The Green Connection (GC) finds it totally unacceptable that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has approved electricity generation licences for the Karpowership project, which has been mired in controversy since it was touted as a so-called emergency solution, more than a year ago. Nersa made the announcement today (21 September).
According to The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid, “Nersa’s decision is like a kick in the teeth of the many small-scale fishing communities we work with, who have been fighting so hard to protect their livelihoods and the marine environment they depend on. The power ship project could cause untold, lasting damage to the environment, due to noise and potential pollution in our oceans. This will have a devastating knock-on effect on the lives of the coastal communities who rely on the oceans to put food on the table.”
The Green Connection issued a media statement less than two weeks ago (9 September 2021), highlighting the very serious fact that the Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) had ruled against Karpowership SA, because it did not have environmental authorisation in time for the financial closure deadline of July 2020.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) stepped in and extended the supposed non-negotiable financial closure deadline to 30 September. This followed the announcement that DNG Energy’s request – to postpone court hearings into allegations of corruption in the Karpowerships project, to 30 November 2021 – was accepted.
“Given the serious factors above, we find it utterly unacceptable that Nersa could even contemplate, let alone actually grant licences to the power ship project. Karpowerships has no decision from the Minister of Environment on its appeal against the DFFE’s refusal to grant them environmental authorisation. The Parliamentary inquiry is still pending, in addition to two potential court cases surrounding the project. This entire process is becoming more and more dubious in its execution and lack of transparency,” says McDaid.
Since the beginning, The Green Connection has been calling for more transparency in the power ships proposals. The environmental justice organisation says, in its view, Nersa has once again failed indigenous South Africans with this decision to approve such severely flawed processes. McDaid says that they will liaise with their legal team, to assess the way forward.
The Green Connection has concluded its first ever Oceans Tribunal, to highlight the plight of coastal communities whose voices are being drowned out by government and the oil and gas industry – to make clear its position on Nersa’s decision.
The tribunal will also discuss the future of South Africa’s oceans, taking into account the long-term impacts of government-driven initiatives such as Operation Phakisa. It will also look at tangible alternatives to the fossil fuel extraction projects currently promoted as part of the Blue Economy.
Several community leaders and organisations – representing the interests of small-scale fishers and other affected communities – are at the Oceans Tribunal to host presentations on the potential negative impacts an expanding offshore oil and gas sector will have on their livelihoods.
Carmelita Mostert, from Saldanha Coastal Links says, “I am stunned by Nersa’s decision. We are on record to government and in the media that we do not want the Karpowerships anchored off our shores for 20 years. It will scare away our fish and do who knows what to the marine life. And when that happens, we will starve to death. I am not being dramatic. This is a real consequence for coastal communities.”
Solene Smith from Langebaan Coastal Links says, “We have been fishing in these waters since the time of our ancestors. We have a right to be here and make our living from the ocean, and the law says we have a right to a healthy ocean. However, now we must prepare for a future where the already-dwindling marine stocks will be driven away by these floating kettles. Is this the legacy our government wants us to leave for our children?”
Barend Fredericks, a small-scale fisher from Knysna says, “The oceans are a precious natural resource that not only gives us food – even those who are unemployed are guaranteed a meal – but is also great for tourism and employment. The decision to grant licences for the power ships is truly short-sighted and, I believe, steeped in greed and corruption.”
In the Eastern Cape, Ntsindiso Ncgavu with Coastal Links Port St. John’s says, “Our communities live their lives according to the rhythm of the ocean, it has been part of our lives from the beginning. I can see nothing good coming from the power ship project. Not only will it be detrimental to the environment but will also cause more dysfunction in our communities by adding to unemployment and community disintegration.”
In the Northern Cape, community activist Andy Pienaar says, “In Namakwaland communities there exists a high degree of ignorance about the term Ocean Economy and Operation Phakisa. It is ironic that politicians and those in positions of power, with knowledge of their own policies, exploit the ignorance of our people. Those of us who understand the impact of this project, see government’s approval as part of a legal process that is supposed to be there to prevent the extermination of a nation that has been living on this land for hundreds of years.
To us, Operation Phakisa is nothing more than a disregard of our God-given mandate to protect the heritage of our children and ultimately a process of self-enrichment. We reject Operation Phakisa with the same haste with which they wish to destroy the oceans and we encourage our people and everyone who cares, to open their ears and eyes and to withdraw their mandate, without any hesitation, from political leaders who disregard them.”
The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy adds, “We are on record that we are willing and able to help government and big business to come up with viable, environment-friendly, and most of all community-sustaining energy solutions. It is imperative that government consult with the people who are most affected by these decisions.”