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Highlights of 2018

groundWork is always a 'crazy' busy place. 2018 was no different. It has been an exciting year with a new strategy developed for the next three years to challenge for environmental justice, under the themes of Open Democracy and a Just Transition.

We have chosen these thematic framing areas as we are bearing witness to violence against civil society by government and corporations, the use of 'divide and rule' by corporate power.

Undemocracy presently rules. In this context the Transition is happening now, as workers and families lose their livelihoods and the elite make off with the profits of a decaying coal industry. We have to fight to make it a Just Transition!

Read the full highlights of 2018 here.

Standard Bank campaign graphic

Standard Bank, pull out of financing the proposed Thabametsi and Khanyisa coal power stations

06 December 2018 - Thabametsi and Khanyisa cannot become a reality without banks. The planned coal fired power stations cannot come into existence without the financial support of institutions like Standard Bank. We call on the decision makers at Standard Bank to do the right thing, and stop the funding of coal, which results in air pollution and negative health impacts.

groundWork with many community people and NGO's are challenging the injustices of coal. Please take time to support this call TODAY.

Sign the petition here.

December 3rd, 2018 marks the 34th Anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Disaster.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) needs your help to showcase the hypocrisy of Dow Chemical.

It's easy to participate. All you need to do is log on to any social media account you have (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), and post about Dow Chemical. We have provided a series of sample posts/tweets that you can use.

See all the suggested posts/tweets here.

Governments and corporates ignore calls for no more carbon

03 December 2018 - In July this year, scientists from leading climate institutions warned of “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced". They emphasise that cascading feedbacks – where crossing one tipping point sets off the next – may be triggered at between 1.5° and 2°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures. This is runaway climate change leading to unliveable ‘hothouse earth’ conditions.

Warming is now at over 1°C above the 1850-1900 average. If pre-industrial is taken to be 1750, as used to be the case, warming is now at 1.2°C. This is already dangerous climate change: people are experiencing extreme heat, drought, hurricanes and floods; and some critical tipping points may be tipping but we won’t know for certain until after the event. The impacts at 1.5°C will be much more severe, particularly for the poorest half of the world’s people, and the impacts at 2°C exponentially more severe, as International Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5°C, published in early October, has shown. The collapse of agriculture is already threatened in some regions – notably in Africa, including the Western Cape – and the collapse of global fisheries from ocean warming and acidification, as well as industrial over-fishing, is in process.

Read the full media release here, issued on the occasion of the UNFCCC COP 24 Gathering in Katowice, Poland, 03 - 14 December 2018.

Zero Waste (Recycling) Exchange for Government Officials

20 November 2018 - On the 21 and 22 November groundWork and South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) are hosting a government officials zero waste exchange in Vaal triangle. Drankenstein, Matjhabeng, Big 5, Emfuleni, Metsimaholo local municipalities in collaboration with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) as well as Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) are convening to share ideas on how the Polokwane Declaration of 2000 as well as the Waste Act 2008 can be best implemented in different municipalities.

The exchange is the first of its kind, groundWork has sourced funding to make this municipal exchange a reality. groundWork has been working primarily with informal workers also known as waste pickers from various cities and towns in South Africa. As groundWork, we felt that the work has been done with waste pickers and now it is time to engage with municipalities; that is how the idea of this exchange came about.

Read the full Media Release here.

FG Landfill Site to Shutdown Finally

“Miracles never cease, thank goodness” - Sharon Tiepelt, Community Member.

19 November 2018 - Interwaste which operates the FG landfill site in Midrand has lost an appeal to continue its operations. Acting minister of environmental affairs Derek Hanekom confirmed the fate of the problematic landfill late on Monday. The JSE-listed waste management group launched an appeal after a ruling in February last year that it should cease operations at the site. The landfill site which is near Olifantsfontein in Midrand has been given 10 days from 3 November to cease operation.

Read the full media release here.

United in the Fight Against Fracking

18 November 2018 - We the people and organisations from the Karoo met from the 16th - 18th November in the Wilderness to discuss our response to the increased push for fracking in South Africa.  We were joined by community people from throughout South Africa and international and national NGOs.   

We remember the families that have lost loved ones in the October 2018 fires in the George area.  We recognise that the severity of these fires, like the ones in California are because of climate change.  We also recognise that despite this reality, the South African government, and the Ministry and Department of Environmental Affairs continue to facilitate the extraction of fossil fuels, despite the overwhelming evidence and call by various international bodies such as the International Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency that we need to get to zero carbon emissions urgently.

Read the full text of the statement here.

The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre and South African Food Sovereignty Campaign call for emergency sitting of Parliament to consider UN climate change report

12 November 2018 - The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre, through and with alliance partners in the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign issued a media release on 23 October 2018, in the form of an open letter, calling on President Ramaphosa to convene an emergency sitting of Parliament to consider the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The report draws attention to the rapidly changing science on global climate change. It also underlines the imperative of bringing down carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change through a 1.5°C overshoot. The report is clear that we are running out of time and decisive leadership is needed over the next 12 years to prevent such a dangerous shift in the Earth's climate.

Read more here.

Court victory for South Africa’s protected areas in Mabola case

Montane grassland in the Mabola Protected Environment

Montane grassland in the Mabola Protected Environment.

08 November 2018 - Today, the North Gauteng High Court set aside the 2016 decisions of former Mineral Resources Minister Zwane and the late Environmental Affairs Minister Molewa to permit a new coal mine to be developed in the Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga.

The case was brought by the coalition of eight civil society organisations challenging a range of authorisations that have permitted an underground coal mine in a strategic water source area and a protected area.

The Mabola Protected Environment was declared under the Protected Areas Act in 2014 by the Mpumalanga provincial government as part of the declaration of more than 70 000 hectares of protected area in the Mpumalanga grasslands. This followed years of extensive research and planning by a number of government agencies, including the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork sends open letter to Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on the occasion of the first global meeting on "improving air pollution, combating climate change and saving lives" to be held in Geneva

26 October 2018 - Leading health scientists are now characterising climate change as the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century, threatening all aspects of the society in which we live. The severity of the impacts of climate change on human health are clearer than ever before and will worsen if significant action is not taken to tackle climate change now.

Indeed, climate change threatens to undermine over a half-century's worth of global improvements in health, achieved through dedicated and targeted action by policy-makers and health professionals around the world. In the South African public health system, air pollution is ignored and is contributing to a heavy burden of disease in SA that needs to be accounted for with accurate health statistics.

For this crisis to be tackled meaningfully, the Health Minister must be willing to be open to productive engagement with community stakeholders and to acknowledge the health impact evidence presented by the Life After Coal Campaign and many other experts and organisations.

These are just some of the points made in groundWork's open letter. Read the full text of the open letter here.

Concluding the draft 2018 IRP public hearings: NGOs write to Energy Committee

26 October 2018 - At the closing of the public hearings on the draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), 2018 convened by the Portfolio Committee on Energy from 16 to 25 October 2018, Energy Governance South Africa, a network of concerned individuals and organisations dedicated to promoting good governance in the energy sector, including prominent NGOs working on energy, have addressed a joint letter to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee.

Read the open letter here.

Electricity Integrated Resource Plan:  Are Black Lives Cheap?

22 October 2018 - Government’s electricity plan (the Integrated Resource Plan, IRP) will result in thousands of South Africans dying prematurely because of pollution from coal fired power stations, fan the fires of climate change with increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and make electricity unaffordable for millions of poor South Africans who are already excluded from the economy.  This is groundWork’s oral and written submission to the IRP, which is supported with our Coal Kills report to parliament tomorrow, 23 October.  The Coal Kills report is a first ever compilation of local research highlighting the damage that coal causes.  Based upon this evidence - Another IRP is necessary!

