groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)


Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 17 October 2013 – This Saturday marks the global day of action against fracking [1] known as the Global Frackdown [2], where people across the world will call on their governments for a future powered by clean and healthy renewable energy, instead of dirty fossil fuel sourced energy, one of which is fracking. In KwaZulu Natal, the fracking belt covers 88 000 km2 lying against the Drakensburg Mountain Range and Lesotho, and extending into the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, one of Southern Africa’s World Heritage Sites.

PetroSA has granted prospecting rights to AngloCoal – part of AngloAmerican – Sasol, Norwegian company Statoil and US company Chesapeake Energy to frack in this area, which is the origin of three of the province’s main rivers, supplying water to multiple towns and villages inland before reaching coastal towns.

Whilst the gas industry and government are pushing this as a source of job creation, it is doubtful whether the projected hundreds of thousands of jobs for local people will be sustained. The most poor and disadvantaged in whose name many such developments take place will neither receive the jobs nor will they be able to afford the electricity once it is produced.

It is widely known that fracking is a risky way to source energy, as the hazard of contaminating groundwater and polluting the air is high due to the amount of chemicals used during the drilling process and the waste water that occurs as a result of it. In a country where environmental governance is already lacking as witnessed in the heavily polluted Air Priority Areas, the imminent risk to people’s health and their Constitutional right to a clean environment outweighs the proposed economic growth.

Siziwe Khanyile, Climate and Energy Justice Campaigner at groundWork [3] states:
“Fracking proponents’ claims of economic development and jobs demonstrates an unwillingness to invest in an energy model that is beneficial to all rather than an elite few. Real alternatives in behaviour and technologies lie in the re-examining of collective values and collective demand for such change where we recognise that environmental protection equals to protection of life.”

As groundWork, we will be sending a letter to President Jacob Zuma on Saturday, asking him to halt the fracking process in order and put people’s health before profits. The trade-off between the impacts and economic development is something that the South African government needs to take seriously and, considering the already crumbling state of environmental governance in South Africa, the government cannot guarantee that they will be able to regulate this process.

[1] Fracking is a drilling technique used to mine natural gas from shale, which is a fine layer of rock, mud and clay. A well is drilled vertically deep into the earth for between three to six kilometres down, where it then changes direction and continues horizontally into the shale rock. A mix of water, sand, and many toxic chemicals is pumped into the well at high pressure in order to create cracks in the shale through which the gas can escape. The gas is released from these cracks and is drawn up the well to the surface where it is processed, refined and shipped in various forms to the market. This process also produces a wastewater as a by-product.
[2] For more information on the Global Frackdown, visit
[3] 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

Megan Lewis
Media, Information and Publications Campaigner
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Mobile: 083 450 5541

Siziwe Khanyile
Climate and Energy Justice Campaigner
Tel (w): 033 342 5662