This week we will vote for the future of this country. If you are aware of climate change and other threats to our environment and therefore to our civilisation, it helps to take note of how the different parties plan to respond to these threats.
What are they saying in their manifestos about:
- Energy and Climate change
- Water (services and resources)
- Mining and fracking
- Land reform and food security
- Urban development and Access to Informaton?
EMG (Environmental Monitoring Group) did the following research, which we are sharing with you here, with some additions:
Most of the parties have been evaluated on the basis of their manifestos and public statements. However it’s not possible to assess the ANC without also looking at its track-record in government. This may skew our analysis on an empirical level, but is a factor that cannot be ignored when weighing who to vote for.
1. ENERGY AND CLIMATE
South Africa, as a country, is currently the 13th highest emitter of carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas and major driver of climate change. Per capita, we are 8th in the world. So not only are we responsible for a significant part of the problem, we are also at the mercy of its consequences. Predictions are that southern Africa will experience temperatures at least 2 degrees Celsius higher than the global average. Changes to rainfall patterns are also predicted. Small changes in both temperature and rainfall could have a dramatic impact on agriculture, water supplies and food security.
Incentives to encourage energy efficiency, better public transport, a more decentralised electricity regime which encourages rooftop solar water heaters and PV systems, and a more concerted move from coal to renewable energy should be no-brainers for any political party looking for the “green vote”. But although the contribution of renewable energy sources is increasing sharply, this has been offset by an energy policy that locks us into a fossil fuel-based economy for many years to come.
Which political party will be brave enough to challenge this paradigm?
COPE states that their plan would “…implement sound environmental practices, with an emphasis on sustainable development, recycling, environmental sustainability. Organic farming, for instance, will be encouraged to protect both consumers and the environment”.
COPE claims to support the green economy, but does not give much detail on how this is defined. They have been critical of Government’s plan to allow multinationals to drill for shale gas in the Karoo, stating that “Water is the most important resource to protect and not energy”.
As a party born out of opposition to Jacob Zuma’s ANC it is to be expected that their Election Manifesto has a strong bias towards anti-corruption, efficient administration, transparency, etc. While not directly related to the environment, these are all qualities that activists for environmental justice would support.
EMG comment: Supporting the ‘green economy’ is not necessarily good for the environment, it depends how this is defined. More often than not, proponents of a green economy are involved in a PR exercise to greenwash certain economic sectors without any fundamental changes to the nature and structure of the economic system that causes human suffering and environmental damage.
The only mention of any environmental sustainability concerns in the FF+ manifesto is that of encouraging South Africans to move towards using solar energy.
However in recent statements, the FF+ does oppose fracking, comparing it to a nuclear explosion – with its consequences being potentially irreversible.
They also claim that mineral resources and mines are simply not managed efficiently under current rule. The acid mine drainage crisis in Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand for example, should be treated as a state of emergency.
The IFP states that it would take immediate action to limit the use of coal for electricity generation, and a greater focus on cleaner fuels. “Beneficiation of coal for the manufacture of chemicals and other products, including gas, is preferable to the burning of coal for energy. The IFP favours a further extension of the use of gas in South Africa for domestic purposes, especially cooking and heating.“
They argue for more intensive research into alternative energy forms, and the promotion of solar power for domestic applications. But in the same breath state that “…nuclear energy should be further investigated because of its low cost, bearing in mind the alleged safety and environmental problems associated this energy form. “
They also promise to prioritise renewables and improve public transport in order to lower urban congestions and pollution.
The IFP’s Environmental Policy raises the importance of environmental education. It also proposes a National Environmental Protection Strategy – with the establishment of a competent and well-resourced National Environmental Affairs Department, as well as local and provincial structures to manage the environment.
EMG Comment: Converting coal to gas is no better for the environment or climate change than converting it to electricity. The cost of nuclear energy should make it prohibitive as an energy source, even if there were no risks or environmental consequences.
The ANC aims to increase energy supply by means of coal as well as green energy. Nuclear, solar, wind and hydro-electricity are all included in the plan to expand the provision of electricity. They plan to install solar water heaters in 1.3 million South African homes. The ANC also aims to “intensify” shale gas exploration (fracking).