In 2015, at a groundWork (a partner of the Life After Coal Campaign) community meeting and toxic tour of the Mpumalanga Highveld, then Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, Mr. Jackson Mthembu requested for local research to highlight the evidence of the social and environmental impacts of coal rather than focusing on international studies.  The Coal Kills report responds to that request and is produced for submission to the Department of Energy as local evidence of the damage coal has done to people’s social fabric, their health and their environments. 

Read the full media release here.

CER calls on JSE to include climate, environmental, social rules for listed companies

Impage: James Oatway for CER

Photo: James Oatway for CER

22 October 2018 - The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) has called on the JSE to strengthen its requirements for listed companies and their directors to include climate, environmental and social impacts.

Drawing on its extensive work to hold corporates accountable for violations of environmental laws, the CER submitted detailed comments to the JSE Limited in response to its call for input on possible improvements to the regulation of JSE-listed companies.

The CER’s Full Disclosure series of reports has assessed the environmental disclosures of some of South Africa’s biggest polluters. Our research has shown that while companies may publicly claim to advance a “sustainability agenda”, there is little to no robust and independent verification of the claims made by companies. Reporting requirements in South Africa rely extensively on a company’s own assessment of its performance, and companies are given the freedom to report on their environmental impacts and compliance track-record as they see fit.

See the full CER news item here.

Mabola update: Court refuses state’s postponement application, grants punitive costs order

17 October 2018 - The Pretoria High Court has refused the state’s application to postpone the hearing of the civil society coalition’s judicial review application in the Mabola case, and granted a punitive costs order against the state. The hearing of the review application is now underway.

Read the full media release here.

Visit mabola.cer.org

Update on the Mabola judicial review application in court today

16 October 2018 - On Friday, 12 October 2018, more than four years after the declaration of the Mabola Protected Environment, the MEC for Environment in Mpumalanga, Vusi Shongwe, published a notice of intention to exclude the properties that make up the proposed coal mining area from the Mabola Protected Environment, declared in 2014. The notice provides for a comment period of 60 days.

On Monday, 15 October 2018, the State Attorney filed an affidavit in the judicial review brought by the civil society coalition to set aside the joint permission given by former Mineral Resources Minister Zwane and the late Environment Minister Molewa in 2016, requesting the Pretoria High Court to postpone the coalition’s review application sine die, or without a new date. The coalition filed an answering affidavit, opposing this request, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, 16 October 2018, Judge Davis was not happy about the fact that the MEC sought a postponement, but had not deposed to an affidavit himself. Instead, the State Attorney, acting for the state respondents, had deposed to the affidavit, stating that he had not been able to reach the MEC. The Judge accordingly stood the matter down until Wednesday morning, requiring that MEC Shongwe files his own version of events on affidavit – to explain to the court the late publication of the gazetted notice, given its potential impact on the judicial review application to be heard one court day later.

All court papers are available on the CER website here under the drop down headings “Legal Challenges” and “Judicial review of the decisions by the Minister of Mineral Resources and the Minister of Environmental Affairs to give Atha-Africa-Ventures (Pty) Ltd permission to mine in a protected environment in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003″, as well as the court papers relating to the postponement application (highlighted in red), which we will update continuously.

Visit mabola.cer.org

CER attorneys to warn MPs of the dangers of new coal in the IRP

15 October 2018 - On Tuesday 16 October 2018, attorneys from the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) will tell Parliament that an Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) that provides for expensive new coal-fired power, at a time when South Africa needs to be urgently transitioning away from harmful coal, would be in conflict with the Constitution. This means that an IRP that irrationally includes expensive new coal could be held up by court challenges for years to come.

On 16, 17, 23, and 24 October 2018 the Portfolio Committee on Energy will be hosting public hearings on the draft IRP 2018. In addition to the CER, activists from Life After Coal partners groundWork and Earthlife Africa will be making submissions, as well as activists from various affected communities, and many other civil society organisations.

Although the draft IRP released for comment on 27 August 2018 is a substantial improvement on both the IRP 2010 and the 2016 draft, it still proposes the inclusion of 1000MW of new coal capacity to come from the proposed independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power stations, Thabametsi and Khanyisa. This is despite the draft IRP's own acknowledgement that a least-cost IRP would not include any new coal capacity, and despite Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe's admission that forcing these two coal plants into the IRP will cost South Africa an additional R23 billion.

Read the full media release here.

Our Life, Our Water, Our Sea, Our Air, Our Land - Statement from the National Gasdown Frackdown Gathering – 10 - 12 October in Durban, South Africa

12 October 2018 - Over the past 3 days we the community people representing traditional leaders, farm workers, farm dwellers, subsistence farmers, fisherfolk, and those from neighbourhoods affected by toxic pollution, together with people’s organisations and NGOs, gathered to reflect on the environmental, economic and political crisis our country and world presently finds itself in. This engagement afforded us an opportunity to thoughtfully consider our response to this crisis.

Our resistance to proposed fracking in South Africa, and the expansion of offshore oil and gas has brought us together. As a collective we are able to learn from our negative experiences of the corporate and political elite fossil fuel agenda and our successful resistance to this agenda in various parts of South Africa, and to build upon these initiatives.

Read the full text of the statement here.

Our Life, Our Water, Our Sea, Our Air, Our Land - Statement from the National Gasdown Frackdown Gathering – 10 - 12 October in Durban, South Africa

12 October 2018 - Over the past 3 days we the community people representing traditional leaders, farm workers, farm dwellers, subsistence farmers, fisherfolk, and those from neighbourhoods affected by toxic pollution, together with people’s organisations and NGOs, gathered to reflect on the environmental, economic and political crisis our country and world presently finds itself in. This engagement afforded us an opportunity to thoughtfully consider our response to this crisis.

Our resistance to proposed fracking in South Africa, and the expansion of offshore oil and gas has brought us together. As a collective we are able to learn from our negative experiences of the corporate and political elite fossil fuel agenda and our successful resistance to this agenda in various parts of South Africa, and to build upon these initiatives.

Read the full text of the statement here.

Inter-sectorial collaboration for Health Equity in South Africa to Improve Environmental Health Practices at Local Clinics in the City of Cape Town.

11 October 2018 - The primary mandate of the health sector is to prevent and cure disease. In the process of pursuing this mandate, health-care services inevitably create healthcare waste that is hazardous to health. The waste produced in the course of healthcare activities carries a higher potential for infection and injury to human, animal and environment than any other type of waste. Wherever waste is generated, safe and reliable methods for its handling are therefore essential.

On the 10th and 11th of October, through the facilitation of Tekano [1] Atlantic Fellows for South Africa, groundWork [2] and the City of Cape Town, a health practitioners training and workshop aimed at improving environmental health practices at Clinics was hosted in the City of Cape Town. This workshop took place at the Isivivana Centre, Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Representatives from the Western Cape, Free-State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, which included; facility managers, environmental health practitioners, assistant directors, quality assurance managers and infection control nurses; groundWork; and Tekano engaged, shared knowledge, and mapped a way forward on how to better deal with environmental health issues at clinic level.

Read the full media release here.

Court date approaches for Coalition's defence of Mpumalanga water source area

11 October 2018 - The High Court application launched by the coalition of 8 civil society organisations in July 2017 to review the decision of former Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane and the late Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa to permit Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd to mine for coal in the Mabola Protected Environment will be heard by the Pretoria High Court from 16 to 18 October 2018.

