In Solidarity Against Offshore Oil And Gas Exploration, Impoverished Coastal Communities Will Be The Masters Of Their Own Ships

With several questionable offshore oil and gas proposals currently on the table, coastal communities – from the East to the West Coast – continue their unified struggle to phase-out fossil fuels, in a bid to protect their precious livelihoods. This is now a national effort to protect South Africa’s oceans from profit-hungry multinational companies and coastal communities are heeding the call for solidarity.

Late in May 2022, environmental defenders protested at Mabibi Beach Mbazwana Village KwaZulu-Natal to support the court application by fellow small-scale fishers and coastal communities, against Shell’s 3D seismic surveys in the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape. While the Dutch oil and gas company had been granted exploration rights by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), the applicants – Sustaining the Wild Coast, Mashona Went Dlamini, Dwesa Communal Property Association, and small-scale fishers Ntsindiso Nongcavu and Sazise Maxwell Pekayo – say that the seismic surveys could negatively impact people who live along the coast, especially the small-scale fishers who have been dependent on fishing from the ocean, for generations. In December 2022, an urgent interim interdict halted Shell’s seismic survey, which had started around 1 December, since affected communities were not consulted. Now we wait to hear whether Shell will be sent packing permanently, or not.

Sikhulile Mbonambi sharing advocacy knowlegde with youth in her community

A Legacy Defender with The Green Connection’s Legacy Programme Sikhulile Mbonambi says, “Seeing other activists take action against these big multinational oil and gas companies gives me the courage to continue fighting against environmental injustices. I especially want to protect our ocean because it is part of our heritage. Our forefathers relied on this valuable resource for generations. The only way to do this, while also reducing the impact on climate change, is if the DMRE introduces more renewable energy, while slowly phasing-out fossil fuels.”

“It is mostly the women in impoverished communities who feel the impacts of climate change. We are the hardest hit when it comes to droughts and floods because, even through these disasters, we are the ones who still have to care for our families. As eco-justice activists, we are happy that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s (DFFE) has denied Karpowerships its environmental authorization because Karpower  did not do enough to ensure we know and understand what impacts to expect, should their vessels be moored in our waters. For example, there was no comprehensive study of the underwater noise and how it would impact marine animals,” adds Mbonambi, who is from Mbazwana Village KwaZulu – Natal.

Mbonambi commends The Green Connection’s Legacy Programme – the brainchild of the eco-justice organisation’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid – for equipping her with the necessary advocacy skills to raise pressing socio-economic issues in her community. She says that with the knowledge acquired through the Legacy Programme workshops, she is better able to raise her voices on these critical and far-reaching issues.

Written By: Lisa Makaula and Natasha Adonis

The Green Connection Legacy Programme equips the Green Connectors with advocacy skills to fight for environmental and socio-economic justices through workshops and mentoring, in addition to practical exercises involving their communities and leadership (and corporate) structures. The goal driven Legacy participants are encouraged to exercise and protect their human and environmental rights, especially to demand that government do proper and meaningful consultations with the communities when making decisions that will/could affect them.

 Join the call to the President to halt offshore oil and gas exploration by signing the petition below to protect livelihoods of coastal communities and marine life.

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