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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.


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New Year Message from groundWork Director, Bobby Peek.

How does one approach 2021?  Writing about our fears or predictions? Or seeking hope?  I finally settled on the latter.  I am not qualified to make predictions; there are many out there who are more informed.  But like millions of others who want a more sustainable existence with the earth, I am hopeful that ongoing activism worldwide can slowly chip away at the chains of power and greed.

As Pablo Solón, Bolivian activist and ex-diplomat, put it, “2020 wasn’t the worst year, it was just one of the beginnings of the systemic crisis.  Hope is not in the year that begins but, in our ability, to change and subvert the ‘normality’ that brought us here. The year 2020 brought to the fore with clarity the reality that system change is needed’.  Like Solón, my hope lies in our ability to change and subvert the old normal, and start creating a new normal, and we do this first by stopping the foolishness of the past, and through this, create the justice for the future.

Read the full text of the message here.

2020 groundWork highlights

Click here to read.

GAIA celebrates 20 years since founding

Bobby Peek with GAIA banner08 December 2020 - 20 years ago, this month, a group of fiercely dedicated activists from across the globe had a vision: to create a cross-regional, grassroots network to stop the threat of incineration and build a just, zero waste future, and so the Global Anti Incineration Alliance (GAIA) was formed.

GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries.  GAIA states that:

With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution.

We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped. 

Read Director of groundWork, Bobby Peek's, reflections on his journey with GAIA here.

Another milestone as criminal charges proceed against coal polluter Eskom

Toxic pollution pumping unabated from the stacks at Eskom's Kendal Coal Power Station, April 2019

Toxic pollution pumping unabated from the stacks at Eskom's Kendal Coal Power Station, April 2019. Photo: CER.

07 December 2020 - Last week, the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries (DEFF) confirmed that the National Prosecuting Authority has resolved to proceed with the criminal prosecution of major polluter and state-owned entity Eskom, for criminal violations of air pollution laws at its Kendal coal power station.

Kendal power station is situated in the heavily polluted Mpumalanga Highveld, 40km west of Emalahleni. It was built in 1982 with installed capacity of 4 116 MW, and is the largest indirect dry-cooled power station in the world.

According to media reports, the four criminal charges relate to violations of the air emissions permit limits for Kendal, for significant pollution of the environment, and for supplying false and/or misleading information to authorities.

Read the full media release here

Massive Explosion at Engen Oil Refinery in Durban

fire at Engen's Durna refinery

04 December 2020 - An explosion occured at the Engen oil refinery in south Durban this morning. Emergency services are currently on the scene trying to defuse the flames. The cause of the explosion is still not clear. The community around the area are still in shock and those who work at the refinery could not go to work.

Engen oil refinery blasegroundWork and SDCEA (South Durban Community Environmental Alliance) have previously called for the refinery to shut down. Coincidentally, the explosion occurs while PASA (Petroleum Agency of South Africa) is in Durban to visit the Merebank community on a number of issues. The Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) plans to be at the Merebank community Hall at 10am in a follow-up meeting in relation to fossil fuels exploration. One of the key concerns communities face is the lack of transparency in public access to documents such impact on people's health and safety, including emergency, disaster, and contingency plans. Where liablity rests for incidents, accidents and explosions that impact on people and the environment, is a further area of concern.

Voice Notes Attached: Bobby Peek (groundWork) speaks from south Durban where the explosion occurred:
Voice note 1
Voice note 2.



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Remembering the Heroes

03 December 2020 - Today marks the start of a project to record our memory of, and gratitude towards, those heroes who have perished in the struggle for environmental justice - Mam'Fikile Ntshangase, Bazooka Radeba and Berta Caceres amongst others. Over the next few weeks we aim to establish a permanent record of their contribution to the struggle on the Remembering the Heroes page of this website.

MaFikile today is with the ancestors, not only from this area, but with the many who have died because they have tried to defend their land, livelihoods and their environments. Global Witness, an organisation which monitors Human Rights, Land and Environmental defenders globally, gives us the sad hard evidence that MaFikile was not alone. In July they released their Annual Report, which stated that in 2019, 212 people were murdered globally for peacefully defending their homes and standing up to the destruction of nature. 

This is four people every week.

Celebrating a major climate victory: Court sets aside approval for Thabametsi coal power plant

March 2, 2017.  Activists from Earthlife Africa demonstrating outside the Pretoria High Court at the start of the hearing of South Africa's first climate change lawsuit. Picture: JAMES OATWAY for CER.

March 2, 2017. Activists from Earthlife Africa demonstrating outside the Pretoria High Court at the start of the hearing of South Africa's first climate change lawsuit. Picture: JAMES OATWAY for CER.

01 December 2020 - Last week, the High Court in Pretoria set aside the environmental approval for the 1200 MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station that would have been built in its first phase at 557 MW outside Lephalale in Limpopo province.

The court order was the result of the settlement of a court application brought by environmental justice groups Earthlife Africa and groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa against the development company Thabametsi (Pty) Ltd and the state, asking the court to set aside the environmental approval for the plant.

“Thabametsi would have been a climate and environmental disaster that would have cost our country R12.57 billion compared to a least cost electricity system,” says Makoma Lekalakala, director of Earthlife Africa.

In 2015, the year in which South Africa ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, as many as 13 private coal power plants were being planned under the 1000 MW coal-baseload independent power producer procurement programme. In 2016, two coal power plants, Thabametsi and Khanyisa, were announced as preferred bidders under the first bid window of this programme.

Thabametsi was backed by South Korea’s KEPCO and Japan’s Marubeni. Marubeni had stepped in as lead project developer after French company Engie withdrew its stake, under pressure from environmental justice groups, in 2015. Khanyisa, planned for Mpumalanga, is backed by Saudi company ACWA Power.

Read the full media release here.

Health Care Climate Challenge Banner

HEALTH CARE CLIMATE CHALLENGE - Global Green and Healthy Hospital 2020 Climate Champions Award

01 December 2020 – Over 300 participants, representing the interest of more than 22,000 hospitals and health centers in 34 countries will be celebrating the Health Care Climate Challenge Awards 20201. The importance of this award is to recognize the efforts that health sector leaders are making towards reducing their healthcare carbon footprint and to encourage other health institutions to follow suit.

Climate Change continues to be an existential threat with the Lancet describing climate change as a global health emergency that threatens to reverse 50 years of health gains in the developing world. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our time.” 

This year, three Health institutions in the Africa region who are also members of the Global Green and Healthy Hospital (GGHH) network were recognized. They include the Mohammed VI University Hospital from Morocco, Western Cape Government Health, and Netcare Limited from South Africa. Their commitments, investments, and innovations are inspiring and guiding the sector around the world, particularly at this very moment when the current COVID-19 pandemic has increased the pressure on the health care sector.

Read the full media release here.

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