As the proposed coal mine is in a protected area, declared under the Protected Areas Act, the mining company applied for special permission from both Ministers in order to mine there for commercial purposes.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs gave her permission to Atha in August 2016, and the Minister of Mineral Resources gave his permission in November 2016.

Neither Minister conducted a public participation process, nor notified interested and affected parties that they had received, or were considering, Atha's application for permission.

Read the full media release here.

Visit mabola.cer.org

Community to tackle Sasol’s off shore oil & gas proposals

Protestor at Sasol meeting09 October 2018 - Today, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) with more than 40 people representing community organisations from the Karoo, Matatiele, Richards Bay, Durban, Port Shepstone, Hluhluwe  and Newcastle and national NGOs such as groundWork, Support Centre for Land Change, Masifundise, Earthlife Africa, Environmental Rural Solutions,  350.org, Greenpeace, Centre for Environmental Rights, Wild Oceans and the Alternative Information Development Centre, will be challenging Sasol and their consultant’s, Environmental Resource Management (ERM) at 3pm at an open house meeting at the Gooderson Tropicana Hotel, 85 OR Tambo Parade, that ERM has organised.  

People from around South Africa are standing in solidarity with coastal communities in KZN and Eastern Cape and saying to Sasol and ERM: “No to oil and gas exploration and drilling”.  This struggle is in solidarity with the anti-fracking struggle in areas of Matatiele, the Karoo and Newcastle and the people in the Vaal and Highveld which suffer from Sasol’s pollution.

Read the full media release here.

Regional consultation on implementation of Minamata Convention on Mercury taking place in Lusaka Zambia

08 October 2018 - The second Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) is scheduled to be held from 19 to 23 November 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.

In preparation, a series of regional consultations is being organized by the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  In partnership with the UN Environment programme, groundWork is hosting an African regional workshop in Lusaka, Zambia on the 8 October 2018.

The overall focus of the workshop is on the lessons learnt from Minamata Initial Assessments in five African countries (Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Ethiopia) and how the Africa region can learn from the lessons of these five countries who have completed their Mercury Initial Assessments. There will also be discussion on next steps for Convention ratification and implementation.

You can download the booklet The development of Minamata Convention on Mercury Initial Assessment here.

Back to business for Ikwezi Coal Mine in Newcastle, yet no proper consultation regarding social & labour plan implementation

04 October 2018 - On the 1st June 2018 the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) suspended the license of Ikwezi Mine, a coal mine in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal (KZN). The community of Newcastle had been actively resisting the operation of the mine through a number of interventions, including the following protests, at the KZN Mining Indaba on the 18th May 2018 with memorandum delivered and signed by KZN Regional Manager (Ms. Nqobile Khanyile) and Mining Charter meeting on the 29th May 2018 this day a memorandum handed over and signed by the Minister of Mineral Resources (Mr. Gwede Mantashe).

The DMR has since uplifted their Directive to the mine, and the Ikwezi Coal Mine has since resumed its operations.

Read the full media release here.

Building a common voice and solidarity in the resistance to coal

04 October 2018 - In the coal exchange hosted by the Botswana Climate Change Network and co-facilitated by groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa, community environmental justice activists from communities affected by coal mining in Botswana and South Africa met in Palapye, Botswana, from the 10th to 14th of September 2018 to discuss the impacts of coal mining and coal-fired power stations in South Africa and Botswana and worked on the responses needed to address these impacts.

See the text of the declaration here.

Mayor cancels meeting with DMR Task Team and Somkhele community

02 October 2018 - In support of the Mpukunyoni community, mayor Velangenkosi Gumede of Mtubatuba called for the cancellation of the two day task team meeting at the Umfolozi Protea Hotel on 1 and 2 October. The task team comprised twenty experts. The meeting was organised by the Department of Mineral Resources to address complaints and human rights issues perpetrated by Tendele mine that emerged during minister Gwede Mantashe's visit to Somkhele last Saturday.

The agenda for the meeting gave the floor to Tendele mine and included items that raised sub judice issues pending the outcome of the Pietermaritzburg High Court application that Tendele is operating without required environmental authorisations, land planning and or a waste management licence.

Read the full media release here.

What actually happened when Minister Gwede Mantashe and the DMR visited Somkhele/Mpukunyoni

26 September 2018 - For years the people of Somkhele in northern KwaZulu-Natal, had tried without success to engage with the various ministers and the Department of Mineral Resources of South Africa. On the 22nd of September minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe visited Mpukunyoni where Somkhele is situated. On Saturday the door was almost shut in their faces again as all attempts were made to make sure the community were not given a chance to express their collective pain. The people of Somkhele finally got their chance, but this would not have happened had the community not vocally made the demand to present their issues and be heard by the Minister. This would surely have been an expensive opportunity missed by the government. The Minister and his department had all the intensions to sabotage their own visit, and reduce it to a one-dimensional engagement.

The morning session was held at the Tendele site, where CEO Jan Du Preez hyped the urgency of the mine expansion.  According to him if the mine fails to expand in the next couple of months, then the lights and machines will be switched off in June of 2019. He also made mention of families who are resisting the hostile mine removals. The current operation by Tendele has already displaced and destructed countless homes and livelihoods; taking away and polluting land and water, vital self-sustainability sources for this rural farming community.

Mantashe warned the mine about creating different beneficiary packages for the community and the traditional leaders, and said this has created tension between the two community stakeholders. There were community members who spoke openly against the Tendele mining operation, and blamed them for pollution and damaged lands.

Read the full media release here.

Meeting at Xolobeni descends into chaos after police heavy-handedness

23 September 2018 - The meeting between Minister of Mines, Gwede Manatashe and the Xolobeni community, today descended into chaos.

Reports are emerging that members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) were chased out of the tent and corralled by the SAPS.  Human Rights activist and lawyer, Richard Spoor has reportedly been arrested and taken to the Mpisi police station.

Eyewitnesses report the use of tear gas and possible rubber bullets against  AAC members who were expressing opposition to mining in the area.

Minister Gwede Mantashe has been doing the rounds trying to appease community people affected by mining. People are not buying his rhetoric and empty promises.

More details to follow.

For further information contact Nonhle Mbuthuma (Amadiba Crisis Committee) on 073 426 2955.

Watch video capture of the events below, or view them on Vimeo here and here.

Minister Gwede Mantashe to visit the Somkhele community

21 September 2018 - On Saturday 22nd of September 2018, Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe will finally face the community of Somkhele/Mpukunyoni. The community, which for years has suffered a number of injustices and human rights abuses under the hands of ruthless mining bullies, will finally get a chance to engage the minister on issues related to mining in their area.

For years they have tried without success to engage with the various ministers and the Department of Mineral Resources.

What makes Mantashe’s visit even more interesting is that on the 24th of August 2018, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) representing over 3500 residents from the very same community crossed swords with the Tendele Mining Company at the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Legal representatives of the community tabled evidence of how the mine was violating environmental laws and how the current operation by Tendele has already displaced and destructed countless livelihoods; taking away and polluting land and water, vital self-sustainability sources for this rural farming community. Judgement is still pending.

Read the full media release here.

Why the coal-fired power station IPPs are unlikely to get out of the starting-blocks

20 September 2018 - One of the key objectives of the Life After Coal Campaign (consisting of Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights, and groundWork) is to discourage the development of any new coal-fired power stations, which would lock South Africa into further dependence on dirty, expensive coal for decades to come, and delay the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon future.

