Nationwide actions erupted against oil and gas drilling off South Africa’s coast

  • On 9 December, people across the country united in local actions against oil and gas exploration and drilling off South Africa’s coastline.
  • Multinational corporations – including Shell, QatarEnergy, Total Energies and contractors such as CGG and Searcher Seismic – are amongst the focal points of this latest public outrage.

The protests follow a series of recent authorisation and decisions by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE):

  • Authorisation for  UK-based CGG to conduct a speculative 3D seismic survey in the Algoa/Outeniqua Basin off the Southeast Coast of South Africa (appeals open to DFFE before 13th December 2023).
  • A recent decision by the Minister of DFFE to reject an environmental appeal off the West Coast, meaning seismic surveys by Searcher are planned to start after 1 January 2024 unless it is taken to court.
  • Recent decision by the Minister of DFFE to reject the environmental appeal against oil and gas exploration in blocks 567 (from Gansbaai on the South Coast to Doring Baai on the West Coast). Which means Total Energies can start drilling anytime from now unless it is taken to court.

According to Liziwe McDaid, Strategic Lead at The Green Connection (one of the civil society organisations that got in on the action), “Recent decisions by government to authorise seismic surveys in  the Algoa/Outeniqua Basin off the Southeast Coast of South Africa and also off the West Coast, in addition to decision to reject the environmental appeal against oil and gas exploration, from Gansbaai on the South Coast to Doring Baai on the West Coast, has been the catalyst for these actions.”

McDaid says, “We believe – especially as it becomes evident that not nearly enough is being done to address the climate crisis – that it is important to show government decision-makers and these oil and gas companies that South Africans are united against climate-change-causing fossil fuels, which also threaten the livelihoods of our coastal communities. This is why, on Saturday (9 December) we joined with people all over the globe, to stand together to oppose oil and gas. There is a climate crisis! We all need people’s power, that is sustainable and renewable, to change from this poisonous power dynamic. In order to shift ourselves to a clean future and to avoid that current and future generations find an almost unliveable planet, we must act now! We call on South Africans to support the NGOs and to join the movement to protect our oceans and marine life, and in the process, safeguard the livelihoods of our local small-scale fishers. We need you, the people, to stand up and join the fight, now. Do not wait until next year.”

The coast to coast action – from KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and the Northern Cape – forms part of the Global Day for Climate Action. In South Africa, threats to the ocean are central to the fight for climate justice, since the coast is being bombarded with fossil fuel projects.

In Port Nolloth, community activists and fishers took to the beach to voice out their opposition. Local fisher leader Walter Steenkamp says “Oil and gas are bad for our people and oceans and have many negative effects on the livelihoods of fishers who depend on the ocean. We do not need oil and gas when there are other alternatives, like wind and solar, that will not harm the environment and people.”

Also from Port Nolloth, Jeff Van Neil says, “For the small-scale fisher who only knows the ocean as a source of their livelihood, oil and gas has a very negative impact. The government needs to really look into other alternatives and also consult the communities that would be most affected by oil and gas exploration.”

Image credit: SAFCEI

In the West Coast, fishers and concerned community members from Langebaan, Saldanha Bay and Mamre joined in solidarity with fellow-affected coastal communities to protest together at Pepper Bay.

Small-scale fisherwoman Solene Smith from Coastal Links Langebaan says, “Karpowerships, Searcher, Total Energies, Shell and all those other oil and gas companies should leave South Africa alone. What will happen when there is a big oil spill or other negative impacts start affecting us? Why not give us permits to fish, instead of giving permits to oil and gas companies to drill in our ocean? We don’t need any of these Karpowerships in our oceans, and we certainly cannot open our coast to all the risks that come with offshore oil and gas.”

In Cape Town, Muizenberg Beach rang to the calls of “Power to the people!” and deafening cries of “Amandla!” “Awethu!” from the crowd. A diverse group of speakers took to the platform, all with a message which called for oil and gas companies to get out of our waters.

Along the south and east coasts, groups of protestors braved bad weather to come out and protest. And in KwaZulu Natal, on Friday, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) also held a similar protest.

The protest action also focuses on the Kick Total Out of Africa Campaign amid government authorisation of exploration projects off the coast of South Africa.

Click the link to sign The Green Connection’s petition to stop offshore oil and gas.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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