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.


Communities occupy the street demanding acceleration for a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy.

06 December 2019 - Earthlife Africa is occupying the streets of Johannesburg in a mock funeral symbolising the devastating impacts of climate change. We are joining millions of people around the world in sending a clear message to our governments – We Need Urgent and Ambitious Climate Action! The march also intends to serve as a reminder to the South African government, the memorandum of demands we delivered in September, particularly now, as world leaders convene at the UN climate conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. 

World emissions have risen by 1.5% over the last decade and reached a record high of 55.3 GtCO2e in 2018. According to the recently published annual Emissions Gap Report (UNEP), global emissions need to fall by 7.6% each year for the next decade, if we are to stay on track of limiting warming to 1.5 0C, a Paris Agreement goal.

The G20 countries, of which South Africa is a member, are responsible for the bulk of emissions (78%) globally. These member states especially need to pull their weight if we are to meet this goal. South Africa is the most coal-dependent country of all the G20 countries. It has a high reliance on coal for energy and still plans to build new coal-fired power stations past 2020. António Guterres in a recent press conference earlier this week said what is lacking from governments is political will - "political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards, and political will to shift taxation from income to carbon, taxing pollution instead of people." 

Read the full Earthlife media release here.

Bidorbuy, Amazon, eBay among websites found selling illegal mercury-laced skin lighteners.

27 November 2018 - Skin lightening creams containing mercury – a heavy metal and dangerous neurotoxin – are still widely available to purchase in shops and online, despite being banned by governments. That’s the finding of new research by a global alliance of NGOs working to eliminate mercury pollution.

Testing throughout 2019, revealed 95 of the 158 products purchased in the 12 sampling countries exceeded the legal limit of 1 ppm (part per million), with mercury levels ranging from 40 ppm to over 130,000 ppm. In South Africa, ten non-compliant products were purchased online from BidorBuy.

More than two-thirds (65 of the 95) of those were bought online from such internet marketers as Amazon, eBay, BidorBuy, Lazada, Daraz, Flipkart and Jumia [see table below] [1].

“Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin which must be effectively controlled. Internet retailers like Amazon and eBay must stop these Illegal products from being sold on their sites, as they have recently pledged to do in the EU.” said Bobby Peek, Director at groundWork.

Read the full media release here.

Civil Society to Protest at Sasol AGM

Sasol emissions graphic

26 November 2019 - Shareholders representing communities from across SA, Mozambique, and the United State will again confront Sasol executives and the board about the petrochemical group’s environmental record and greenhouse gas emissions.

The group consists of environmental activists from different organisations from South Africa and Mozambique. Last year in November, shareholder activists pitched at Sasol’s annual general meeting to challenge the company on its environmental and social compacts, in particular what they saw as its failure to provide stakeholders with adequate climate risk disclosure or to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Click here for more information

Constitutional Court rules against coal mining in Mpumalanga Protected Area

Mabola18 November 2019 - The Constitutional Court has had the final say on the approvals for a coal mine inside an Mpumalanga Protected Area and Strategic Water Source Area. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court refused the mining company’s final challenge of a 2018 High Court decision to set aside Ministerial approvals for the proposal coal mine.

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

South Africa has 22 Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSAs) which comprise 10% of the land area that produces 50% of the country’s fresh water. They supply water to South Africa’s largest urban centres, agricultural areas and support downstream economies and ecosystems. The Enkangala-Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area specifically supports the economic hub of Gauteng as well as various towns and agricultural regions in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd (Atha) was granted a mining right for coal after this area had been identified as a SWSA and after the Mabola Protected Environment (Mabola) was declared. Alarmingly, after the mining right was granted, the various government departments responsible for the environment and our water resources issued the other authorisations Atha requires for its proposed mine.

Read the full media release here.

Community Organisations issue Memorandum of Demands to the 17th session of African Ministerial Conference of the Environment (ACMEN)

14 November 2019 - Community organisations today issued a memorandum of demands to Minister Barbara Creecy to coincide with the Seventeenth Regular Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

These demands were:

  • Do not sell Africa to corporate interest and the elite;
  • Develop mechanisms across Africa that will protect those that protect the earth;
  • Be bold and lead from an environmental justice perspective and ensure that Africa develops resilience to secure the livelihoods of the millions as climate change devastates the continent.

Read the full text of the memorandum here,

AMCEN - We Demand Protection for Those Who Protect the Earth

13 November 2019 - Tomorrow, 14 November 2019, Ministers of Environment from across Africa attend the Seventeenth Regular Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).  This is during the week of the 24th Anniversary of the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and friends.  They, and many others on the African continent have given up their lives to defend the land, ocean and peoples' livelihoods.

Community people and people's organisations [1] from throughout Durban and KwaZulu-Natal will be marching on the venue to deliver a memorandum to the Ministers of Environment demanding that they protect those that protect the earth.

According to Global Witness 4 environmental defenders are killed weekly.  A new report titled Environmental Defenders Under Attack – The threats facing people who protect nature was released by the Swedish Society of Nature Conservation (SSNC) this week highlights the prevailing danger on environmental activists' lives without any visible protection or intervention from their governments. According to a recent report by The Guardian, the killings of environmental defenders globally have doubled in the past 15 years and can be directly linked to corruption, abuse of power, and weak laws. The year 2016 saw a record 200 killings of people defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries.