For this reason, for the past 5 years, the Campaign has been resisting the roll-out of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers (“coal IPPs”) programme, following the then Minister of Energy’s December 2012 Determination for 2500MW of coal-fired power from coal IPPs. The Determination was based on the now extremely outdated 2010 Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), which made provision for 6250MW of new coal from coal IPPs between 2014 and 2030.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork statement to the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) gathering in Nairobi, Kenya. The statement is a request to African leaders to consider the future of the continent in relation to the environmental and health challenges it faces, and also a reminder that coal, plastic, and pollution do not form part of a desired future for Africa.

18 September 2018 - Africa is not a cave: Coal, waste incineration, and plastics are a danger to our environment and the well being of our people. No to coal - yes to renewables; no to closing of democracy - yes to open democracy; no to incineration and plastic pollution - yes to Zero Waste as an innovative solution to addressing environmental problems and job creation, energy and food security and mitigating climate change.

This is the call of groundWork and the very many community organisations and partners we work with to the Seventh Special Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) that is being held at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya from 17 to 19 September 2018.

Read the full statement here.

ESCOM pollution

Eskom’s latest bid to continue deadly pollution strongly contested

18 September 2018 - Five of South Africa’s largest environmental justice organisations have come out strongly against Eskom’s further round of multiple applications to postpone compliance with air pollution standards. Allowing Eskom to continue with its pollution will mean that at least 2200 people in affected areas will die premature deaths every year as a result of exposure to this pollution.

Although Eskom was already granted widespread postponements from compliance with the so-called minimum emission standards (MES) under the Air Quality Act in early 2015, it has made little effort to ensure that it can comply timeously with South Africa’s weak MES.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork challenges UNO support for waste incineration project

14 September 2018 - groundWork, along with 77 other organisations, has signed an open letter asking the UN Environment Program to adopt a clear stance and policy supporting sustainable waste and resource management approaches at the top of the waste hierarchy. 

The organisations further call on the UNO  to refrain from endorsing waste incineration projects, and to stop advocating waste incineration in all the agency's publications and statements.

You can read the full text of the open letter here.

Regional Community Exchange: Building a solidarity in resistance to coal

11 September 2018 - From the 10th to the 14th of September 2018, nine environmental justice organizations [1] are gathering in Botswana for a regional community to community exchange under the banner of Building a solidarity in resistance to coal. The exchange will engage 30 participants from Botswana and South Africa.

This particular exchange has a great significance for many reasons, including the recently announced Chinese investment on coal fired power stations and mining in Africa, which is nothing short of a step back in the efforts to develop the African continent towards cleaner, healthier, and more affordable energy. Also, the Department of Energy in South Africa released the draft Integrated Resource Plan 2018, for public comment and the plan includes two unnecessary coal-fired power stations.

Read the full media release here.

China must play a positive role in Africa - statement by groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa.

06 September 2018 - The China Development Bank's $2.5 billion loan to Eskom, to continue the construction of the 4800 MW Kusile coal-fired power station locks South African into a debt spiral.  The troubled plant - which has recently had a major destructive fire - has been delayed for years and cost-to-completion is now R225 billion.  Original cost estimates for the new coal plants was R30 billion in 2005 by the then Minister of State Enterprises, Mr A Erwin.

South Africa has an energy surplus and renewable energy is coming on line cheaper than Eskom's coal fired power stations.  This loan will lock South African into coal, and deny South Africans the opportunity for expanding renewable energy production, and negatively impact plant manufacturing job creation opportunities in South Africa.  China already employs 3.6 million people in the renewable energy sector. 

We also note that the China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) building of the Morupule B coal-fired power station has been problematic, with it often breaking down. This has forced Botswana to depend on diesel generators and therefore spiking up costs in their fiscus.

China must play a positive role in Africa, and ensure that their support for Africa must be guided by the best energy choices of the people of Africa, choices that will support and promote learning and jobs in Africa for Africans. China should not use Africa to dump old technology or to make work for Chinese constructors of coal-fired plants or big dams.

Groote Schuur Hospital to host an environmental fair on the 7th September 2018

plastic hospital waste

Groote Schuur Hospital, a member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) will be hosting an environmental fair on the 7th September 2018.

Under the GGHH initiative, hospitals, health systems, and health organizations from around the world connect, learn, and collaborate with each other to support their efforts toward reducing the environmental footprint of the health sector.

The main focus of the environmental fair will be on plastic pollution.

You can find more details here.

Life After Coal, Greenpeace Africa slam inclusion of new coal in electricity plan

28 August 2018 - The inclusion of new coal in the updated draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) will cost South Africa close to R20 billion more than we need to spend, and will make electricity more expensive for all South Africans. If the Department of Energy were to publish the least-cost plan that civil society organisations have been demanding, it would not include any new coal.

Allowing the two new coal plants contemplated by the draft IRP to go ahead would be disastrous for water resources, air quality, health, land, and the climate.

The Life After Coal Campaign(consisting of Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights, and groundWork) and Greenpeace Africa argue that the inclusion of an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power – on top of existing and under-construction coal – puts the Department of Energy in conflict with the rights enshrined in the Constitution, given that there are safer, cleaner, and less-expensive energy options available.

Read the full media release here.

Centre for Environmental Rights welcomes new SAHRC report which calls authorities, mining industry to order

22 August 2018 - The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) announced today that it welcomes the South African Human Rights Commission’s report on the Underlying Socio-Economic Challenges Facing Mining-Affected Communities published today, incorporating findings, directives and recommendations from the hearings held in September and November 2016.

The Commission’s findings corroborate many of the concerns that mining affected communities and civil society organisations have been raising for years. Not only does the report find large-scale non-compliance by both mining companies and the authorities charged with policing them, but that the current legal regime does not adequately safeguard human rights.

The Commission finds that South Africa’s experience has shown that many mining-affected communities are often worse off as a result of the negative social, economic and environmental impacts of the industry. “This is a crucial finding against the relevant authorities who currently adopt a ‘mining at any cost’ approach to licencing decisions,” says the head of CER’s Mining Programme, Catherine Horsfield.

Read the full CER media release here.

The Somkhele and Fuleni communities neighbouring the Hluluwe iMfolozi Park unite on 24th August 2018 at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in their resistance against the ongoing illegal mining by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd and its proposed expansion.

View of mining waste dump

21 August 2018 - In an application to be heard in the high court in Pietermaritzburg, evidence will be tabled before Judge Seegobin of how, since 2017, the mine has been violating the National Environmental Management Act by breaching environmental and other laws. The mining company operates illegally next to arguably the most sensitive area in South Africa, with the largest population of rhinos in the world.

Tendele’s human rights abuses and negative impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the greater Mpukunyoni area, where Somkhele is situated, will be tabled in various reports, including the South African Human Rights Commission’s recently released report on hearings with mining affected communities that include Somkhele. Meanwhile, Tendele plans to expand its operation and has identified 124 households to be moved from their rightful land. Many more families will lose their livelihoods and have their lives and health destroyed by living in close proximity to the mine.

Read the full media release here.

Call to action: Despite its coal power stations harming thousands every year, Eskom now wants even more time to continue polluting

16 August 2018 - Eskom has once again announced that it will not meet pollution standards for 14 of its coal power stations.

Although Eskom has already been given permission to postpone its compliance with the Air Quality Act’s minimum emission standards, and despite overwhelming evidence of the devastating health impacts of its emissions, it now plans to ask the Department of Environmental Affairs for even more time to meet standards – in other words, to continue with its pollution. In several cases, Eskom says it does not ever intend to meet emission standards.

