A group of trade unions and civil society formations under the banner of the Climate Justice Coalition (CJC) is calling for the removal of Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe from office – organising a ‘Mandela Day March to Solve Our Energy Crisis’ march to the Union Buildings to drive home its point on Monday.
The coalition, which accuses the minister of delaying the transition to cleaner sources of energy generation, also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement a renewable energy plan that will see an end to load shedding, as well as a clean-up of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).
“Minister Mantashe’s DMRE is holding back the country’s transition to a renewable energy future and has failed to bring new energy online,” the CJC says in a statement.
“Instead, the DMRE is trying to lock South Africa into polluting and expensive coal, diesel and gas.”
It wants Ramaphosa to remove Mantashe from office and “put new and capable leadership” in place at the department.
The CJC has started a petition to force the president’s hand, and has so far received 1 275 signatures supporting its calls.
“We need an emergency energy plan to get us out of this energy disaster,” says CJC secretary Alex Lenferna.
“But we can’t rely on the same minister who failed to deliver on the last emergency energy plan, to deliver on the next one. That’s why President Ramaphosa must replace Minister Mantashe with someone capable of delivering. Renewable energy and storage are the fastest, cheapest and cleanest way to bring new energy online, not Mantashe’s polluting power ships, outdated coal, or expensive nuclear.”
Community organisers further criticised the DMRE for its lack of engagement with communities directly affected by its sluggish transition to renewable energy sources.
“We as mining-affected communities are facing exclusion from the decision-making process, especially when those decisions will impact our livelihoods,” says Meshack Mbangula, national coordinator of Mining Affected Communities United in Action.
“We have been trying to engage the DMRE to listen to the demands of mining-affected communities, but all our efforts fall on deaf ears. The department continues to fail communities. Corruption is the order of the day, while communities continue to bear the brunt from the negative impact of the mining industry.”
Associated bodies are also calling for an immediate Electricity Regulation Act Section 34 determination to allow for new renewable generation capacity to be built.
Last week Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter referred to a plan he has up his sleeve that looks to make load shedding a thing of the past. However, days later, South Africans remain in the dark, with no sense of clarity on when they can expect to see the latest bout of load shedding come to an end.
“Until the roadblocks to new renewable capacity are removed, the electricity crisis will not be resolved,” Peter Becker of the Koeberg Alert Alliance says.
“Instead of spending tens of billions of rand on expensive distractions like nuclear and gas, Eskom could build gigawatts of renewable capacity. But without the Minister issuing a section 34 determination, their hands are tied.”