- Yesterday, youth leaders, civil society groups, trade unions, and grassroots movements under the Climate Justice Coalition held a people’s tribunal, dubbed The People of South Africa vs the DMRE.
- The People’s Tribunal put the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on trial over corrupt and polluting policies and practices.
- The tribunal featured testimonies by communities and activists from across the country, detailing how the DMRE harms their communities, the environment and the economy.
The DMRE came under fire for continually allowing polluting corporations to further their interests and prioritise profits over the people of South Africa. The people’s tribunal was held in solidarity with the Global Climate Strikes happening the same day under the theme #PeopleNotProfit. The theme of the strikes is a call to build a global system that values people over profits.
The tribunal was a continuation of the coalition’s Uproot the DMRE campaign, which has several demands including a transformed DMRE; the resignation of Minister Gwede Mantashe; rejection of new coal, oil and gas projects; a Green New Eskom and a rapid and just transition to renewable energy for South Africa.
Ferron Pedro, Working Class Campaigner of The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), joined the people’s tribunal and expressed that “SAFTU’s position is that the climate crisis is an absolute priority for the working class. The working class and poor communities will face the brunt of climate change. SAFTU calls for a socialist and just transition that priorities environmentally friendly and renewable energy generation in order to protect the livelihoods of mining and energy workers and ultimately the lives all in South Africa who are affected by environmental pollution.”
Alex Lenferna of 350Africa.org said, “The voice of the people of South Africa is loud and clear today. The tribunal has exposed the plight of the people who are negatively impacted by the policies of the DMRE. The department, led by Minister Gwede Mantashe, has put the interests of polluting corporations over the needs of the people of South Africa. The department is promoting corrupt, polluting and expensive energy and mining projects, like the powerships, fracking, and new coal power, that are harmful to the people, our environment and our country’s economy. Instead, the DMRE should work towards securing a just energy and mining future that benefits the citizens and not just the corrupt few. We must transform our Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and hold it accountable. In the spirit of the climate strikes theme of #PeopleNotProfit, the needs of the people must come before the polluting profits of an elite few.”
Summarising the matters raised at the people’s tribunal, Cleopatra Shezi of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee urged Minister Gwede Mantashe to listen to the voices of the people of South Africa and accept the evidence that points to the need to transform the DMRE for the benefit of communities. Cleopatra spoke firmly and said, “selfish interests must be put aside – profits can no longer be put before people’s lives. It’s time to listen to the people and accept our demands as a coalition that are consistent with the right to health enshrined in the constitution.”
Author Bryan Groenendaal