Eskom is now asking to defer compliance at 11 coal power stations on the Mpumalanga Highveld, and one in the Vaal Triangle. Both the Vaal Triangle and the Mpumalanga Highveld were declared air pollution priority areas under the Air Quality Act in 2006 and 2007, requiring urgent action to clean up the air in those regions in order to protect human health. Despite more than a decade having passed since the Highveld and the Vaal Triangle were declared priority areas, widespread air pollution, with dangerous health impacts, remains. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health or well-being.

Read the full media release here.

Wheels come off the Eskom offset

14 August 2018 - Eskom is the biggest air polluter in the land through its intensive coal fired power stations. This makes Eskom not just a producer of energy but also a manufacturer of illnesses and deaths. The power utility has failed to comply with the minimum emission standards (MES) set by a democratic process, which included all role players and led by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which is aimed at reducing outdoor pollution from coal fired power stations, in order to protect the lives of the people who are already suffering from respiratory diseases and dying from the pollution from coal facilities. It is also important to mention that the standards set by the DEA are less protective of health compared to those of the WHO (World Health Organization).

Instead of meeting these standards, Eskom opted to start an offset programme in a few Highveld communities aimed to reduce outdoor air pollution by addressing indoor pollution by improving the insulation of the houses and providing LPG gas stoves, heaters, wall insulation, and ceiling to the communities. Their basic idea and intention is to cut domestic emissions by switching households to cleaner energy sources, low emission appliances, and insulation as an offset to the millions of kilograms of pollutants they emit from their fleet of coal fired power stations.

groundWork staffer Tsepang Molefe spoke to Sunnboy and Petunia Skhosana, residents of KwaZamokuhle township, Hendrina in Mpumalanga about their experience of the Eskom programme.

Read his full account here.

Life After Coal Campaign comments on Climate Change Bill 2018

08 August 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (LAC) today submitted a comprehensive response to the Department of the Environment on the Climate Change Bill 2018.

The general thrust of the comments is that whilst supporting the Bill, the LAC is highly concerned that the Bill, in its current form, does not go far enough to address the severity and urgency of the threat of climate change. Instead of responding urgently to the need to address climate change, and making adequate provision for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and for holding emitters and government accountable, the Bill's focus is on creating a bureaucracy of government bodies, plans, and processes.

The LAC further points out that at present, South Africa is not on track to meeting the Paris Agreement target of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. This means that South Africa is continuing to expose itself and its people to devastating temperature increases and other climate impacts that will cause irreversible harm, as acknowledged in the White Paper and NDC. This is not consistent with the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, in particular, the rights to life, dignity, access to food and water, and to an environment not harmful to health or well-being.

Read the full submission by the Life After Coal Campaign here.

Keynote address delivered by groundWork Director, Bobby Peek, to the Oilwatch Africa General Assembly, in Lamu, Kenya on 07 August 2018

In 1996 Oilwatch was established in Quito, Ecuador.  As Africa we can be proud that Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Gabon were amongst the first 12 countries that gave birth to an organisation that has immersed itself into the politics of many movements, and into the politics of resistance without compromise.  In Oilwatch there are no “ifs” and “buts”; it is very clear: we keep the “oil in the soil”.

groundWork has been a member of Oilwatch from the very start of our existence, nearly 20 years ago.  We were privileged to have one of the first international gatherings of Oilwatch in South Africa in 2000.  At this gathering we came face to face with the many people and organisations resisting oil, from Thailand to Columbia, from The Netherlands to Sudan.  For groundWork it was a watershed, and it built our resolve to make sure that as an organisation we stood firm in our resistance to fossil fuels and our politics of listening to what people were saying and demanding.  Listening to those on the fence-lines in the host communities and who are suffering the daily injustice of fossil fuel extraction and production, is critical for groundWork. We believe these communities have to lead the way in our positions on resistance on all fronts, from civil disobedience to policy work, and from local to international.

See the full text of the address here.

SDCEA meeting

The importance of community activism

03 August 2018 - Addressing the 23rd Biennial General Meeting of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork Director Bobby Peek observed that the work of community activists at the SDCEA "is never about self. It was, is, and always will be about the community of south Durban. From that very first protest against Engen on the 25th March 1995 till today, 23 years later, the defence of the people of south Durban has been at the forefront of the struggle. With the odds still stacked against us, there is no choice but to stand with each other, support each other, and make sure through this we recognise that the work we do is not for ourselves."

"Today, too often, successful groups who started with resistance fall into the trap of being NGOs taking on a different persona and position to that into which they were born. It is community groups or fence-line formations like SDCEA and its sister organisations such as the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, the South African Waste Pickers Association, the Karoo Environmental Justice Movement and the recently launched Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network that reminds us that people living on the fence-line and their struggle is most important", he added.

You can read the full address here and also Bobby's thoughts on the current state of environmental justice in his column From the Smokestack in the groundWork June 2018 Newsletter here.

Tackling climate change is a health issue and we need the health sector to be a leader

27 July 2018 – This was one of the points made by groundWork Director Bobby Peek during an address to health care professionals at the Middleburg Provincial Hospital today.

“For us, be it groundWork or the community people we work with, environment speaks to our health foremost.  We see environment from a justice perspective and by this we mean we have to have decent basics of life such as nutrition;  services such as water, energy and health; a safe and decent working environment; and an area where can live as a community in the knowledge that our children can play in an environment that will foster their growth”.

The gathering was part of an ongoing interaction between groundWork and healthcare professionals through the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) partnership. Peek pointed out that the GGHH programme has played a fundamental role in ensuring that Clinics, hospitals and health care systems around the globe are already taking innovative steps to reduce their own carbon footprint, invest in clean renewable energy, develop resiliency strategies, educate their staff and patients, and advocate for policy that protects public health from the impacts of climate change and promotes environmental health.

 “The Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal Departments of Health, the Johannesburg Health Department, the Free State and Northwest hospitals have all joined these GGHH initiatives. Membership from other parts of the continent include one hospital in Kenya, one in Morocco and 12 hospitals spread out across Ghana, Tanzania and Madagascar” he added.

You can read the full text of the address here.

Comment from the Life After Coal campaign on Eskom financial results

 Eskom infrastructure

Image: Voice of the Cape FM

23 July 2018 - The Life after Coal campaign (LAC), which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork, has issued a media release commenting on the latest Eskom financial results.

Amongst the points made, the LAC states that:

"We call for immediate action by the Department of Public Enterprises and other government departments to accelerate the phase-out of old, expensive, and non-compliant coal-fired power stations, and to stop building the last over-priced units at Kusile".

You can read the full media release here.

Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network launched

sejn banner19 July 2018 - The Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network launched today. Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural meeting of the SEJN, groundWork Director, Bobby Peek said the following:

I want us to reflect on what Madiba left us. What have we done with this freedom? What have we done with this hope? What have we done with this courage, the courage that we can take on the world and succeed? There are many Madiba stories about how he influenced people to take actions. Indeed, I want to at the outset say that one of the oldest community environmental justice networks in South Africa, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, emerged from a chance encounter with Madiba in 1995. It is this network and the very many more community environmental justice networks around South Africa that SEJN is now a part of, that keeps the true meaning of freedom, hope and courage alive. From the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, to the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, from the Karoo Environmental Justice Movement to the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, in all parts of South Africa community people are starting to organise as SEJN is doing. I bring solidarity and well-wishes from all of them!

You can read Bobby Peek's full address here.

Water costs, impacts of coal-fired power grossly underestimated in electricity planning

16 July 2018 - Mining coal and burning it in power stations uses large amounts of water, and pollutes even more water. It imposes massive but uncounted costs on society and particularly on poor people who live in the coal regions. A new report from the Life After Coal campaign calls for these costs to our water resources to be accounted for in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – South Africa’s plan for the future electricity system.