We demand protection.  Environmental Ministers must accept the fact that people are dying because they are defending their lands, oceans and livelihoods.

For details and contacts regarding the march, click here.

Building A Climate Change Response for Healthcare - Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) and Sustainable Health in Procurement (SHiP) Conference 2019

GGHH logo07 November 2019 – Health care institutions from across the continent will gather on Thursday and Friday (7th and 8th November 2019) at the Blue Waters Hotel for the first regional GGHH/SHiPP conference in Africa. This event which is hosted by groundWork [1] in partnership with its international partner – Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) [2] bringing together Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) [3] members, health care leaders and experts from across the continent and beyond to discuss, innovate and collaborate on strategies to foster climate-smart and sustainable health care practices.

Heathcare without Harm logoThis conference will showcase cutting edge, effective practices from the GGHH network and connect you to members who are at the forefront of implementing revolutionary projects related to green building design, renewable energy and sustainable procurement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Assessment estimated that almost one-fourth (23%) of diseases and deaths globally can be attributed to preventable environmental factors. Among these environmental factors are air pollution and climate change which are directly interlinked with the WHO declaring air pollution a “global public health emergency” contributing to an increase in cardio-pulmonary and cerebral vascular disease worldwide.

Read the full media release here

Plastic Atlas demonstrates the scale of the global plastic pollution crisis and solutions for a zero-waste future

6 November 2019 – Today, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the movement Break Free From Plastic have published the international English edition of the Plastic Atlas, holding launch events in Brussels, Washington D.C. and Manila.

The document contains more than 45 detailed infographics covering a broad range of topics regarding the global plastic pollution crisis and taking into account the value chain of plastic.

Plastic Atlas highlights the scale of the crisis and the global impacts of plastic production, consumption and disposal on other key global challenges such as human health and the climate crisis. It also outlines the role of plastic for key industrial sectors, such as agriculture and tourism, and describes the corporate interests and drivers behind plastic. Finally, the atlas presents an overview of key plastic-free regulations, zero-waste solutions and a snapshot of the growing global movement working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

Read the full media release and download the report here.

Responsible Investment only – is the rallying call from activists ahead of the SA Investment Conference

Environmental activists concerned about the environmental and health impacts of coal mining and pollution address an Open Letter to President Ramaphosa demanding that all investments meet the standards for responsible investment

Photo: CER.

04 November 2019 -  In an open letter to the Presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa, activist lawyers, civil society and community organisations call on government leaders to consider the environmental and health impacts of extractive and pollutant industries ahead of the SA Investment Conference which gets underway in Johannesburg this week. They demand that only responsible investors be allowed to do business in South Africa and call for environmentally and socially sound investments that equally stimulates economic growth and development.

The activists highlight the importance of the SA Investment Conference especially as so many South Africans are unable to find dignified work, support their households and realise their potential, but they emphasise that these objectives and sustained economic growth can still be achieved without harming the health and well-being of people and negatively impacting the environment.

Read the full media release here.

Environmental Justice Organisations Condemn SA's Plans for More Coal Electricity

18 October 2019 - In the wake of a new bout of load-shedding, the long-overdue Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) was finally published for implementation today – following nearly a year of deliberations, behind closed doors, at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).

The Life After Coal Campaign (LAC) and Greenpeace Africa (GP) are appalled to note that the new IRP forces in 1500 MW of dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary new coal-based electricity: 750 MW in 2023 and another 750 MW in 2027.  This is an addition of 500 MW since the last draft made available to the public in August 2018. The intensifying climate strikes and the UN Secretary General’s repeated appeal for “no new coal power plants after 2020” serve as a stark warning to South Africa – the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be prioritised if we are to have any hope of addressing the existential threat of climate change. The President promised action to address the climate crisis, but this final IRP suggests that this promise was empty.

Moreover, the new IRP wilfully ignores all evidence that there is absolutely no need for new coal in the future electricity mix - it does not form part of a least-cost electricity plan for South Africa. Any new coal capacity will simply add to rising electricity costs and further exacerbate inequality and the economic downturn in South Africa. Coal plants built in the 2020s will be scheduled to run well past any reasonable deadline for zero carbon emissions, and are likely to be abandoned as stranded assets long before they are paid off. “There is no reasonable basis for building new coal plants when the technology and costs are clearly in favour of renewables and flexible generation” says Makoma Lekalakala of EarthLife Africa.We no longer need to choose between clean and cheap electricity – clean energy is an affordable, healthy and feasible alternative.

Read the full media release here.

Coalition objects to Environment MEC’s further attempt to erode Mabola Protected Environment


11 October 2019 - In January this year, the Coalition of civil society organisations who have been challenging mining company Atha Africa’s proposed new coal mine inside a Strategic Water Source Area in Mpumalanga, welcomed the decision of Mpumalanga MEC Vusi Shongwe to withdraw his notice of intention to exclude properties proposed for mining from the Mabola Protected Environment.

MEC Shongwe had published his intention to exclude the proposed mining area from the Mabola Protected Environment in October 2018, and called on the public to submit their comments and objections. The Coalition submitted a comprehensive objection to the proposed exclusion in December 2018.

Inexplicably, on 9 August 2019, MEC Shongwe again published notice of his intention to exclude the proposed mining area from the Mabola Protected Environment. The Coalition has now submitted a comprehensive objection to this second proposed exclusion.

Read the full media release here.

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