2018 NEWS AND PRESS RELEASES
For all media enquiries please contact Tsepang Molefe by phone on +27 33 342 5662 or +27 64 900 9963, or WhatsApp (+27 64 900 9963), or click here to send an e-mail. Click here to access our News and Press Release ARCHIVES.
Minister Gwede Mantashe to visit the Somkhele community
21 September 2018 - On Saturday 22nd of September 2018, Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe will finally face the community of Somkhele/Mpukunyoni. The community, which for years has suffered a number of injustices and human rights abuses under the hands of ruthless mining bullies, will finally get a chance to engage the minister on issues related to mining in their area.
For years they have tried without success to engage with the various ministers and the Department of Mineral Resources.
What makes Mantashe’s visit even more interesting is that on the 24th of August 2018, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) representing over 3500 residents from the very same community crossed swords with the Tendele Mining Company at the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Legal representatives of the community tabled evidence of how the mine was violating environmental laws and how the current operation by Tendele has already displaced and destructed countless livelihoods; taking away and polluting land and water, vital self-sustainability sources for this rural farming community. Judgement is still pending.
Why the coal-fired power station IPPs are unlikely to get out of the starting-blocks
20 September 2018 - One of the key objectives of the Life After Coal Campaign (consisting of Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights, and groundWork) is to discourage the development of any new coal-fired power stations, which would lock South Africa into further dependence on dirty, expensive coal for decades to come, and delay the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon future.
For this reason, for the past 5 years, the Campaign has been resisting the roll-out of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers (“coal IPPs”) programme, following the then Minister of Energy’s December 2012 Determination for 2500MW of coal-fired power from coal IPPs. The Determination was based on the now extremely outdated 2010 Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), which made provision for 6250MW of new coal from coal IPPs between 2014 and 2030.
groundWork statement to the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) gathering in Nairobi, Kenya. The statement is a request to African leaders to consider the future of the continent in relation to the environmental and health challenges it faces, and also a reminder that coal, plastic, and pollution do not form part of a desired future for Africa.
18 September 2018 - Africa is not a cave: Coal, waste incineration, and plastics are a danger to our environment and the well being of our people. No to coal - yes to renewables; no to closing of democracy - yes to open democracy; no to incineration and plastic pollution - yes to Zero Waste as an innovative solution to addressing environmental problems and job creation, energy and food security and mitigating climate change.
This is the call of groundWork and the very many community organisations and partners we work with to the Seventh Special Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) that is being held at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya from 17 to 19 September 2018.
Eskom’s latest bid to continue deadly pollution strongly contested
18 September 2018 - Five of South Africa’s largest environmental justice organisations have come out strongly against Eskom’s further round of multiple applications to postpone compliance with air pollution standards. Allowing Eskom to continue with its pollution will mean that at least 2200 people in affected areas will die premature deaths every year as a result of exposure to this pollution.
Although Eskom was already granted widespread postponements from compliance with the so-called minimum emission standards (MES) under the Air Quality Act in early 2015, it has made little effort to ensure that it can comply timeously with South Africa’s weak MES.
groundWork challenges UNO support for waste incineration project
14 September 2018 - groundWork, along with 77 other organisations, has signed an open letter asking the UN Environment Program to adopt a clear stance and policy supporting sustainable waste and resource management approaches at the top of the waste hierarchy.
The organisations further call on the UNO to refrain from endorsing waste incineration projects, and to stop advocating waste incineration in all the agency's publications and statements.
Regional Community Exchange: Building a solidarity in resistance to coal
11 September 2018 - From the 10th to the 14th of September 2018, nine environmental justice organizations  are gathering in Botswana for a regional community to community exchange under the banner of Building a solidarity in resistance to coal. The exchange will engage 30 participants from Botswana and South Africa.
This particular exchange has a great significance for many reasons, including the recently announced Chinese investment on coal fired power stations and mining in Africa, which is nothing short of a step back in the efforts to develop the African continent towards cleaner, healthier, and more affordable energy. Also, the Department of Energy in South Africa released the draft Integrated Resource Plan 2018, for public comment and the plan includes two unnecessary coal-fired power stations.
China must play a positive role in Africa - statement by groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa.
06 September 2018 - The China Development Bank's $2.5 billion loan to Eskom, to continue the construction of the 4800 MW Kusile coal-fired power station locks South African into a debt spiral. The troubled plant - which has recently had a major destructive fire - has been delayed for years and cost-to-completion is now R225 billion. Original cost estimates for the new coal plants was R30 billion in 2005 by the then Minister of State Enterprises, Mr A Erwin.
