Massive protest in South Africa
- December 21, 2021
- Posted by: admin
- Category: Latest News
It was heartening to witness a vast majority of people environmentalist demonstrators gathered on South African beaches holding up the peace symbol and brandished a giant model snoek fish on Sunday (Dec 5) to voice their dissent against an offshore 3D seismic survey planned by energy giant Shell. Ecologists consider that the exploration technique could upset animals’ behaviour, feeding, reproduction and migration patterns, with many sea creatures such as whales relying heavily on their sense of hearing. Sinegugu Zukulu, Deputy Chairperson of Sustaining the Wild Coast, has clearly stated that the ocean belongs to the people and Shell and the South African government are acting in violation of Indigenous people’s rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as underlined in UNDRIP, as well as their constitutional right to a safe and healthy environment.
Many demonstrators belong to the indigenous communities particularly Xhosa, for whom the ocean not only provides a source of livelihood but also symbol of their traditional rituals. The residents of the Xhosa kingdoms of Pondoland, Thembuland, Gcalekaland and Rharhabeland strongly reject the government’s plans to allow oil and gas companies to enter their territories. The local activists also gathered in large numbers to protest the dangerous impact of the project on sea life. Activists and communities fear the surveys and possible oil extraction will impact marine life and pollute coastal ecosystems.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc faces legal challenge to its planned seismic survey along the protected marine areas stretching to around 300km of unspoiled Indian Ocean shoreline. Two court applications were submitted last week challenging the government’s license for oil and gas exploration and demanded their constitutional right to a safe and healthy environment, as well as their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. The court cases aim to challenge the legality of Shell’s exploration.
The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), an organization defending the customary rights of Indigenous communities and opposing destructive mining projects has strongly objected Shell’s Shell plans to use seismic waves emitted from boats equipped with air cannons to analyse the geological structure of the ocean floor, hunting for spots likely to contain hydrocarbons. Sinegugu Zukulu, who is a member of the Mpondo community, is the main applicant in one of two interdict applications submitted against the South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Shell, BG International Ltd and Impact Africa and another applicant in the court case is Ntsindiso Nongcavu, a fisherman from the Scanbeni community, who makes his living from fishing in the ocean and selling his catch to the markets.
For protesters, the country cannot afford new oil exploration activities while meeting climate commitments. The first interdict application challenging the right, lodged by local associations and environmental justice organizations, was dismissed in court on December 3. However, Nonhle Mbuthumba, a local resident and spokesperson of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), argued that their main argument is about the lack of consultation and there was not even one single meeting where people were told about how Shell is going to drill gas and oil.
Lorien Pichegru, Acting Director of the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth has said that most animals under water depend on sound to communicate, mate and avoid predators. Since Pichegru observed a change in the behaviour of penguins as a result of seismic testing in 2013, he further added that a high level of noise will affect them.
Now a few weeks later [after COP26], and South Africa is [still] in partnership with Shell exploring for oil. With South Africa currently being the world’s 13th largest emitter of greenhouse gases due to its heavy reliance on coal, it is still unclear to the activists how the country would stop Shell’s prospected operations and keep its climate commitments.