While the ANC’s election manifesto does not make specific mention of any particular planned efforts to address climate change, the ANC government has adopted a relatively coherent (on paper at least) climate change response strategy, made international commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and made relatively progressive noises about the need to transition to a low-carbon economy. Critics will point to the construction of Medupe and Kusile (amongst the world’s largest coal-fired power-stations, set in a water-scarce region) as locking us into an environmentally unsound and high-carbon future.
The DA proposes to incentivise household renewable energy use as well as investment by Independent Power Producers (IPPs). They also plan to reduce reliance on coal for energy, partly by connecting small-scale producers to the grid.
The DA’s Climate Change mitigation strategies include renewable energy, streamlining public transport and carbon sequestration. They also specify numerous adaptation plans to safeguard farming practices and livelihoods operations that depend on the natural environment and climate in particular.
The Party also proposes to boost the Green Economy through carbon trading and encouraging sustainable business.
The EFFs Founding Manifesto states that “…green energy sources should be pursued and the state should heavily invest in green energy corporations, which will explore, manufacture and install green energy alternatives in the whole of South Africa.” The EFF encourages research into energy derived from uranium that can be sustainably harnessed with no negative impact on the environment.
The 2014 Election manifesto however, contains no direct reference to energy or climate change issues.
EMG comment: With millions of rands of state funds already poured into nuclear research, going back 30 years, it’s unlikely that the goal of nuclear energy without environmental damage is achievable!
WASP has a dedicated section in its Manifesto on Climate. They promise to struggle for mass job creation through renewable energy projects, redirection of polluting industries and agriculture – by retraining and guaranteed jobs for all workers in redirected polluting industry. They plan to develop a comprehensive recycling service in all communities. They also promise a massive investment in infrastructure and service delivery under democratic working class control with an upgrade of the rail network for fast efficient trains accessible to everyone (as well as for goods freight), combined with safe, efficient buses and taxis.
“Let our scientists and inventors deliver a renewable source of Free Energy for every South African.”
2. WATER SERVICES AND RESOURCES
South Africa is not blessed with excess water resources. So ensuring that water is provided for all who need it, and ensuring a sustainable supply, is a fine balancing act. Already 98% of available water is allocated (i.e. ring-fenced for use by municipalities, industry, agriculture and environmental reserve). The only effective way of increasing allocation to a particular sector is through reductions or efficiencies in another. But this picture also illustrates the critical importance of protecting and conserving catchments and rivers. Regulation with strong enforcement measures for agricultural land use, maintaining sewage pipelines and treatment works, controlling invasive plants, etc are all essential elements of a good water policy.
The “service delivery” protests that are happening country-wide usually include access to water for household use as one of the demands, which is a good indicator of the importance of this issue to the ordinary voter. Unequal access to water for household use is entrenched throughout South Africa and is symbolic of class and race. Political parties need to tackle this head-on through policies that protect water as a public good and ensure that wealth and race does not determine the quality of water services you receive.. And we should also be interested in various parties’ attitudes towards the management of water resources and water conservation – for example whether the billions spent on large-scale water transfer and storage schemes are balanced against water conservation and efficiency measures. Climate change predictions for southern Africa indicate that the incidence of droughts and floods will increase, which will put additional pressure on water resources, requiring more comprehensive and sophisticated management strategies that themselves do not contribute to climate change.
The ANC government’s record on water services and resource management has been mixed. On the one hand it has pushed a number of progressive policies and laws, such as free-basic water allocation, ecological reserve, working for water programmes, etc. The last 20 years has seen millions get access to water. On the other hand, we see the alarming deterioration of municipal water and sewage treatment facilities across the country, particularly in smaller municipalities; community protests which indicate a dysfunctional water provision service; and the apparent inability to properly regulate water pollution from mines and other large industries.
The DA proposes to prosecute and fine municipalities who do not maintain water and sewerage systems It intends to align water management with legislation, so that the two are coherent and compatible rather than contradictory.
There is a strong focus in the WASP manifest on water and service delivery. The party proposes a socialist service delivery programme which will fight water and electricity cut-offs, oppose tenders, and oppose outsourcing and privatisation in public works. They will create a massive programme of public works to build the 2.5 million homes needed to provide every household with a decent home of adequate size and quality, with adequate and cheap electricity, water and sanitation. However, they do not say how this will be achieved given the resource constraints.
3. MINING AND FRACKING
The SA economy since the turn of the century has been built on extractive industries, notably the mining and export of coal, gold, diamonds and other precious minerals. The environmental toll has been enormous. The contamination of rivers with acid-mine water continues unabated. The ambient air quality in western Mpumalanga from coal-burning is amongst the worst in the world. Toxic asbestos mines and radio-active tailings dams lie abandoned.