South Africa has an energy surplus and renewable energy is coming on line cheaper than Eskom's coal fired power stations. This loan will lock South African into coal, and deny South Africans the opportunity for expanding renewable energy production, and negatively impact plant manufacturing job creation opportunities in South Africa. China already employs 3.6 million people in the renewable energy sector.
We also note that the China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) building of the Morupule B coal-fired power station has been problematic, with it often breaking down. This has forced Botswana to depend on diesel generators and therefore spiking up costs in their fiscus.
China must play a positive role in Africa, and ensure that their support for Africa must be guided by the best energy choices of the people of Africa, choices that will support and promote learning and jobs in Africa for Africans. China should not use Africa to dump old technology or to make work for Chinese constructors of coal-fired plants or big dams.
Groote Schuur Hospital to host an environmental fair on the 7th September 2018
Groote Schuur Hospital, a member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) will be hosting an environmental fair on the 7th September 2018.
Under the GGHH initiative, hospitals, health systems, and health organizations from around the world connect, learn, and collaborate with each other to support their efforts toward reducing the environmental footprint of the health sector.
The main focus of the environmental fair will be on plastic pollution.
Life After Coal, Greenpeace Africa slam inclusion of new coal in electricity plan
28 August 2018 - The inclusion of new coal in the updated draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) will cost South Africa close to R20 billion more than we need to spend, and will make electricity more expensive for all South Africans. If the Department of Energy were to publish the least-cost plan that civil society organisations have been demanding, it would not include any new coal.
Allowing the two new coal plants contemplated by the draft IRP to go ahead would be disastrous for water resources, air quality, health, land, and the climate.
The Life After Coal Campaign(consisting of Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights, and groundWork) and Greenpeace Africa argue that the inclusion of an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power – on top of existing and under-construction coal – puts the Department of Energy in conflict with the rights enshrined in the Constitution, given that there are safer, cleaner, and less-expensive energy options available.
Centre for Environmental Rights welcomes new SAHRC report which calls authorities, mining industry to order
22 August 2018 - The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) announced today that it welcomes the South African Human Rights Commission’s report on the Underlying Socio-Economic Challenges Facing Mining-Affected Communities published today, incorporating findings, directives and recommendations from the hearings held in September and November 2016.
The Commission’s findings corroborate many of the concerns that mining affected communities and civil society organisations have been raising for years. Not only does the report find large-scale non-compliance by both mining companies and the authorities charged with policing them, but that the current legal regime does not adequately safeguard human rights.
The Commission finds that South Africa’s experience has shown that many mining-affected communities are often worse off as a result of the negative social, economic and environmental impacts of the industry. “This is a crucial finding against the relevant authorities who currently adopt a ‘mining at any cost’ approach to licencing decisions,” says the head of CER’s Mining Programme, Catherine Horsfield.
The Somkhele and Fuleni communities neighbouring the Hluluwe iMfolozi Park unite on 24th August 2018 at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in their resistance against the ongoing illegal mining by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd and its proposed expansion.
21 August 2018 - In an application to be heard in the high court in Pietermaritzburg, evidence will be tabled before Judge Seegobin of how, since 2017, the mine has been violating the National Environmental Management Act by breaching environmental and other laws. The mining company operates illegally next to arguably the most sensitive area in South Africa, with the largest population of rhinos in the world.
Tendele’s human rights abuses and negative impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the greater Mpukunyoni area, where Somkhele is situated, will be tabled in various reports, including the South African Human Rights Commission’s recently released report on hearings with mining affected communities that include Somkhele. Meanwhile, Tendele plans to expand its operation and has identified 124 households to be moved from their rightful land. Many more families will lose their livelihoods and have their lives and health destroyed by living in close proximity to the mine.
Call to action: Despite its coal power stations harming thousands every year, Eskom now wants even more time to continue polluting
16 August 2018 - Eskom has once again announced that it will not meet pollution standards for 14 of its coal power stations.
Although Eskom has already been given permission to postpone its compliance with the Air Quality Act’s minimum emission standards, and despite overwhelming evidence of the devastating health impacts of its emissions, it now plans to ask the Department of Environmental Affairs for even more time to meet standards – in other words, to continue with its pollution. In several cases, Eskom says it does not ever intend to meet emission standards.
Eskom is now asking to defer compliance at 11 coal power stations on the Mpumalanga Highveld, and one in the Vaal Triangle. Both the Vaal Triangle and the Mpumalanga Highveld were declared air pollution priority areas under the Air Quality Act in 2006 and 2007, requiring urgent action to clean up the air in those regions in order to protect human health. Despite more than a decade having passed since the Highveld and the Vaal Triangle were declared priority areas, widespread air pollution, with dangerous health impacts, remains. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health or well-being.
