Civil Society Unites To Protest Against Offshore Oil And Gas Exploration In South Africa

Civil society organisations, activists and fishers have vowed to continue their struggle to persuade the government to stop offshore oil and gas exploration projects on the coasts of South Africa. Today, on the 15th of August, civil society organizations together with fisher communities, held a protest outside the harbour at Paarden Eiland. The protest which is organised by The Green Connection is in response to the government’s continued promotion of fossil fuel projects in our oceans. The call is for the President of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa to end all offshore extractive oil and gas projects as these activities exacerbate the climate crisis and threaten the livelihoods of coastal communities and food security. In an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, as Chairperson of the Presidential Climate Change Commission, The Green Connection lists a number of well-documented negative implications of oil and gas exploration.

Fishing communities, activits and civil society organizations protest at Paarden Eiland

According to The Green Connection, government has failed to consider meaningful alternatives to oil and gas or to meaningfully engage with fishing communities and relevant stakeholders, and instead continues to promote oil and gas exploration in the oceans and expanded use of gas in the economy. The Green Connection believes that these projects (such as the karpowerships projects, as well as various seismic surveys and exploration drilling projects) are undesirable, unnecessary and do not provide an adequate solution to the energy crisis but could directly lead to job losses for small-scale fishers, in addition to causing environmental damage. The protest seeks to draw attention to the seismic surveys and exploration drilling off South Africa’s oceans, particularly the new Searcher seismic survey off the west coast, Total Energies EP South Africa (TEEPSA) off the south west coast, and the AZINAM oil and gas exploration project off the coasts of Port Nolloth, Kleinzee and Hondeklip Bay. Other exploration cases include Shell off the Wild coast and Sasol off the East Coast.

Neville Van Rooy (left) and Liz McDaid (right)

The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says many coastal communities are facing the threat of offshore oil and gas, driven by national agendas and international corporations, “as these are the people who could potentially lose their livelihoods, as a result, they should have meaningful spaces to deliberate on the alternatives to oil and gas and to identify suitable local development initiatives that would benefit them,” says van Rooy, “we need to protect the fishers’ livelihoods, coastal communities and sustainability for future generations, and that can only happen by protecting the ocean.”

Liz McDaid, Strategic Lead for The Green Connection, said, “as civil society, we can stand together against the greed of a few, and history will tell the story of how, in the face of climate crises, when government seemed reluctant to act, it was civil society who sought to protect the ocean and stand up for future generations.”

About 50 fishers from Cape Town and West Coast are expected to attend the protest and one of them is fisherwoman, Solene Smith from Coastal Links from Langebaan, who also shared her frustration with the Karpowership project. Smith voiced her concerns saying this project has a potentially destructive impact on small-scale subsistence fishers along the coastlines. “We have said from the beginning that the Karpowership project could have a disastrous impact on our oceans and we believe the dangers it poses could quite literally mean the end of our communities. We are glad that Karpower failed in its environmental appeal and we urge the government to look for greener, sustainable power solutions instead.” Says Smith.

Also joining the protest is Natalie Jane van Wyk, Youth Representative for Coastal Links, who had this to say on behalf of the country’s youth: “We demand sustainable energy solutions and we want offshore oil and gas explorations to stop completely. We will keep opposing these explorations and will never stop demanding that our government start looking solely at renewable energy sources in our future energy plans.”

Solene Smith (left) and Natalie Jane van Wyk (right)

Civil society organizations support the call to stop all offshore oil and gas exploration projects. Alex Lenferna, Secretary of the Climate Justice Coalition says, “greedy corporations and bought off politicians are trying to sell us the false narrative that oil and gas extraction will drive development. If you look across the African continent, you find plenty evidence showing why that’s a lie. From Mozambique to Nigeria, we see that oil and gas extraction enriches an elite few, while burdening communities with devastating pollution, poverty and inequality.”

Bonga Zamisa, an Advocacy Officer at Social Justice Coalition (SJC) says, “as the SJC we support the calls to ban offshore oil and gas exploration because we understand the importance of protecting the right to human dignity, the right to sufficient food and water, the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being of all South Africans, especially those who are poor and disadvantaged.”

Glen Tyler-Davies from 350Africa says, “we believe a just transition towards renewable energy will solve our energy and climate crises. Oil and gas exploration and exploitation may worsen the climate crisis and is risky, more expensive and slower to develop than renewable energy. The current leadership of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy do not seem to grasp the extent of the climate crisis, nor do they seem to see the climate impacts already wrought on South Africa. If they did, they would be working to urgently transition us away from fossil fuels, rather than looking for more.”

Sign The Green Connection’s petition to stop offshore oil and gas, as part of its Who Stole Our Oceans campaign 

Activists, fishing communities and civil society organizations signed the petition

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