Cape Town - Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe defended Shell's seismic survey to search for oil and gas on the Wild Coast and criticised environmental activists and groups opposing the search, accusing them for possibly wanting to maintain Africa’s economic status quo by limiting economic development in the name of protecting the environment.
Referring to energy poverty, high unemployment, declining economies and jobless economic growth, Mantashe wondered if this push-back against Shell’s seismic survey was based on extreme pure love for the environment or an unrelenting campaign to ensure that Africa and South Africa did not see the investment inflows it needed to prosper.
“South Africa deserves the opportunity to capitalise on its natural resources, including oil and gas, as these resources have been proven to be game-changers elsewhere. We consider the objections to these developments as apartheid and colonialism of a special type, masqueraded as a great interest for environmental protection,” Mantashe said.
Environmental activists and groups responded to the criticism and rejected the “simplistic dismissal” of the resistance to Shell by the minister.
“We are not only resisting Shell, but we are saying that we as black, African fishers and ordinary South Africans have the right to say no to mining. We know that the African Charter on Human Rights gives us the right to choose our own path of development and to do what we want with our natural resources,” said traditional fishing leaders Sinegugu Zungula, Ntsindiso Nongcavu, Maxwell Sazise Pekayo, Mncedisi Mhlangala and Mashona Wethu Dlamini in an open letter to Mantashe.
Greenpeace Africa interim programme manager Melita Steele said South African scientists have made it clear that a growing body of evidence showed seismic blasting could harm marine mammals and negatively impact coastal communities that lived along the wild coast.
Steele said Mantashe’s comments represented desperate attempts of the fossil fuel industry to cling to power because they knew their time was up as a just transition to renewable energy was the best and most immediate solution to South Africa's problems, including rocketing unemployment rates and energy insecurity.
Green Connection strategic lead Liz McDaid said: “We wonder why the government continues to push the country towards a climate change disaster by promoting a fossil fuel economy, instead of looking at greener energy options and the economic opportunities they present.”