Wheels come off the Eskom offset
14 August 2018 - Eskom is the biggest air polluter in the land through its intensive coal fired power stations. This makes Eskom not just a producer of energy but also a manufacturer of illnesses and deaths. The power utility has failed to comply with the minimum emission standards (MES) set by a democratic process, which included all role players and led by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which is aimed at reducing outdoor pollution from coal fired power stations, in order to protect the lives of the people who are already suffering from respiratory diseases and dying from the pollution from coal facilities. It is also important to mention that the standards set by the DEA are less protective of health compared to those of the WHO (World Health Organization).
Instead of meeting these standards, Eskom opted to start an offset programme in a few Highveld communities aimed to reduce outdoor air pollution by addressing indoor pollution by improving the insulation of the houses and providing LPG gas stoves, heaters, wall insulation, and ceiling to the communities. Their basic idea and intention is to cut domestic emissions by switching households to cleaner energy sources, low emission appliances, and insulation as an offset to the millions of kilograms of pollutants they emit from their fleet of coal fired power stations.
groundWork staffer Tsepang Molefe spoke to Sunnboy and Petunia Skhosana, residents of KwaZamokuhle township, Hendrina in Mpumalanga about their experience of the Eskom programme.
Life After Coal Campaign comments on Climate Change Bill 2018
08 August 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (LAC) today submitted a comprehensive response to the Department of the Environment on the Climate Change Bill 2018.
The general thrust of the comments is that whilst supporting the Bill, the LAC is highly concerned that the Bill, in its current form, does not go far enough to address the severity and urgency of the threat of climate change. Instead of responding urgently to the need to address climate change, and making adequate provision for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and for holding emitters and government accountable, the Bill's focus is on creating a bureaucracy of government bodies, plans, and processes.
The LAC further points out that at present, South Africa is not on track to meeting the Paris Agreement target of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This means that South Africa is continuing to expose itself and its people to devastating temperature increases and other climate impacts that will cause irreversible harm, as acknowledged in the White Paper and NDC. This is not consistent with the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, in particular, the rights to life, dignity, access to food and water, and to an environment not harmful to health or well-being.
The importance of community activism
03 August 2018 - Addressing the 23rd Biennial General Meeting of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork Director Bobby Peek observed that the work of community activists at the SDCEA "is never about self. It was, is, and always will be about the community of south Durban. From that very first protest against Engen on the 25th March 1995 till today, 23 years later, the defence of the people of south Durban has been at the forefront of the struggle. With the odds still stacked against us, there is no choice but to stand with each other, support each other, and make sure through this we recognise that the work we do is not for ourselves."
"Today, too often, successful groups who started with resistance fall into the trap of being NGOs taking on a different persona and position to that into which they were born. It is community groups or fence-line formations like SDCEA and its sister organisations such as the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, the South African Waste Pickers Association, the Karoo Environmental Justice Movement and the recently launched Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network that reminds us that people living on the fence-line and their struggle is most important", he added.
Tackling climate change is a health issue and we need the health sector to be a leader
27 July 2018 – This was one of the points made by groundWork Director Bobby Peek during an address to health care professionals at the Middleburg Provincial Hospital today.
“For us, be it groundWork or the community people we work with, environment speaks to our health foremost. We see environment from a justice perspective and by this we mean we have to have decent basics of life such as nutrition; services such as water, energy and health; a safe and decent working environment; and an area where can live as a community in the knowledge that our children can play in an environment that will foster their growth”.
The gathering was part of an ongoing interaction between groundWork and healthcare professionals through the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) partnership. Peek pointed out that the GGHH programme has played a fundamental role in ensuring that Clinics, hospitals and health care systems around the globe are already taking innovative steps to reduce their own carbon footprint, invest in clean renewable energy, develop resiliency strategies, educate their staff and patients, and advocate for policy that protects public health from the impacts of climate change and promotes environmental health.
“The Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal Departments of Health, the Johannesburg Health Department, the Free State and Northwest hospitals have all joined these GGHH initiatives. Membership from other parts of the continent include one hospital in Kenya, one in Morocco and 12 hospitals spread out across Ghana, Tanzania and Madagascar” he added.
Comment from the Life After Coal campaign on Eskom financial results
23 July 2018 - The Life after Coal campaign (LAC), which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork, has issued a media release commenting on the latest Eskom financial results.