The mining industry demands special status in the economy due to claims of its contribution to the country’s economy and employment. But this should not mean special treatment or exemption from regulations to ensure the protection of the natural environment, workers’ and citizen’s health and well-being and the equitable distribution of economic benefits..
While mining is a significant employer and forex generator, it is nevertheless remains an industry based on extraction, and clearly in decline. Current policies seem to have been unable to create the conditions for significant value-adding or proper environmental protection.
Most of us are probably aware of government’s flip-flop approach to fracking. The initial caution has evaporated. Final regulations will be released “soon” and will be followed by the processing and granting of licences. In his State of the Nation address earlier this year, the President himself declared that “..the development of petroleum, especially shale gas, will be a game-changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy.”
The ANC is also driving amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act which will allows the state a right to a 20% “free carried interest” in all new oil and gas finds, and entitle it to a further 80% stake.
The DA supports fracking as long as it adheres to certain safety conditions and follows a “responsible” path, which includes stringent control measures and penalties. MP James Lorimer stated that “…the DA will fully scrutinise these regulations with the hopes they will contain an adequate balance between what is right for the environment and what is right for thousands of unemployed people who could benefit from fracking.”
While mineral wealth is already essentially the property of the state, the EFF goes one step further and advocates the wholesale nationalisation of mining activities. They argue that this will ensure that the benefits of mining will be more equitably distributed, and will encourage beneficiation.
EMG comment: However, there is no reason why a state-owned mining company will be any less polluting than a privately-owned one
WASP argues that big business should carry the full social and environmental costs of mining. “Nobody should come to the mine to die, destroy their lungs and then be thrown away as rubbish.” WASP promises to not accept the pillage of natural resources, leaving behind for example acid mine water, slimes dams, radioactive dust, heavy metal contamination of soil and water. The solution WASP proposes is for the bosses to pay until we have a socialist society with democratic worker control.
4. LAND REFORM AND FOOD SECURITY
For a political party to ignore the land reform question is electoral suicide . However, a practical and feasible land reform process has to deal with two complex and highly politicised issues land redistribution and food security. Twenty years after the advent of democracy 67% of South Africa’s land still remains in the hands of a small minority of commercial farmers. This is both politically unsustainable in terms of the equitable distribution of land, environmentally unsustainable in terms of the dependence of industrial agriculture on fossil fuels and harmful and ever increasing inputs, like fertilisers and pesticides not to mention GMO’s crops.
The pace of land reform must be increased but it should be done so with and strong focus on economic, social and ecological sustainability. Given the level of unemployment in the country, sustainable, labour intensive agro ecological techniques of farming healthy, non-GMO foods by small scale farmers could address a lot of the current challenges facing the agriculture sector at the moment. This would however require a strong commitment to fundamentally changing the structure of the sector, challenging the big guys and putting the people and the planet first. It will also need to include an understanding that the biggest problem in terms of food security is not production but distribution and account for this in policy.
Farming in most parts of the country is at best a risky business. New and small-scale farmers face the additional challenges of access to capital and markets; and coping with often poor rural infrastructure. Land should be an asset to be protected and built upon, not just a resource to be exploited for the sake of survival. Which parties truly have the political will to embark on a solid and purposeful plan of agrarian reform?
The ANC’s manifesto says that they will implement rural development focusing on meeting basic needs, land reform and rural enterprise development, supported by localised markets, credit facilities and economic infrastructure.
Increase investment in agricultural infrastructure in support of small-holder farmer development, prioritising former homeland communal areas.
Continue to improve the tenure security and administration of people living in communal areas with emphasis on women’s tenure security.
Strengthen support for co-operatives in marketing and supply activities to enable small scale producers to enter formal value chains and take advantage of economies of scale. This will include targeting public institutions as primary buyers of agricultural goods and support for small scale producers’ access to municipal markets.
Expand the Food for All programme as part of the national integrated food and nutrition policy for procuring and distributing affordable essential foodstuffs directly to poor communities.
Accelerate the settlement of remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998.
Re-open the period for the lodgement of claims for restitution of land for a period of five years, commencing in 2014.
Codify the exceptions to the 1913 cut-off date for the descendants of the Khoi and San, and identify affected heritage sites and historical landmarks.