The Life After Coal campaign partners Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork and Earthlife Africa, together with Greenpeace Africa, have indicated that they will have no option but to challenge an IRP that fails to adequately take the costs of coal into account, in court.

Life After Coal spokesperson Saul Roux says: “The Draft IRP (2016) provides cost estimates for different energy technologies but does not include externalities of critical importance for electricity planning. This means that the costs of coal-fired power generation are significantly under-counted. South Africa is a dry country and cannot afford this.”

Read the full media release here.

Proposed new air quality rules will force Eskom to comply with pollution standards, or shut down

26 June 2018 - Most of Eskom’s ageing coal power stations cause severe air pollution, which contribute to the deaths and ill-health of thousands of South Africans every year.

Despite this, Eskom has thus far been let off the hook by government – not only allowing them to postpone their compliance with air pollution standards, but failing to take enforcement action against Eskom for its pollution.

Now, the Department of Environmental Affairs has finally proposed closing some of these loopholes. Proposed amendments to law published under the Air Quality Act will only permit one postponement of compliance – for five years – with standards which should be met by April 2020 (called “new plant” standards).

Read the full media release here.

New report shows major inadequacies in the way mining companies disclose information about environmental rehabilitation costs

Coal mining devastation in the Mpumalanga Highveld. Image: Daylin Paul for CER

20 June 2018 - Neither the law, nor the accounting standards governing company disclosures, ensure the necessary transparency and accountability about financial provision for environmental rehabilitation, i.e. money that mining companies must set aside to rehabilitate environmental damage. This is the key finding of Full Disclosure: the Truth about Mining Rehabilitation in South Africa, the latest report in the Centre for Environmental Rights’ Full Disclosure series.

CER attorney, Christine Reddell, says: “We assessed the public disclosures of eleven JSE listed mining companies in relation to their financial provision for environmental rehabilitation. We found that the information provided about the costs of rehabilitation, and the companies’ ability to cover these costs, is inconsistent, unclear, in some cases unreliable, and not comparable between companies.

“This means that it is impossible to check whether the estimated costs of rehabilitation given by mining companies are accurate, whether enough money has been set aside to pay for it, and whether rehabilitation is actually being carried out. In other words, it is impossible for shareholders or taxpayers to hold companies or regulators to account.”

Read the full media release here.

You can visit the Full Disclosure website here.

Wellington Community Defeats Waste Incinerator in South Africa

07 June 2018 - Communities of Wellington, in the Western Cape of South Africa, have successfully pushed against the Drakenstein Municipalities plans to build a Municipal Waste Incinerator. The Wellington Association against the Incinerator (WAAI) and the Drakenstein Environmental Watch (DEW), both community based organisations, worked tirelessly,  along with another GAIA member – groundWork, to campaign, resist and legally challenge the proposed incinerator. The Drakenstein Municipality recognized in their official statement “complaints and resistance by certain interest groups – especially against the proposed inclusion of an incinerator component – as well as legal processes” as part of their decision to terminate the proposed project.

groundWork has been working with community groups in Wellington in this struggle over the past few years. Musa Chamane, one of the Waste Campaigners of the organisation, explained that this victory “highlights the importance of community organizing when fighting for environmental justice” and added that “challenging these projects from different angles is crucial to stop these kind of proposals”.

Keith Roman of WAAI said that their “strategy was to intervene using the legal route to highlight the administrative flaws of the process conducted by the Drakenstein Municipality”. Caron Potocnik of DEW identified the human rights violations related to this project as their main concern “the municipality has to consider the impacts on the people of Wellington” Potocnik affirmed. Going forward both WAAI and DEW are optimistic about the town’s potential “it is great that the incinerator plans have been terminated but now we need to think of how we use sustainable methods of dealing with waste and make Wellington a model zero waste town” both organizations agreed. 

This item originally appeared on the GAIA website.

Minister's statement flies in the face of latest 'no new coal' report

04 June 2018 - The Minister of Energy on Friday reiterated government's intention to proceed with the procurement of expensive, dirty electricity from two independent coal power plants – despite compelling evidence about the disastrous impacts these plants would have for South Africa.

Earlier this week, the Energy Research Centre (ERC) released a report proving that the two new coal plants, Thabametsi and Khanyisa, would cost South Africa an additional R20 billion, and increase greenhouse gas emissions by so much that they would negate government's key plans to mitigate climate change. Credible modelling shows that, given the large surplus generation capacity, the coal IPPs are unnecessary to meet demand, and ensure security of electricity supply.

Moreover, both plants would have significant impacts on air quality and health in areas that are already heavily polluted, and would use enormous amounts of precious water resources. It is for these reasons that the Life After Coal Campaign has challenged – and will continue to challenge – all authorisations for these plants, including in High Court proceedings still underway.

Read the full media release here.

Mining Charter Consultation Returns to KwaZulu-Natal

31 May 2018 - Today Minister Gwede Mantashe returns to Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) to discuss the Mining Charter with local community people, NGOs and industry.  The meeting was to be on the 22 May 2018, but was cancelled on the morning after more than 70 community people travelled from afar as Mtubatuba, Somkhele and Fuleni. 

Post the meeting the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) responded and apologised for the late postponement and offered to pay for people's transport to the meeting today.  This is welcomed by the communities and groundWork. It is critical that government ensures people are supported to participate in meetings that will define their future.

The community will hold a picket outside the meeting and will hand over a memorandum demanding the right to say no to mining.

For contact details to obtain more information, click here.

To read the memorandum handed over to Minister Mantashe click here.

New proceedings launched to protect Mpumalanga strategic water source area from coal mining

31 May 2018 - Last week, the coalition of eight community and civil society organisations, that is resisting Atha-Africa Ventures’ proposed coal mine inside a Protected Area and Strategic Water Source Area in Mpumalanga, launched new legal proceedings in the Mbombela High Court.

The new proceedings are a judicial review application to set aside the decision of the Mpumalanga Department of Environmental Affairs to grant an environmental authorisation to Atha for its proposed Yzermyn underground coal mine, and the decision of the Mpumalanga MEC to dismiss the coalition’s appeal of that environmental authorisation. The review application is coupled with an interdict preventing the start of any activities at the proposed mining site pending the outcome of the review.

Read the full media release here.

New report shows that two coal IPPs would cost SA an additional R20 billion

The new coal IPPs will be excessively expensive and polluting, and crowd out other cheaper, cleaner, and more flexible alternatives. Image: © Greenpeace Africa / Mujahid Safodien

30 May 2018 -A report released today by the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre (ERC) shows that government’s planned independent power producer (IPP) coal plants – Thabametsi and Khanyisa – would cost South Africa an additional R19.68 billion compared to a least-cost energy system.

Thabametsi (557 MW to be based near Lephalale, Limpopo) and Khanyisa (306 MW to be based near eMalahleni, Mpumalanga) are the preferred bidders under the first bid window of the coal-baseload IPP procurement programme.

The new report shows that the two coal IPPs are not needed to meet South Africa’s medium-term electricity demand. Where future capacity is needed, this is met more cheaply by other electricity sources such as wind, solar, and flexible gas generation.

Read the full media release here.

Minister of Mineral Resources fails to honour his commitment

22 May 2018 - The Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Gwede Mantashe failed to honour his commitment to visit the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province today to discuss the Mining Charter.  Community people gathered from Newcastle area (Normandien, Kliprand Farm and Uitkomst communities) and Somkhele, where Petmin’s coal mine is being challenged by local community people.  More than 70 people travelled to attend the meeting to speak with the Minister about the impacts of coal mining and dangers of proposed fracking in the province.  