Amongst the points made, the LAC states that:
"We call for immediate action by the Department of Public Enterprises and other government departments to accelerate the phase-out of old, expensive, and non-compliant coal-fired power stations, and to stop building the last over-priced units at Kusile".
Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network launched
19 July 2018 - The Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network launched today. Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural meeting of the SEJN, groundWork Director, Bobby Peek said the following:
I want us to reflect on what Madiba left us. What have we done with this freedom? What have we done with this hope? What have we done with this courage, the courage that we can take on the world and succeed? There are many Madiba stories about how he influenced people to take actions. Indeed, I want to at the outset say that one of the oldest community environmental justice networks in South Africa, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, emerged from a chance encounter with Madiba in 1995. It is this network and the very many more community environmental justice networks around South Africa that SEJN is now a part of, that keeps the true meaning of freedom, hope and courage alive. From the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, to the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, from the Karoo Environmental Justice Movement to the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, in all parts of South Africa community people are starting to organise as SEJN is doing. I bring solidarity and well-wishes from all of them!
Water costs, impacts of coal-fired power grossly underestimated in electricity planning
16 July 2018 - Mining coal and burning it in power stations uses large amounts of water, and pollutes even more water. It imposes massive but uncounted costs on society and particularly on poor people who live in the coal regions. A new report from the Life After Coal campaign calls for these costs to our water resources to be accounted for in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – South Africa’s plan for the future electricity system.
The Life After Coal campaign partners Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork and Earthlife Africa, together with Greenpeace Africa, have indicated that they will have no option but to challenge an IRP that fails to adequately take the costs of coal into account, in court.
Life After Coal spokesperson Saul Roux says: “The Draft IRP (2016) provides cost estimates for different energy technologies but does not include externalities of critical importance for electricity planning. This means that the costs of coal-fired power generation are significantly under-counted. South Africa is a dry country and cannot afford this.”
Proposed new air quality rules will force Eskom to comply with pollution standards, or shut down
26 June 2018 - Most of Eskom’s ageing coal power stations cause severe air pollution, which contribute to the deaths and ill-health of thousands of South Africans every year.
Despite this, Eskom has thus far been let off the hook by government – not only allowing them to postpone their compliance with air pollution standards, but failing to take enforcement action against Eskom for its pollution.
Now, the Department of Environmental Affairs has finally proposed closing some of these loopholes. Proposed amendments to law published under the Air Quality Act will only permit one postponement of compliance – for five years – with standards which should be met by April 2020 (called “new plant” standards).
New report shows major inadequacies in the way mining companies disclose information about environmental rehabilitation costs
20 June 2018 - Neither the law, nor the accounting standards governing company disclosures, ensure the necessary transparency and accountability about financial provision for environmental rehabilitation, i.e. money that mining companies must set aside to rehabilitate environmental damage. This is the key finding of Full Disclosure: the Truth about Mining Rehabilitation in South Africa, the latest report in the Centre for Environmental Rights’ Full Disclosure series.
CER attorney, Christine Reddell, says: “We assessed the public disclosures of eleven JSE listed mining companies in relation to their financial provision for environmental rehabilitation. We found that the information provided about the costs of rehabilitation, and the companies’ ability to cover these costs, is inconsistent, unclear, in some cases unreliable, and not comparable between companies.
“This means that it is impossible to check whether the estimated costs of rehabilitation given by mining companies are accurate, whether enough money has been set aside to pay for it, and whether rehabilitation is actually being carried out. In other words, it is impossible for shareholders or taxpayers to hold companies or regulators to account.”
Wellington Community Defeats Waste Incinerator in South Africa
07 June 2018 - Communities of Wellington, in the Western Cape of South Africa, have successfully pushed against the Drakenstein Municipalities plans to build a Municipal Waste Incinerator. The Wellington Association against the Incinerator (WAAI) and the Drakenstein Environmental Watch (DEW), both community based organisations, worked tirelessly, along with another GAIA member – groundWork, to campaign, resist and legally challenge the proposed incinerator. The Drakenstein Municipality recognized in their official statement “complaints and resistance by certain interest groups – especially against the proposed inclusion of an incinerator component – as well as legal processes” as part of their decision to terminate the proposed project.
groundWork has been working with community groups in Wellington in this struggle over the past few years. Musa Chamane, one of the Waste Campaigners of the organisation, explained that this victory “highlights the importance of community organizing when fighting for environmental justice” and added that “challenging these projects from different angles is crucial to stop these kind of proposals”.
