The Dirty Energy Week - Challenging Climate Gangsters: groundWork Update, Day two – 23 November 2011 - Stories from the ground: Struggles in Africa!

From Soweto, outside Johannesburg, South Africa - Simon Mthembu and Bobo Michael Makhoba: Soweto Concerned Residents

The issue that concerns our group is electricity privatization in the township. We always question as to why Eskom privatized electricity without consulting citizens. We wrote to Eskom, marched on Eskom, delivered memorandums to Eskom, but they did not answer. We then had to take an initiative such as boycotting the payment. The bills are exorbitant, and many of the residents are pensioners and cannot pay the bills. We are not the people who don't want to pay, but we are forced by the rising electricity prices to default on the bills.

We are fighting basic rights to get clean drinking water, electricity and housing. These are parts of our Freedom Charter, which was promised to us, when we fought for the democracy in this country. Eskom is making lots of profits, whereas we are going bankrupt to pay mere electricity bills. Some people owe R17 000 to Eskom, but none of us have jobs to pay those bills. We struggled to get the re-connections for 65 families, but Eskom have not cleared our debts. Prepaid meters are not working for the communities, and when we buy R100 credit, it lasts only for three days. The price hike by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa is killing us, and we are looking for cleaner solutions like solar panels to solve our electricity problems. There are less operating costs for solar panels, and the tax-payers money should be invested in the clean energy solutions. Why should the poor pay the high electricity prices, whereas the rich are getting subsidized.

Akpobari Nkabari From the Niger Delta, Nigeria - Akpobari Nkabari: Ogoni Advancement

The government and the corporations are dispossessing communities from their homes and beautiful land. The Niger Delta used to be the food basket, with abundance of fish and fresh water. There were rich mangroves everywhere.

When oil companies came, the people were brainwashed by the lure of getting profits from the oil and development. The only electricity we got was the reflections from the gas flaring in the night. We saw the gas flares, transportations and oil spills. The gas was flared 24 hours, and soot covered the villages. Within 10 years people were more poor and dispossessed. People took the oil companies to the court, but the oil companies are very strong and rich, and fighting them is tough. We started very successful peaceful campaigns along with Kan Saro Wiwa. But thousands of Ogoni people died for the oil. Many weapons used for wars and combats were used to kill people, who were opposing the oil companies. Many young people died in the struggles.

Ken Saro Wiwa came with the demands for local people, and people decided that, if they are not getting any profit from Shell company, then they should leave. They have polluted everything and not shown any remorse, but they have made things even more difficult for communities. We cannot talk to the government until leaders truly represent the people

It was a "do or die" situation for us to keep the oil in the ground. We took the campaign to Europe, picketed Shell gas stations in different parts of the world to get them out of Ogoni land. However, Shell is now buying land in Ogoni again, and they want to start oil extraction again. Crude oil is supposed to be a blessing for the local communities, but is a huge curse for us.

Comfort Malakoane From Sasolburg, south of Johannesburg, South Africa -
Comfort Malakoane: Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

Sasolburg houses many industries, despite this there is an unemployment rate of 38% in the area. They are polluting our communities. Sasol projects an image of a good company. Sasol continues to be the world's largest single greenhouse gas pollution point source, but has positioned itself to be part of the climate negotiating and is on the SA government delegation. From 1973 till today, there are huge emissions from the plant, and they even now flare the gas. Sasol has been doing business as usual and has changed nothing much.

While peoples' bodies are getting polluted by these industries, they have to burn coal indoors to keep themselves warm and cook. Sasol and South African government are encouraging the burning coal indoors. They are also looking for some carbon credits for pushing the coal burning, as they claim that they have reduced the emissions.



Bwengye RajabFrom the source of the Nile, Uganda
Bwengye Rajab: Oilwatch Uganda

Drilling for oil at the source of the Nile. The Nile is the longest river in the world. It originates in Uganda and ends in Egypt. The water travel 6700 km, crossing the countries like Uganda, Sudan, and Egypt. The area where oil is planned to be drilled is the Arbertine rift valley area, and is surrounded by Sudan, DRC. Lake Victoria is shared between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, and given the ongoing conflicts in these countries, it will aggravate the problem.

There are nine oil blocks, and these are in some of the most sensitive areas in terms of ecosystems and biodiversity, both in Uganda and globally. When you want to drill for oil, there has to be proper planning and should have proper legal framework, but Uganda doesn't have those framework. Companies are already dragging Uganda in the international court for not respecting prospecting contracts. How can you expect the foreign courts to be fair to the poor countries?

We are dreading the impacts of oil drilling in this area, and what kind of ecological and political conflicts it will bring about. There is a lack of redress systems, as there is no accountability by the governments and the courts don't deliver justice to the communities.

Susan GoosenFrom Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa - Challenging Eskom
Susan Goosen: Resident and local farmer

Medupi power station is in my area and there are several farms in the area. The impacts of the Medupi plant has been most on the water, as power plants need lots of water. They have diverted water from the farming land. They are also mining sand from our river thus affecting our water supply during the summer, on top of that all this sand mining is done illegally – without permits.

All this is done in the name of the national interest. The World Bank says that they don't give money to countries who don't respect individual rights, and Eskom also says they don't do anything illegally, but these things are not followed on the ground. Sadly they do not use local people to work on the plant, whereas they are bringing people from outside.

Mariette and Moses From Soutpansberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa (next to the Kruger National Park)
Mr Azwihangwisi Moses Mudau: Dzomo la Mupo (Voice of the Earth)

Mining companies came with the promise of jobs in our area. They are dividing the communities to further their interest. Even our local government is not looking after us, despite giving our lives to get this democracy to get "peoples' government".

Coal of Africa is a mining company, and it doesn't have water license and thus is operating illegally. There is no respect for natural sacred sites, which are very important to us. People are organizing against the coal mines, and have asked the government to revoke their license, and not give them any water license.

Coal of Africa has been holding meetings, and not inviting the communities. Coal of Africa has threatened the local communities for criticizing the company, but we do have the right to raise our concerns with any fear of persecution.

From Gauteng, South Africa - Challenging Acid Mine Drainage
Mariette Liefferink: Federation for a Sustainable Environment

There are 80 existing coal mines in Muphulanga area, and there are 100s of new permits given for coal mining in the region. This is the area with the highest rain fall and is the source of various rivers. The cost of coal mining is not assessed, and there are so many external costs that are born by the poor black African communities.

We can learn from the acid mine drainage challenge in Gauteng. Acid mine drainage is one of the most damaging environmental issues for the people to deal with. South Africa has to learn from the legacy of 120 years of gold mines. It has left us with 6 billion tonnes of iron pyrite tailing and the acid mine drainage will continue for hundreds of years to come. These mining wastes also contain uranium, and have devastating impacts on human health.

There are hundreds of poorly managed tailing dams, and during windy days, parts of Johannesburg and Soweto are covered with white cloud of dust. Communities are living on the uranium waste dumps with no concrete floors, and thus being exposed to many ills. They are manufacturing bricks from the mining waste which are elevating radioactive levels in the region as the bricks are distributed into the public. There are lessons to be learned from the legacy of gold mining, and this cannot be repeated by the coal mining.