“This shows the lack of respect government has for meaningful participation.  It is not easy for people to make these meetings.  For these meetings to be cancelled without notice is an injustice” says Robby Mokgalaka, groundWork’s Coal Campaigner.

Read the full media release here.

An irrational IRP can expect legal challenge from human rights organisations

17 May 2018 - The Life After Coal (LAC) Campaign and Greenpeace Africa say that the Department of Energy (DoE) will face a legal challenge from them if the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) ignores constitutional obligations.

“We are not afraid to take the Department of Energy to court if the updated IRP ignores the provisions made in the Constitution. We were successful in halting the nuclear deal and we will fight again if necessary,” says Earthlife Africa Director, Makoma Lekalakala. A legal challenge would be a severe blow to a department that has seen four ministers in under a year, and could face another reshuffle before the 2019 elections.

Read the full media release here.

Waste Pickers Left for Dead at New England Landfill Site

A 2015 waste picker protest, where waste pickers were challenging the delays in the building of the Materials Recovery Facility. They also challenged the dangerous work conditions.

11 May 2018 - Panic and chaos struck the New England Landfill site on Saturday, 5 May 2018, when waste pickers discovered the body of an unknown man they believed to have been dead. While trying to contact police, they realized that the man was still alive; they immediately tried to contact the ambulance instead. Several calls and pleas for help were made between 06:00 and 12:00 midday, the ambulance still had not arrived and the police had made no effort to come to the scene to assist.

Read the full media release here.

Green Scorpions Investigate Richards Bay Minerals for Allegedly Dumping Toxic Waste in Community.

Slimes dam

Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) Slimes dam polluting the environment: Photo groundWork

11 May 2018 - Green Scorpions has decided to investigate Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) for environmental violations; this is after groundWork filed a complaint against them on behalf of the KwaMbonambi community. The KwaMbonambi, Sokhulu and Enhlanzini communities, affected by waste dumping, are concerned that the waste is causing increased rates of cancer and destruction to their community and environment. These concerns were raised during ongoing research and community monitoring done by Kwazulu Regional Christian Council. Some of the other complaints include the dumping area not being adequately fenced off, people have lost their livestock, which are routinely trapped in the dumping area, and worry about their children being the next victims to this environmental injustice.

Read the full media release here.

Farid Esack, groundWork Trust Board Member awarded the Order of Luthuli for his fight against race, gender, class, and religious oppression.

28 April 2018 - Professor Farid Esack, groundWork Trust Board Member, has received the Order of Luthuli from President Ramaphosa for his fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression. 

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, warmly welcomed the announcement of the award to Professor Esack, for "his brilliant contribution to academic research and to the fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression." "His body of work'' says the citation ''continues to enlighten generations of fledgling and established academics.”

Joy Kistnasamy, Chair of the groundWork Trust Board expressed her congratulations to Professor Esack on "an amazing and well deserved accolade. groundWork and its trustees are proud of you and this great achievement."

You can read more about the award here.

Community participation in KZN Mining Indaba restricted

18 April 2018 - The KwaZulu Natal Mining Indaba is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, 18 - 19 April, 2018. The Department of Mineral Resource is convening the KZN Mining Indaba in Newcastle, a town devastated and impoverished because of historical coal mining. The meeting restricted community participation to only 3 participants, meaning the truth of mining in the area will not be meaningfully discussed. With unemployment close to 40% in South Africa we cannot rely on an apartheid economic model of mining that has caused ill health, violence and destroyed people’s environments. 

The meeting will be attended by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe; KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikala; Mayor of Amajuba District Municipality, Councillor Dr Musa Ngubane; KZN Premier, Mr. Willies Mchunu, mining companies and a limited affected communities.

Ironically, the meeting is being hosted in areas where there were recent forced removals to make way for mining. The Kliprand community in Danhauser, Newcastle, had their homes demolished at the end of March 2018, to make way for Ikwezi Coal Mine operations. The Kliprand community has been involved in a long legal battle over land with Ikwezi Coal Mine, their forced removal was unlawful and was done before the case had been concluded. Communities were placed in temporary iron structures after the homes they had for over 50 years were destroyed.

Read the full media release here.

Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the court during the hearing of the first Thabametsi coal-fired power station court case in March 2017

Image: James Oatway for CER

03 APRIL 2018 -In the past week, the Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises: the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork) has instituted fresh court proceedings against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in relation to the proposed Thabametsi independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station. The Campaign has also made further written and oral objections against both preferred bidders under the Coal Baseload IPP Procurement Programme (being Thabametsi, as well as the proposed Khanyisa coal-fired power station) to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) – during public hearings hosted by NERSA on 27 March 2018.

groundWork and Earthlife Africa have sought an order setting aside the Minister’s decision and referring Thabametsi’s authorisation application back to the Department of Environmental Affairs for reconsideration. They have also asked for an order confirming that the National Environmental Management Act and the Constitution require competent authorities to consider site-specific climate change impacts associated with proposed projects; and that they do not permit competent authorities to rely blindly on the IRP 2010 and other policies or Ministerial determinations as determinative of their decision.

Read the full media release here.

In Memory of Comrade DORCAS DUMSILE MWELASE (25 February 1966   -  25 February 2018)

03 April 2018 -Dorcas Dumsile Mwelase, was a dedicated, humble, loyal, selfless, friend, mother, sister and comrade. Her activism led her to become a member of the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MCPA), which challenges negative mining impacts created by Somkhele Coal Mine.

A hard-working cadre, she did everything in her power to succeed in whatever she was doing and also strived to put the needs of the community and association first. She fought against injustice and mobilizer community members so that they could empower themselves.

Read the full tribute here.

Life After Coal sets record straight on inaccurate statements by Colenso Power

20 March 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and groundWork) has issued a media release to correct numerous factual inaccuracies in statements attributed to the CEO of Colenso Power (Pty) Ltd – the developer of the proposed Colenso 1050MW independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station,  to be based in KwaZulu-Natal.

The statements appeared in an Engineering News article of 16 March 2018 and are disputed by the Life After Coal campaign.

For details see the full media release here.

Civil society organisations take battle against new coal plants to NERSA

19 March 2018 - On 27 March 2018, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will hold public hearings for the generation licence applications by the two preferred bidders under the first bid window of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement Programme – Thabametsi and Khanyisa. Thabametsi coal power plant would be based in Limpopo, and Khanyisa coal power plant would be based in Mpumalanga.

The Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (“Earthlife”) and groundWork) has opposed Thabametsi and Khanyisa’s applications, and will be presenting their objections, alongside numerous other experts and community representatives opposed to the proposed coal power stations, to NERSA next Tuesday 27 March.

The Life After Coal campaign is challenging these new coal plants on the grounds that they would be harmful to the environment and human health, and are risky projects that would produce expensive electricity that South Africa does not need. Despite this, on 8 March 2018, Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe that he had requested the office of the Director-General of the Department of Energy and the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office to sign the two coal baseload IPP projects.

Members of the public are invited to attend the NERSA hearings and/or make presentations.  The deadline for registration is 20 March 2018.

Read the full media release here.

Another Waste Picker Dies on the Pietermaritzburg Waste Dumpsite

15 March 2018 - In the early hours of the day Ntsiki Mhlakwane was killed by a municipal waste compactor which crushed her. She is the fifth person to have been killed or badly injured on the landfill site since 2007. Such incidents  where waste pickers have been killed or badly injured by the heavy machinery operating at the landfill is a sad reminder of how waste pickers have been neglected by our government.

groundWork and the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), representing more than 1000 waste picker's country wide, have been telling Msunduzi Local Municipality about the danger to which waste pickers are exposed.