Keith Roman of WAAI said that their “strategy was to intervene using the legal route to highlight the administrative flaws of the process conducted by the Drakenstein Municipality”. Caron Potocnik of DEW identified the human rights violations related to this project as their main concern “the municipality has to consider the impacts on the people of Wellington” Potocnik affirmed. Going forward both WAAI and DEW are optimistic about the town’s potential “it is great that the incinerator plans have been terminated but now we need to think of how we use sustainable methods of dealing with waste and make Wellington a model zero waste town” both organizations agreed.
This item originally appeared on the GAIA website.
Minister's statement flies in the face of latest 'no new coal' report
04 June 2018 - The Minister of Energy on Friday reiterated government's intention to proceed with the procurement of expensive, dirty electricity from two independent coal power plants – despite compelling evidence about the disastrous impacts these plants would have for South Africa.
Earlier this week, the Energy Research Centre (ERC) released a report proving that the two new coal plants, Thabametsi and Khanyisa, would cost South Africa an additional R20 billion, and increase greenhouse gas emissions by so much that they would negate government's key plans to mitigate climate change. Credible modelling shows that, given the large surplus generation capacity, the coal IPPs are unnecessary to meet demand, and ensure security of electricity supply.
Moreover, both plants would have significant impacts on air quality and health in areas that are already heavily polluted, and would use enormous amounts of precious water resources. It is for these reasons that the Life After Coal Campaign has challenged – and will continue to challenge – all authorisations for these plants, including in High Court proceedings still underway.
Mining Charter Consultation Returns to KwaZulu-Natal
31 May 2018 - Today Minister Gwede Mantashe returns to Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) to discuss the Mining Charter with local community people, NGOs and industry. The meeting was to be on the 22 May 2018, but was cancelled on the morning after more than 70 community people travelled from afar as Mtubatuba, Somkhele and Fuleni.
Post the meeting the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) responded and apologised for the late postponement and offered to pay for people's transport to the meeting today. This is welcomed by the communities and groundWork. It is critical that government ensures people are supported to participate in meetings that will define their future.
The community will hold a picket outside the meeting and will hand over a memorandum demanding the right to say no to mining.
To read the memorandum handed over to Minister Mantashe click here.
New proceedings launched to protect Mpumalanga strategic water source area from coal mining
31 May 2018 - Last week, the coalition of eight community and civil society organisations, that is resisting Atha-Africa Ventures’ proposed coal mine inside a Protected Area and Strategic Water Source Area in Mpumalanga, launched new legal proceedings in the Mbombela High Court.
The new proceedings are a judicial review application to set aside the decision of the Mpumalanga Department of Environmental Affairs to grant an environmental authorisation to Atha for its proposed Yzermyn underground coal mine, and the decision of the Mpumalanga MEC to dismiss the coalition’s appeal of that environmental authorisation. The review application is coupled with an interdict preventing the start of any activities at the proposed mining site pending the outcome of the review.
New report shows that two coal IPPs would cost SA an additional R20 billion
30 May 2018 -A report released today by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre (ERC) shows that government’s planned independent power producer (IPP) coal plants – Thabametsi and Khanyisa – would cost South Africa an additional R19.68 billion compared to a least-cost energy system.
Thabametsi (557 MW to be based near Lephalale, Limpopo) and Khanyisa (306 MW to be based near eMalahleni, Mpumalanga) are the preferred bidders under the first bid window of the coal-baseload IPP procurement programme.
The new report shows that the two coal IPPs are not needed to meet South Africa’s medium-term electricity demand. Where future capacity is needed, this is met more cheaply by other electricity sources such as wind, solar, and flexible gas generation.
Minister of Mineral Resources fails to honour his commitment
22 May 2018 - The Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Gwede Mantashe failed to honour his commitment to visit the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province today to discuss the Mining Charter. Community people gathered from Newcastle area (Normandien, Kliprand Farm and Uitkomst communities) and Somkhele, where Petmin’s coal mine is being challenged by local community people. More than 70 people travelled to attend the meeting to speak with the Minister about the impacts of coal mining and dangers of proposed fracking in the province.
“This shows the lack of respect government has for meaningful participation. It is not easy for people to make these meetings. For these meetings to be cancelled without notice is an injustice” says Robby Mokgalaka, groundWork’s Coal Campaigner.
An irrational IRP can expect legal challenge from human rights organisations
17 May 2018 - The Life After Coal (LAC) Campaign and Greenpeace Africa say that the Department of Energy (DoE) will face a legal challenge from them if the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) ignores constitutional obligations.
“We are not afraid to take the Department of Energy to court if the updated IRP ignores the provisions made in the Constitution. We were successful in halting the nuclear deal and we will fight again if necessary,” says Earthlife Africa Director, Makoma Lekalakala. A legal challenge would be a severe blow to a department that has seen four ministers in under a year, and could face another reshuffle before the 2019 elections.
