Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe. File photo
Minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe has accused some environmental groups that challenged his department’s exploration for oil and gas reserves as being funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Speaking at the third annual Southern Africa Oil and Gas Conference in Cape Town, Mantashe said the NGOs had unlimited resources as a result of being funded by “foreign entities”, which enabled them to take the department to court, thus stalling exploration.
“Many of the non-governmental organisations that take us to court have unlimited resources; they are funded by foreign entities. When a non-governmental organisation is funded by a Ford Foundation, or by a number of those entities in the United States, you can’t rule out the fact that some of it comes from the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and [is] a deliberate programme to block development in a poor country like South Africa,” he said.
The minister was referring to court challenges which saw the high court ruling to set aside Shell’s seismic surveys off the Wild Coast of South Africa, which were granted unlawfully.
Mantashe added that civil society’s opposition to fossil fuel projects had to be addressed to ensure that foreign-funded NGOs do not have “unfettered veto powers” over development in South Africa.
He said development potential was threatened by ongoing litigation against exploration and development of oil and gas, “including the halting of seismic data acquisition off the coast”.
Mantashe said these challenges stood in the way of South Africa benefiting from the planned R288-billion investments in projects such as the TotalEnergies’ Brulpadda project in the Western Cape, the Virginia Gas Project in the Free State, the Lephalale Coal Bed project in Limpopo and the Afro Energy project in Amersfoort and Volksrust.
He added that optimal development of oil and gas resources had the potential to change the fate of the country’s economy, and could spur gross domestic products (GDP) growth up to 8%.
“This year, in quarter one, GDP growth was 0.4% – we just escaped being in recession. In quarter two, we grew by 0.6%. Again, there was very little growth. If we can access these deposits of oil and gas, our growth rate … in GDP terms will touch 5% to 8%,” he said.
On Wednesday, the climate activists protesting at the conference said it was a “carbon criminal gathering” that would accelerate the destruction of the planet.
The Green Connection’s Lisa Makaula said her organisation was concerned that the department and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa were hosting an oil and gas conference.
“Especially since we have just recently, at the African Climate Summit, raised our concerns about investments in fossil fuels, particularly in the oil and gas sector. We want to see the government investing more in projects that are sustainable – projects that will benefit South Africans, not projects in oil and gas,” she said in a statement.
The environmental groups protesting at the conference said that having more oil and gas explorations was against the commitment to limit global warming.
According to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, titled Navigating Energy Transitions: Mapping the road to 1.5°C, a large consensus across multiple modelled climate and energy pathways, developing any new oil and gas fields is incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
Lydia Petersen, of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, (SAFCEI) said there was no place for oil and gas in the country’s energy mix.
“It is imperative that we take care of our environment and natural resources. This is why I came here to protest this Oil and Gas Summit. We believe that it is critical to take the next steps forward in promoting renewable energy, as best as we can,” she said.