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25 Mär 2024

Kimberly Mutandiro, Ground Up (S. Africa)

S. Africa: Communities across the country march for cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy

‘Mpumalanga Protesters Reject Government's Latest Energy Plan’ 20 March 2024

A call for the rejection of the government's latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), and for clean, safe, and affordable energy was made across the country on Wednesday, with more than 100 people attending the demonstrations in Mpumalanga. Participating in the event led by the Climate Justice Coalition, the demonstrators from Mpumalanga communities affected by mining marched to the provincial Department of Mineral Resources in Emalahleni, demanding a shift toward a just energy transition. Similar marches were also planned in the Free State, Limpopo, Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, and Gauteng. Activists from the Coalition said the draft IRP published in January, would delay the transition from coal and lock communities into decades of deadly pollution.

The Coalition said the IRP was fossil-fuel-heavy and offered "a bleak outlook, especially for working-class and low-income households who will be condemned to unaffordable, unreliable and dirty energy for the foreseeable future". "The plan also slashes investment in renewable energy and fails to ensure a just transition that creates dignified jobs for workers, resolves load-shedding, or safeguards people and the environment," stated the Coalition. The latest IRP has come under fire from other quarters for similar reasons. At the Mpumalanga march, organiser Xobile Cleopatra Shezi said the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy had failed to ensure the rehabilitation of land on which mining had taken place, and to create jobs through sustainable development projects.

In a circular, the coalition condemned the DMRE's support for the privatisation of Eskom, stating this would tie the country to "privatised energy apartheid". The coalition called for the government to invest in community and public-owned renewable energy and a "Green New Eskom". Joining the march, Secunda resident Fana Sibanyoni said people in the town were suffering from air and water pollution. "We have raised these concerns, yet the government is doing nothing to correct some of the effects of mining in our community. It's high time that the DMRE consults with the community to pave a way forward," said Sibanyoni. Empumelelweni resident Promise Mabilo said people were suffering from asthma and other lung diseases because of air pollution from coal mining and coal-fired power stations in the region. "It's high time that we move to cleaner energy," said Mabilo. A memorandum was handed to department officials.