Waste Pickers Left for Dead at New England Landfill Site
11 May 2018 - Panic and chaos struck the New England Landfill site on Saturday, 5 May 2018, when waste pickers discovered the body of an unknown man they believed to have been dead. While trying to contact police, they realized that the man was still alive; they immediately tried to contact the ambulance instead. Several calls and pleas for help were made between 06:00 and 12:00 midday, the ambulance still had not arrived and the police had made no effort to come to the scene to assist.
Green Scorpions Investigate Richards Bay Minerals for Allegedly Dumping Toxic Waste in Community.
11 May 2018 - Green Scorpions has decided to investigate Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) for environmental violations; this is after groundWork filed a complaint against them on behalf of the KwaMbonambi community. The KwaMbonambi, Sokhulu and Enhlanzini communities, affected by waste dumping, are concerned that the waste is causing increased rates of cancer and destruction to their community and environment. These concerns were raised during ongoing research and community monitoring done by Kwazulu Regional Christian Council. Some of the other complaints include the dumping area not being adequately fenced off, people have lost their livestock, which are routinely trapped in the dumping area, and worry about their children being the next victims to this environmental injustice.
Farid Esack, groundWork Trust Board Member awarded the Order of Luthuli for his fight against race, gender, class, and religious oppression.
28 April 2018 - Professor Farid Esack, groundWork Trust Board Member, has received the Order of Luthuli from President Ramaphosa for his fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, warmly welcomed the announcement of the award to Professor Esack, for "his brilliant contribution to academic research and to the fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression." "His body of work'' says the citation ''continues to enlighten generations of fledgling and established academics.”
Joy Kistnasamy, Chair of the groundWork Trust Board expressed her congratulations to Professor Esack on "an amazing and well deserved accolade. groundWork and its trustees are proud of you and this great achievement."
Community participation in KZN Mining Indaba restricted
18 April 2018 - The KwaZulu Natal Mining Indaba is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, 18 - 19 April, 2018. The Department of Mineral Resource is convening the KZN Mining Indaba in Newcastle, a town devastated and impoverished because of historical coal mining. The meeting restricted community participation to only 3 participants, meaning the truth of mining in the area will not be meaningfully discussed. With unemployment close to 40% in South Africa we cannot rely on an apartheid economic model of mining that has caused ill health, violence and destroyed people’s environments.
The meeting will be attended by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe; KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikala; Mayor of Amajuba District Municipality, Councillor Dr Musa Ngubane; KZN Premier, Mr. Willies Mchunu, mining companies and a limited affected communities.
Ironically, the meeting is being hosted in areas where there were recent forced removals to make way for mining. The Kliprand community in Danhauser, Newcastle, had their homes demolished at the end of March 2018, to make way for Ikwezi Coal Mine operations. The Kliprand community has been involved in a long legal battle over land with Ikwezi Coal Mine, their forced removal was unlawful and was done before the case had been concluded. Communities were placed in temporary iron structures after the homes they had for over 50 years were destroyed.
Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates
03 APRIL 2018 -In the past week, the Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises: the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork) has instituted fresh court proceedings against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in relation to the proposed Thabametsi independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station. The Campaign has also made further written and oral objections against both preferred bidders under the Coal Baseload IPP Procurement Programme (being Thabametsi, as well as the proposed Khanyisa coal-fired power station) to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) – during public hearings hosted by NERSA on 27 March 2018.
groundWork and Earthlife Africa have sought an order setting aside the Minister’s decision and referring Thabametsi’s authorisation application back to the Department of Environmental Affairs for reconsideration. They have also asked for an order confirming that the National Environmental Management Act and the Constitution require competent authorities to consider site-specific climate change impacts associated with proposed projects; and that they do not permit competent authorities to rely blindly on the IRP 2010 and other policies or Ministerial determinations as determinative of their decision.
In Memory of Comrade DORCAS DUMSILE MWELASE (25 February 1966 - 25 February 2018)
03 April 2018 -Dorcas Dumsile Mwelase, was a dedicated, humble, loyal, selfless, friend, mother, sister and comrade. Her activism led her to become a member of the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MCPA), which challenges negative mining impacts created by Somkhele Coal Mine.
A hard-working cadre, she did everything in her power to succeed in whatever she was doing and also strived to put the needs of the community and association first. She fought against injustice and mobilizer community members so that they could empower themselves.