The ANC-led government has been responsible for the current land reform process which has been criticised by those who say it has been too slow and insufficient; and by those who say it has been too much, too fast. The ANC has also pushed the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill which re-opens the “window” for land claims The ANC also supports alternatives to the “willing buyer – willing seller” mechanism which they claim is the reason why land reform has been so slow. Critics suggest it has more to do with government inefficiency. Proposals are that “…the state will be buying land at 50% of its market value or at a fair productive value.” The shortfall will be made up by cash or in-kind contributions from commercial farmers who volunteer to participate, although it is doubtful whether many farmers would want to participate in such a scheme.
The DA claims that they aim to ensure customized support to beneficiaries throughout the different stages of business development – this would need to be prioritized in the workings of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
One key point emphasized by the DA is that access to urban land and housing opportunities is no less important than the need for rural land reform. Additionally, their policy makes it clear that it is not the mere area in hectares transferred that should be used as the measurement of success, but rather some measure of the livelihoods created. Further their land reform policy states that South Africa is a progressively urbanising society (as evident in the rapid growth of informal settlements in towns and cities), and that current trends in urbanisation are expected to continue and increase. Thus a considerable proportion of people in need of land of their own would prefer urban land with housing opportunities, rather than becoming rural farmers. The DA aims to address this by means of expanding housing opportunities and services plots near to urban centres, as well as many other stated policies. Urbanisation is not a uniquely South African phenomenon, although it could be argued that a more supportive land reform process would discourage migration to the cities.
The DA agrees that land and services to support current dwellings and settlements should be brought to the forefront and has suggested partner communities, where communities work with partner organisations to upgrade their settlements.
The DA commits to ensuring policy certainty by adhering to the ‘willing-buyer, willing seller’ principle and to hold solid the right of farmers to go through the legal system to appeal compensation. Recent controversy arose after the DA made a statement which seemed to be in support of the two new pieces of legislation which seems to be at odds with its policy; namely the Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill of 2013 (the Restitution Bill), and the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill of 2013 (Investment Bill). Together these Bills allow for a process where the government can claim land from its current owners, and act as ‘custodian’ (without paying compensation) until the land is handed over to its new owners.
The DA has recognised that one of the problems facing small-scale farmers is access to suitable markets, and that the supermarkets’ domination of the supply chain means that much supply is sourced from international markets or agri-business rather than smaller local suppliers. The DA aims to address this by “…facilitating access for new entrants to key food markets in rural areas where the state is the main purchaser – including school feedings schemes and institutionalised catering such as hospitals, correctional services facilities and emergency food packages”.
The EFF proposes confiscation and nationalisation of productive land without compensation. This, and their proposal that government would hold the right to revoke a land-use licence at any time and reallocate it to more deserving recipients, may strike a chord with many poor rural voters. Others argue that this would destroy the motivation of farmers and discourage investment in food production, with severe consequences for the country’s food security. It would also require a change to the Constitution which stipulates “just and equitable compensation” for property.
Part of the EFF’s plan relating to land and agricultural output is for the state to purchase a minimum of 50% of its food for hospitals, prisons and schools from small-scale farmers. They also state that: “South Africa needs to produce agricultural output through provision of subsidies to small-scale farmers, and open packaging and retail opportunities for these farmers”.
WASP proposes a fundamental and radical approach to resolving the issue of land and food security:
- Nationalise the 36 000 commercial farms and the food processing industry under democratic workers control and integrate them into a society-wide democratic socialist plan of production (compensation in cases of proven need).
- Shift farming and forestry to sustainable ecological methods, e.g. permaculture.
- A living minimum wage of R12 500 for all agricultural workers, all seasonal workers to be made permanent.
- Workers’ committees on individual farms and at industry level to determine the deployment of labour, and reduce the working week without loss of pay out of season.
- State assistance in the form of cheap loans and access to affordable and sustainable agricultural implements, stock-feed and equipment for the 1.3 million small farmers; and cancel the debts of small farmers.
- State assistance to subsistence farmers in the form of cheap, sustainable fertiliser, pesticides, seed and implements with incentives to socialise subsistence plots at the village level under the democratic control of the community.
- State control of prices on all basic foodstuffs.
- Democratic community committees to determine the use of the 87% of non-agricultural land for social need including
currently state-owned land and communally held land, in consultation with a socialist government; home owner-occupiers and small business premises exempted.
