Undemocratic push for expansion of petroleum oil and gas during lockdown - The virtual walk out!

07 July 2020 - On the 6th May 2020 groundWork together with the South Durban Community Environment al Alliance ( SDCEA), Enviros , Earthlife Africa, Support Centre for Land Change (SCLC), Oceans Not Oil (ONO)  and FrackFree SA raised objections to the exclusionary consultative processes of the Draft Upstream Petroleum Bill conducted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE)’s Planning Committee.  A virtual walkout took place on the grounds that such process leaves behind communities across the country that are complying with lockdown restrictions, many without the privileges of telecommunications proposed by the DMRE for consultation.  People’s struggle during this time of Covid-19 is a matter of survival to access food and healthcare, particularly for those also living under dire pollution conditions in the Highveld as a result of the fossil fuel industries impacting on their health. They are the ones excluded from this process, as well as many rural, coastal and farming communities throughout South Africa whose lives will be further impacted by this Bill and whose voices need to be heard in the consultation process.  It is critical that whatever consultation happens, reaches the affected people as well.

The DMRE needs to notify all affected South Africans of national legislation through a comprehensive notification process and allow sufficient time and fair process for consultation. People cannot afford to travel across the country or use expensive technology. Legislation that enables prospecting, extraction, supply, distribution and storage of fossil fuels will have dire impacts on people’s lives and precious water catchments on a national scale leaving our country with stranded assets that will push future generations into further debt. Any public participation around such a Bill should therefore allow for adequate and meaningful consultation with sufficient time and process to engage with the affected people in order for the process to be transparent, just and fair.

groundWork has reiterated to the DMRE on many occasions since the release of the Bill on 24th December the need for inclusive and meaningful consultative process. In the groundWork letter to the Director General Advocate Thabo Mokoena objections to online consultative processes were raised. A request was made for a national public participation schedule on the Bill to be made public and for all consultations to only proceed after the State of Disaster has been lifted.

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