Life After Coal sets record straight on inaccurate statements by Colenso Power
20 March 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and groundWork) has issued a media release to correct numerous factual inaccuracies in statements attributed to the CEO of Colenso Power (Pty) Ltd – the developer of the proposed Colenso 1050MW independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station, to be based in KwaZulu-Natal.
The statements appeared in an Engineering News article of 16 March 2018 and are disputed by the Life After Coal campaign.
Civil society organisations take battle against new coal plants to NERSA
19 March 2018 - On 27 March 2018, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will hold public hearings for the generation licence applications by the two preferred bidders under the first bid window of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement Programme – Thabametsi and Khanyisa. Thabametsi coal power plant would be based in Limpopo, and Khanyisa coal power plant would be based in Mpumalanga.
The Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (“Earthlife”) and groundWork) has opposed Thabametsi and Khanyisa’s applications, and will be presenting their objections, alongside numerous other experts and community representatives opposed to the proposed coal power stations, to NERSA next Tuesday 27 March.
The Life After Coal campaign is challenging these new coal plants on the grounds that they would be harmful to the environment and human health, and are risky projects that would produce expensive electricity that South Africa does not need. Despite this, on 8 March 2018, Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe that he had requested the office of the Director-General of the Department of Energy and the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office to sign the two coal baseload IPP projects.
Members of the public are invited to attend the NERSA hearings and/or make presentations. The deadline for registration is 20 March 2018.
Another Waste Picker Dies on the Pietermaritzburg Waste Dumpsite
15 March 2018 - In the early hours of the day Ntsiki Mhlakwane was killed by a municipal waste compactor which crushed her. She is the fifth person to have been killed or badly injured on the landfill site since 2007. Such incidents where waste pickers have been killed or badly injured by the heavy machinery operating at the landfill is a sad reminder of how waste pickers have been neglected by our government.
groundWork and the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), representing more than 1000 waste picker’s country wide, have been telling Msunduzi Local Municipality about the danger to which waste pickers are exposed.
In 2010 funding was approved at the The uMgungundlovu District Municipality for a Materials Recovery Facility ( MRF – also known as a recycling centre) but that was never built due to political clashes between the district and local municipality. Lives would have been saved by an MRF due to safer working conditions. The best way of managing waste is to have an MRF where waste pickers would work to recover and sort recyclable materials, rather than work on the dumpsite where waste is being dumped.
groundWork and SAWPA are saddened that waste pickers must die in this way. They have never resorted to crime but instead they have opted for recycling as a means to earn an honest meagre living. Waste pickers and groundWork have scheduled an urgent meeting with the Msunduzi Municipality on Monday 19th March where amongst other things, incidents such as this will be discussed and a solution that will be much safer than the current situation will be sought.
Despite severe health impacts, Eskom again seeks to delay compliance with air pollution standards
15 March 2018 - Eskom has again applied to postpone compliance with the minimum emission standards for air pollution, this time for its Tutuka power station near Standerton. This area falls within the already heavily polluted Highveld Priority Area in Mpumalanga.
The minimum emission standards (MES) regulate the maximum amount of air pollution released by industries, to limit harmful impacts on human health, wellbeing, and the environment. They were first published in 2010 following a 5 year multi-stakeholder process, and require existing industries (including all of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations) to comply with a set of MES by 1 April 2015, and a stricter set by 1 April 2020.
In early 2015, despite vehement objections from civil society and community organisations, Eskom was granted widespread postponements of deadlines to meet the MES. Multiple additional postponement applications for the majority of their power stations are expected later this year.
The transition to a low carbon future must be rapid, and must be for everyone
14 March 2018 - In response to the interdict sought to stop yesterday’s signature of the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for 27 renewable independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPPP) projects, the Life After Coal Campaign emphasises the urgent need for a rapid, but just transition from coal to a low carbon future.
Workers in power stations and coal mines are understandably concerned about what such a transition means for their employment future. Coal workers must have a place in the renewable economy. At the same time, in the context of 40% unemployment and gross inequality in South Africa, a just transition must be about creating a more equal society in which everyone has a place. This is not only the responsibility of government: workers and community groups, particularly those who are affected by the coal economy, should be at the centre of the process.
The transformation of the South African national power system has reached a critical moment. Climate change impacts are very evident in the recent country-wide drought, which is ongoing in the Western and Eastern Cape. Impacts will intensify over the next decades. As it is, air pollution from the coal-fired power stations results in early death of thousands of people and in poor health for hundreds of thousands each year.
The REIPPPP has contributed towards our national climate change response and our international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Approximately 11.2 Mton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent emissions have been avoided since the inception of REIPPPP.
