/ 10 October 2023

Gwede Mantashe says NGOs are weaponised to stop oil and gas exploration

Gwede Mantashe (1)
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.(Rodger Bosch/AFP)

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are being used to block oil and gas exploration and called on them to reveal where they receive their funding from.

Speaking at Africa Oil Week in Cape Town on Tuesday, Mantashe said there was a need for NGOs to declare their source of funding and give their reasons for opposing the exploration of oil and gas in Africa.

“Foreign-funded non-governmental organisations are also being used to weaponise environmental preservation to block development in developing nations,” he said.

Mantashe — a big supporter of the use of coal, oil and gas for energy — has been critical of civil organisations and their financiers who he says have a “mandate from the West to stop development in South Africa”.

In 2022, the Makhanda high court set aside the exploration right which Mantashe had granted to Shell to conduct seismic surveys for oil and gas off the ecologically sensitive Wild Coast for fears of the impact on wildlife. 

Karpowership, a joint venture between Karadeniz and Powergroup SA which won a tender to supply dispatchable power to Eskom, has been unable to begin its project because of court cases by environmental groups which have prevented the company from operating in South Africa.

On Tuesday, Mantashe said climate change-related disasters were being weaponised to force African countries to stop using fossil fuel as a source of energy, without looking at each country’s energy shortage reality.

He accused Western countries of failing to follow through with their own climate change laws and standards but failed to follow through with their own laws, telling the summit:  “Climate change standards are set by the developed nations and imposed on the developing nations.”

Mantashe was referring to countries who have neglected their promise to let go of fossil fuel as part of the Paris Agreement, a legally-binding global framework signed in 2015 whose overarching goal is to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. 

In recent years, world leaders have emphasised the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century. The agreement also aims to strengthen countries and the ability to deal with climate change.

Following Russia’s decision to largely cut off gas supplies as payback for sanctions slapped against it over its war against Ukraine, some developed nations have reverted back to fossil fuels, with some reopening their decommissioned coal-generating power stations.

Mantashe said it was important to note that renewable energy had its limits, opening up opportunities for fossil fuels to still play a role. He argued that although renewable energy has been touted as the future, it does not have enough baseload — the minimum level of electricity demand required over a period of 24 hours. 

He noted that Sweden, which had taken a decision to “be 100% dependent on renewables”, had abandoned that goal.

“As we transition from the old energy technologies to the new, we must follow the Chinese example of ascertaining the reliability, resilience and the efficiency of the new energy technologies before we can unbundle old technologies,” the minister said.

He urged African countries to realise their potential in the energy sector and stop being beggars by using their resources to expand refining capacity.

“The reality of the matter is that Africa cannot continue being a beggar of the world and an import destination for refined petroleum products while it is blessed with a plethora of oil and gas reserves,” Mantashe said.

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Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.