Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)

ESKOM’S EGO TRIP THREATENS SOUTH AFRICA’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 December 2013 – In spite of 12.2 billion Rand in profits in six months, Eskom has applied for non-compliance of air emission standards for all but one of its power stations on the basis of financial constraints, despite the major impacts on people’s health. Despite Eskom’s commitment to safety, its operations have consistently failed to plan for and implement industry-standard pollution prevention equipment, constantly harming communities close to its coal-fired power stations. Being one of South Africa’s major emitters of CO2, Eskom is also a major contributor to global climate change.

Maintaining its unsustainable path of generating electricity from dirty coal, Eskom is holding our country to ransom by scaring the public with threats of black-outs if they are simply required comply with the law and put pollution control measures in place.
 

Instead of decentralising and diversifying its generation capacity, Eskom consistently gets stuck with mega projects such as the pebble bed modular reactor project and the coal-fired power station Medupi. These highly complex projects regularly fail to be delivered on time and in a cost-efficient manner. In addition, special pricing agreements with big industry such as BHP Billiton mainly benefit corporations and shareholders at the expense of people.

In Eskom’s most recent financial report, it indicated employee and contractor fatalities and its commitment to health and safety. But Eskom has failed to include the costs to the health of its operations to South Africans and our health care system in general. “It is about time that Eskom and government calculates and includes the health costs to society of burning coal in its balance sheets, now that we have good air pollution data in the Highveld,” says Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaigner at groundWork [1]. “Eskom’s chairman needs to make the company’s commitments to health and safety to all South Africans come true.” In a media statement issued on December 5, Zola Tsotsi, Chairman of Eskom, said that “no kilowatt of electricity can be produced at the expense of human life..." [2].

For Thomas Mnguni who lives with his two young children in the Mpumalanga Province, the health impacts of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations are evident on a daily basis: "Eskom is directly polluting us, but they are in denial about how the emissions from their coal-fired power stations affect our health. In Middleburg, where my children and I live, the air is some of the worst in the country, if not the world. My child and many others in the community suffer from asthma". Thomas mobilises the community on these issues through the community-based organisation, the Greater Middleburg Residents' Association, as he witnesses daily the impacts of Eskom’s addiction to coal on his communities.

“We need to put Eskom back in its place. It is owned by us South Africans. Therefore, Eskom is here to serve the South African citizens,” stresses Makoma Lekalakala, Senior Project Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg [3]. “Prices for fossil fuels like coal and gas will keep going up as they are finite resources. Eskom is getting us even more entangled in its coal addiction – this is not the future we want for our children. And if we do not start transforming toward renewable energy now, going cold turkey on coal will be hard on all South Africans – especially the poor!”

Global research clearly indicates that coal combustion – apart from emitting greenhouse gases – has severe impacts on people’s health and is consequently is a huge financial burden on taxpayers and the state. Still, Eskom strives for postponements to the emission standards. Its unsustainable business model of generating electricity and its spying efforts on citizens and organisations got the parastatal nominated for the Public Eye Award 2014 [4]. This award was conceived in 2005 as an open and transparent event allowing the general public to voice criticism to the irresponsible behaviours of companies and the impacts of globalisation. Every year, one of the awards is determined by popular vote. The voting process is currently taking place. And the company that receives the most votes will receive the People’s Award in January.

FOOTNOTES
 
[1] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Quality, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International.
[2] http://www.eskom.co.za/OurCompany/MediaRoom/Documents/InterimResults5Dec2013.pdf
[3] Earthlife Africa seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. Our aim is to encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources. www.earthlife.org.za
[4] http://publiceye.ch

CONTACTS
 
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:
Makoma Lekalakala
Senior Programme Officer

Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 082 682 9177
Email: makoma@earthlife.org.za
 
groundWork:
Megan Lewis
Media, Informations and Publications Campaigner

Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 450 5541
Email: megan@groundwork.org.za
 
Rico Euripidou
Environmental Health Campaigner

Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Mobile: 083 519 3008
Email: rico@groundwork.org.za

FOOTNOTES:
 
[1] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Quality, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International. www.groundwork.org.za
[2] http://www.eskom.co.za/OurCompany/MediaRoom/Documents/InterimResults5Dec2013.pdf
[3] Earthlife Africa seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. Our aim is to encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources. www.earthlife.org.za
[4] http://publiceye.ch