“Support our farmers at every level to grow organic food; ban all GMO seeds and giants like Monsanto; plant food gardens across the nation so that no South African ever goes hungry again.”
5. URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Cities are major consumers of resources and contributors to climate change, yet many urbanites have no connection with the natural world or how their day-to-day activities affect the planet. A further challenge facing all parties is how to transform the apartheid-created spatial urban landscape. Most of our towns and cities are characterised by commercial centres and residential suburbs spacially disconnected from dormitory “townships”. This layout carries huge in-built inefficiencies in services such as transport to work, supply of water and sanitation services, energy provision, quality of life etc. While government must respond to the demand for housing it also has to contend with cries of ‘not in my back-yard’ from the privileged suburbanites, building more cheap RDP houses in the “townships” is not the answer.
Political parties’ policies should also be scrutinised for plans to densify and integrate cities, provide affordable public transport, encourage energy efficient housing (ceilings, solar water heaters, north-facing aspect, etc.), develop safe public spaces, minimise water wastage, and encourage community-participation in urban upgrading projects.
With respect to policy on housing provision as part of urban development, it would seem that the ANC is not unanimous in its understanding of free housing for all and its policy. A prominent ANC member recently stated that the delivery of free housing cannot be expected to continue forever and that a new approach has been developed, to focus on service delivery to current settlements with housing provision being but one part of the system.
Jesse Duarte, ANC spokesperson recently announced: “We declared in our January 8 statement that we will need to implement a number of conference resolutions, including the issue of a Housing Development Agency, legislation to address the proliferation of informal settlements, interventions to curb the costs of construction, and a central planning approach for directing resource allocation to human settlements.” This implies that Housing policy and plans are not yet clear, although the ANC has committed to providing 1 million housing opportunities over the next 5 years.
The ANC also advocates integrated urban settlements, as prescribed by the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, which stipulates amongst other things that: “When a person develops land for housing needs, provision also has to be made for the housing of people from across the whole socio-economic spectrum of South Africa. This can be done by zoning land for this purpose and setting it aside, or by contributing to a fund which would be used for landless people; and a person, whose land will be worth less as a result of the intended development, will not be allowed to fight decisions in terms of the legislation.”
According to the DA’s policy on growth and development, vital components of sustainable development are water and energy. They state that these are poorly managed and monopolised by government with low infrastructure investment and poor pollution control and deteriorated infrastructure threatening our water sources. The DA proposes the following:
- Adopting a transversal approach to environmental management through integrating permitting and planning
- Separating Eskom’s different functions to encourage competition and maximise efficiency
- Investing in water storage and distribution infrastructure upgrades and expansion
- Implementing climate change adaptation programmes
- Introducing measures to assist entrepreneurs and communities to participate in, and benefit from, environmental programmes
The DA claims that the Environmental Impact Assessment process will be made more efficient and better fulfil its purpose of regulating developments so as to protect the environment. They have plans to develop fisheries policy that will improve the quota system. However there has been opposition from the DA to government’s plans to replace individual quotas with “community quotas” for the small-scale sector. Foreign fishers would not be allowed to fish on South African waters.
The EFF says that: “Integrated human settlement should, in the real sense, be definitive of all settlements led by the state, with guaranteed bulk services such as water provision, electricity, sewerage systems and more. House repossessions should be illegal.” They also state that government should provide water and sanitation services to all people wherever they reside.
WASP states that “…working class needs are not separate from those of our environment, without which we cannot live. A socialist society is the only way to lay the basis for overcoming the destruction of the environment. The planning of production and the use of resources for human need would allow us to simultaneously protect and restore our environment.” However, details on how this is to be done are vague.
“No one homeless – no one hungry; everyone contributing their “labour of love” for the greater benefit of all in their community.”
6. ACCESS TO INFORMATION
The right of access to information is emphasised in Section 1 of the South African Constitution and is described in the Bill of Rights as a leverage right, meaning it exists to allow for other rights to be enforced – in other words, for us to pursue our right to something, we have the right to the information that we need to claim it. More specifically, Section 32 of the Constitution provides that there be “access to information held by the state or a person required for exercise or protection of any rights”, while Section 24 of the Constitution declares (in broad terms) the right to a healthy environment.
Restricting access to information would affect your ability to enforce other rights, including those that pertain to our environment.
Read more about access to information:
See also :