the Western Cape, Free-State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, which included; facility managers, environmental health practitioners, assistant directors, quality assurance managers and infection control nurses; groundWork; and Tekano engaged, shared knowledge, and mapped a way forward on how to better deal with environmental health issues at clinic level.

Read the full media release here.

Court date approaches for Coalition's defence of Mpumalanga water source area

11 October 2018 - The High Court application launched by the coalition of 8 civil society organisations in July 2017 to review the decision of former Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane and the late Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa to permit Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd to mine for coal in the Mabola Protected Environment will be heard by the Pretoria High Court from 16 to 18 October 2018.

As the proposed coal mine is in a protected area, declared under the Protected Areas Act, the mining company applied for special permission from both Ministers in order to mine there for commercial purposes.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs gave her permission to Atha in August 2016, and the Minister of Mineral Resources gave his permission in November 2016.

Neither Minister conducted a public participation process, nor notified interested and affected parties that they had received, or were considering, Atha's application for permission.

Read the full media release here.

Visit mabola.cer.org

Community to tackle Sasol’s off shore oil & gas proposals

Protestor at Sasol meeting09 October 2018 - Today, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) with more than 40 people representing community organisations from the Karoo, Matatiele, Richards Bay, Durban, Port Shepstone, Hluhluwe  and Newcastle and national NGOs such as groundWork, Support Centre for Land Change, Masifundise, Earthlife Africa, Environmental Rural Solutions,  350.org, Greenpeace, Centre for Environmental Rights, Wild Oceans and the Alternative Information Development Centre, will be challenging Sasol and their consultant’s, Environmental Resource Management (ERM) at 3pm at an open house meeting at the Gooderson Tropicana Hotel, 85 OR Tambo Parade, that ERM has organised.  

People from around South Africa are standing in solidarity with coastal communities in KZN and Eastern Cape and saying to Sasol and ERM: “No to oil and gas exploration and drilling”.  This struggle is in solidarity with the anti-fracking struggle in areas of Matatiele, the Karoo and Newcastle and the people in the Vaal and Highveld which suffer from Sasol’s pollution.

Read the full media release here.

Regional consultation on implementation of Minamata Convention on Mercury taking place in Lusaka Zambia

08 October 2018 - The second Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) is scheduled to be held from 19 to 23 November 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.

In preparation, a series of regional consultations is being organized by the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  In partnership with the UN Environment programme, groundWork is hosting an African regional workshop in Lusaka, Zambia on the 8 October 2018.

The overall focus of the workshop is on the lessons learnt from Minamata Initial Assessments in five African countries (Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Ethiopia) and how the Africa region can learn from the lessons of these five countries who have completed their Mercury Initial Assessments. There will also be discussion on next steps for Convention ratification and implementation.

You can download the booklet The development of Minamata Convention on Mercury Initial Assessment here.


For more news and our news archives click here, or here to access our collection of media items.