In 2010 funding was approved at the The uMgungundlovu District Municipality for a Materials Recovery Facility ( MRF – also known as a recycling centre) but that was never built due to political clashes between the district and local municipality. Lives would have been saved by an MRF due to safer working conditions. The best way of managing waste is to have an MRF where waste pickers would work to recover and sort recyclable materials, rather than work on the dumpsite where waste is being dumped.

groundWork and SAWPA are saddened that waste pickers must die in this way. They have never resorted to crime but instead they have opted for recycling as a means to earn an honest meagre living. Waste pickers and groundWork have scheduled an urgent meeting with the Msunduzi Municipality on Monday 19th March where amongst other things, incidents such as this will be discussed and a solution that will be much safer than the current situation will be sought.

Despite severe health impacts, Eskom again seeks to delay compliance with air pollution standards

15 March 2018 - Eskom has again applied to postpone compliance with the minimum emission standards for air pollution, this time for its Tutuka power station near Standerton. This area falls within the already heavily polluted Highveld Priority Area in Mpumalanga.

The minimum emission standards (MES) regulate the maximum amount of air pollution released by industries, to limit harmful impacts on human health, wellbeing, and the environment. They were first published in 2010 following a 5 year multi-stakeholder process, and require existing industries (including all of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations) to comply with a set of MES by 1 April 2015, and a stricter set by 1 April 2020.

In early 2015, despite vehement objections from civil society and community organisationsEskom was granted widespread postponements of deadlines to meet the MES. Multiple additional postponement applications for the majority of their power stations are expected later this year.

Read the full media release here.

The transition to a low carbon future must be rapid, and must be for everyone

14 March 2018 - In response to the interdict sought to stop yesterday’s signature of the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for 27 renewable independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPPP) projects, the Life After Coal Campaign emphasises the urgent need for a rapid, but just transition from coal to a low carbon future.

Workers in power stations and coal mines are understandably concerned about what such a transition means for their employment future. Coal workers must have a place in the renewable economy. At the same time, in the context of 40% unemployment and gross inequality in South Africa, a just transition must be about creating a more equal society in which everyone has a place. This is not only the responsibility of government: workers and community groups, particularly those who are affected by the coal economy, should be at the centre of the process.

The transformation of the South African national power system has reached a critical moment. Climate change impacts are very evident in the recent country-wide drought, which is ongoing in the Western and Eastern Cape. Impacts will intensify over the next decades. As it is, air pollution from the coal-fired power stations results in early death of thousands of people and in poor health for hundreds of thousands each year.

The REIPPPP has contributed towards our national climate change response and our international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Approximately 11.2 Mton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent emissions have been avoided since the inception of REIPPPP.

Read the full media release here.

#ThumaMina: Heed the call, say no to coal DBSA.

08 March 2018 - The #ThumaMina, DBSA campaign asks the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to publicly commit to not funding the Thabametsi coal-fired power plant, proposed to be built in Lephalale, Limpopo. Thabametsi is one of 12 coal-fired plants considered under the Independent Power Producers Programme in South Africa. The coal plant will use outdated technology and is set to be extremely emissions intensive, leaving untold impacts on human health, water availability, and agricultural productivity in an age when a new coal plant is a climate crime.

The impacts of climate change are being felt in South Africa today more than ever, and developing another power plant in a water-stressed region stands to threaten communities living in Lephalale. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, no new coal infrastructure should be built.

While we welcome the Development Bank's investments in renewable energy initiatives, these positive steps risk being undermined by support for coal infrastructure. Instead, DBSA can play a bigger role in scaling up action on climate change and delivering on the ambitions that South Africa committed to during the global climate talks held in Paris in 2015.

The Life After Coal campaign has made great strides towards stopping Thabametsi and other coal-fired power station projects from going ahead, and we are joining this struggle, focusing on the institutions financing Thabametsi.

350.org is calling on the DBSA to commit to not financing Thabametsi coal-fired power plant. It is an opportunity for them to stand out and be a leader amongst financiers in South Africa, and not waiver from fulfilling their development aims of improving affordable energy access for all South Africans.

Click here to sign the 350.org petition.

EJS 2018 Clean Air Action

07 March 2018 - As the groundWork Environmental Justice school draws to an end, the participants have a strong message for all governments, corporations and citizens - "We want clean air and we want it now!!!"

South Africa's energy future at stake: Life After Coal campaign writes to new Energy Minister Jeff Radebe

28 February 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (made up of groundWork, the Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg) has written to newly appointed Energy Minister Jeff Hadebe.

"The Life After Coal Campaign writes to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Energy. We believe that the Energy Ministry is of critical importance in determining future energy security for all the people in our country, and supporting the just transition to a low-carbon future; specifically how South Africa meets the need to provide clean, healthy and affordable energy to the poor, while ensuring that South Africa reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. We believe these two objectives are complementary and we look forward to a robust engagement with you on these and other issues."

Read the full communication to Minister Hadebe here.

Air Quality in the Highveld Remains Poor

19 February 2018 - The inability of government to enforce minimum emissions standards in the Highveld Priority Area (HPA) means that air quality remains poor and has an adverse impact on the health and well being of the people living in the area.

"The situation in the Highveld is not getting any better, pollution levels are high" said environmental activist Thomas Mnguni from groundWork in Middelburg.

Read the full press item here.

Call for more research into oil, gas exploration plan

09 February 2018 - Non-governmental organisations have slammed proposed oil and gas exploration off the coasts of Durban and Richards Bay.

This comes as Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and Italian oil and gas exploration company Eni South Africa BV (Eni) held a public hearing into exploration on Wednesday. This was one of a series of public hearings being held.

Environmental activist Desmond D'Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said the drilling would have a negative impact on fish.

Read the full Daily News story here.

International Coal Exchange Statement

31 January 2018 - groundWork has always believed that community people learn best from sharing their struggles with each other.  The 2018 International Coal Exchange took between 29 and 31 January 2018. It aimed to enable shared learning and a broader understanding of coal, energy poverty and the making of environmental injustice.

groundWork believes that exchanges build a connections and unity between groups with similar concerns. It is one of the ways in which groundWork supports community-based organizations to build solidarity and links with each other, and to build a shared response to the common environmental injustices people face on the ground.

You can read the statement that emerged from the International statement here.

How did we get to be eating plastic?

10 January 2018 - At our recent Africa-wide #BreakFreeFromPlastic gathering we heard from some local scientists who painted a bleak picture of plastics in the Indian Ocean and in particular about how plastics are bio-accumulating in our local food web. The food web is the entirety of interrelated food chains in an ecological community, so this includes the food that we eat! Worryingly, micro plastics are now a ubiquitous pollutant in all the oceans around the world, and pose a serious potential threat to marine ecology. In particular, the facts following were presented, which I thought merited further research to inform our work.

Steve Cohen from the Durban Partnership against Plastic Pollution described a "plastic ocean" around Durban in which 70% of the Mullet fish species surveyed in Durban contained micro-plastics, most worryingly in their brains (UKZN Mace Lab). We also heard that 77% of Maasbankerfish species (mainly horse mackerel) sampled from the Durban Harbour, Vetch's Pier, Isipingo and the uMngeni and Mdloti river mouths contained tiny plastic fibres, fragments and beads in their tissues and organs. The team that undertook this research also found that these fish contained micro plastic fibres, irrespective of their size, at Vetch's Pier and also in Durban (UKZN School of Life Sciences).

Read the full article, by groundWork staff member Rico Euripidou, in the December 2017 Newsletter here.

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