#ThumaMina: Heed the call, say no to coal DBSA.
08 March 2018 - The #ThumaMina, DBSA campaign asks the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to publicly commit to not funding the Thabametsi coal-fired power plant, proposed to be built in Lephalale, Limpopo. Thabametsi is one of 12 coal-fired plants considered under the Independent Power Producers Programme in South Africa. The coal plant will use outdated technology and is set to be extremely emissions intensive, leaving untold impacts on human health, water availability, and agricultural productivity in an age when a new coal plant is a climate crime.
The impacts of climate change are being felt in South Africa today more than ever, and developing another power plant in a water-stressed region stands to threaten communities living in Lephalale. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, no new coal infrastructure should be built.
While we welcome the Development Bank's investments in renewable energy initiatives, these positive steps risk being undermined by support for coal infrastructure. Instead, DBSA can play a bigger role in scaling up action on climate change and delivering on the ambitions that South Africa committed to during the global climate talks held in Paris in 2015.
The Life After Coal campaign has made great strides towards stopping Thabametsi and other coal-fired power station projects from going ahead, and we are joining this struggle, focusing on the institutions financing Thabametsi.
350.org is calling on the DBSA to commit to not financing Thabametsi coal-fired power plant. It is an opportunity for them to stand out and be a leader amongst financiers in South Africa, and not waiver from fulfilling their development aims of improving affordable energy access for all South Africans.
EJS 2018 Clean Air Action
07 March 2018 - As the groundWork Environmental Justice school draws to an end, the participants have a strong message for all governments, corporations and citizens - "We want clean air and we want it now!!!"
South Africa's energy future at stake: Life After Coal campaign writes to new Energy Minister Jeff Radebe
28 February 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (made up of groundWork, the Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg) has written to newly appointed Energy Minister Jeff Hadebe.
"The Life After Coal Campaign writes to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Energy. We believe that the Energy Ministry is of critical importance in determining future energy security for all the people in our country, and supporting the just transition to a low-carbon future; specifically how South Africa meets the need to provide clean, healthy and affordable energy to the poor, while ensuring that South Africa reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. We believe these two objectives are complementary and we look forward to a robust engagement with you on these and other issues."
Air Quality in the Highveld Remains Poor
19 February 2018 - The inability of government to enforce minimum emissions standards in the Highveld Priority Area (HPA) means that air quality remains poor and has an adverse impact on the health and well being of the people living in the area.
"The situation in the Highveld is not getting any better, pollution levels are high" said environmental activist Thomas Mnguni from groundWork in Middelburg.
Call for more research into oil, gas exploration plan
09 February 2018 - Non-governmental organisations have slammed proposed oil and gas exploration off the coasts of Durban and Richards Bay.
This comes as Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and Italian oil and gas exploration company Eni South Africa BV (Eni) held a public hearing into exploration on Wednesday. This was one of a series of public hearings being held.
Environmental activist Desmond D'Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said the drilling would have a negative impact on fish.
International Coal Exchange Statement
31 January 2018 - groundWork has always believed that community people learn best from sharing their struggles with each other. The 2018 International Coal Exchange took between 29 and 31 January 2018. It aimed to enable shared learning and a broader understanding of coal, energy poverty and the making of environmental injustice.
groundWork believes that exchanges build a connections and unity between groups with similar concerns. It is one of the ways in which groundWork supports community-based organizations to build solidarity and links with each other, and to build a shared response to the common environmental injustices people face on the ground.
How did we get to be eating plastic?
10 January 2018 - At our recent Africa-wide #BreakFreeFromPlastic gathering we heard from some local scientists who painted a bleak picture of plastics in the Indian Ocean and in particular about how plastics are bio-accumulating in our local food web. The food web is the entirety of interrelated food chains in an ecological community, so this includes the food that we eat! Worryingly, micro plastics are now a ubiquitous pollutant in all the oceans around the world, and pose a serious potential threat to marine ecology. In particular, the facts following were presented, which I thought merited further research to inform our work.
Steve Cohen from the Durban Partnership against Plastic Pollution described a "plastic ocean" around Durban in which 70% of the Mullet fish species surveyed in Durban contained micro-plastics, most worryingly in their brains (UKZN Mace Lab). We also heard that 77% of Maasbankerfish species (mainly horse mackerel) sampled from the Durban Harbour, Vetch's Pier, Isipingo and the uMngeni and Mdloti river mouths contained tiny plastic fibres, fragments and beads in their tissues and organs. The team that undertook this research also found that these fish contained micro plastic fibres, irrespective of their size, at Vetch's Pier and also in Durban (UKZN School of Life Sciences).