28 May 2013 - Statement of the participants to a dialogue on fracking held in the Karoo town of Steylerville on the 22nd and 23rd of May.

Several transnational corporations, including Shell, Falcon and Bundu, propose using hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) to extract methane gas from shale rock deep beneath the Karoo. Commercial scale fracking has so far proved viable only in the USA where it has polluted the land, the groundwater and the air and so damaged people’s health and their existing livelihoods.

Mindful of this destruction, we gathered in Steylerville for a dialogue of people who live in the Karoo and concerned organisations from throughout South Africa on a transformative agenda in response to the proposals for fracking. The objectives of the discussions were:

We believe struggle has to be led and organised by those who are suffering the negative consequences of neo-liberal policies and practices.  Those that are in solidarity and support the struggle for a Karoo that provides for the poor must recognise that the organising starts where people are.

We believe that our concerns about fracking for gas in the Karoo are similar to the concerns that give rise to the struggles of local people in the Karoo relating to: agrarian transformation; unemployment and decent jobs; the lack of decent levels of affordable basic services and infrastructure; and the inability of local people to access, at minimum, the basic goods of human life, starting with the most basic levels of goods like nutritious food, and safe and comfortable accommodation.

We recognise that as people of the Karoo we are connected to the world by the global crisis we face on the destruction of nature, the failing economic system and an ever more ruthless system of capital accumulation that dehumanises peoples’ labour.

Our struggle in the Karoo is embedded in responding to three challenges: ensuring an agro-ecology based on agrarian reform and food sovereignty; securing the Karoo’s scarce water resources; and ensuring that people have a direct say in how energy is produced and used in the Karoo through the approach of energy sovereignty.

We believe the above approach will allow us as the people of the Karoo to develop a meaningful and locally based response to the proposed fracking for gas in the Karoo and will ensure that we have a clean healthy environment – where people live and work – nurtured by the very way in which people live and work.

Representatives from small-scale farmer groups, farm workers and dwellers and advice offices in the Karoo
Southern Cape Land Committee
Earthlife Africa Cape Town
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Project
Groundwork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa
Oilwatch Africa 
Casual Worker’s Advice Office
Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG)
Eastern Cape Environmental Justice Network
Faith leaders
Independent researchers and academics from Rhodes, UCT and Wits Universities