Environmental activists detained outside Eskom’s headquarters

The arrests happened after the activists staged a coup d’état of sorts outside Eskom's main gate in Johannesburg.

At dawn members of three environmental organisations chained themselves to a desk outside the gate. They also unfurled a giant banner reading: "Eskom is under new management." 

groundWork director Bobby Peek, said: “We are here today because Eskom has clearly failed the people of South Africa.” Their basic problems were the power utility's committment to using coal to create energy, and the resulting tariff increase. The other two organisations involved were Greenpeace Africa and Earthlife Africa.  

Before lunchtime, police arrived and arrested 14 of the activists. Fiona Musana, Greenpeace Africa's spokesperson, said the protesters were told they were under arrest and taken to Sandton police station.

“They did not even allow them to speak to our legal representatives,” she said while rushing to the station.

Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa’s Climate and Energy campaigner, said the symbolic coup was prompted by the 16% hike in electricity costs and the fact that Eskom uses 10 000 litres of water a second.

“Water plays a critical role in poverty alleviation and development. However, at the moment Eskom is holding our water resources hostage by burning coal to produce electricity,” she said.

The parastatal needs to look at more sustainable ways to produce electricity, she said.

“There are effective alternatives to coal, but there is no substitute for water.”

In response to the situation, Hilary Joffe, spokesperson for Eskom, said, “We do engage with NGOs and I think we all have the same objectives as a country. We want to secure the supply of electricity, give access to energy for all, and cleaner electricity. The debate is about how we get there.”

Peek said Eskom was choosing the wrong path by sticking with coal. While government pumps billions into developing new Eskom coal-fired power stations for industry, the community's health is increasingly affected by the toxic by-products of coal from industries, he said.

Makoma Lekalaka, of Earthlife Africa, said a big problem with Eskom’s tariff increase was that it was going towards coal-fired electricity. This would be paid for by the poorest, while companies like BHP Biliton continue to receive low cost electricity, he said.

“It is time for Eskom to deliver clean, affordable, accessible electricity to everybody in this country,” he said.  

Eskom is currently trying to get this sweetheart deal cancelled or adjusted.

Last week Greenpeace released a report on the water costs of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations. This said that while nearly a million South Africans did not have access to water – a person is constitutionally guaranteed 25 litres a day – Eskom was going to be using more and more water.

The Greenpeace report "Water hungry coal: Burning South Africa’s water to produce electricity", forecasted that continuing on the path of coal power stations would not only lead to tariff hikes, but also bring huge externality costs.

Officials at the Sandton police station were not available to comment.

Sipho Kings
Sipho is the Mail & Guardian's News Editor. He also does investigative environment journalism.
Advertisting

Workers fight job-creation ‘mess’

Former Ekurhuleni workers argued in court that a programme promising to equip them with skills simply acted as a labour broker for the municipality

Court dissolves local municipality

Landmark judgment paves the way for South Africans to use legal system to hold councils responsible

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.