Over 200 people from different organisations marched on the streets of Durban on Friday, 5 November as a local manifestation of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, organised by the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA).
The march, which started at the King Dinizulu Park and ended at the Durban City Hall, was supported by Abahlali baseMjondolo, Ubunye Bama Hostela, the KZN Subsistence Fishers Forum, the Green Thumb Society, the Poor Flat Dwellers Movement, the Merebank Community Forum, the Mtubatuba Community Environmental Justice Organisation, the Newlands East and Bonela Youth, the Anti-Pollution Watchdog, the Market Users Committee, GroundWork, Friends of the Earth and the SDCEA.
Desmond D’sa of the SDCEA said as residents of Durban, they are taking action to raise awareness about the negative impacts of fossil fuels on the poor and the marginalised along the entire value chain, from extraction to combustion. “We are raising awareness about the rush of the fossil fuel companies to drill for oil and gas in our beautiful Indian Ocean. We are especially concerned about our government’s decision to allow this oil and gas exploration, which has the potential to destroy our tourism industry, recreational opportunities and sustainable livelihoods our marine life provides us,” D’sa said.
He said they want to highlight the ongoing struggle for environmental justice for the poor and marginalised people who continue to suffer ill health linked to air pollution from living on the oil refinery fence lines south of Durban. “We are facing interconnected social, economic and ecological crises, which require us to transform our archaic and harmful energy and oil/gas sector to ensure a more socially, economically and ecologically just future. We need transformative action now,” he said.
Their main demand is for a rapid and just transition to a more socially-owned, renewable energy-powered economy, providing clean, safe and affordable energy for all, with no worker and community left behind in the transition. The organisations are saying no to new polluting, corrupt and expensive coal, oil and gas projects. “We want officials within the Department of Minerals and Energy to be investigated around irregular deals. We reject the corrupt, costly and unnecessary Karpowership programme. We demand One Million Climate Jobs instead. Fishermen and Fisherwomen must have the right to say no to oil/gas projects that includes free, prior informed consent, the upholding of social labour plans, and the right to sustainable alternative modes of development.
“Government should reject the continuation of such projects that have the potential to destroy our tourism industry, recreation and marine life as well as the health of people when toxins are released once the drilling starts by the corporate companies.
We need a Green New Eskom driving a just transition to a more socially owned, renewable energy future,” the organisations said in their memorandum.
The concerned parties say government must uphold and respect the accepted case law precedent of free, prior and informed consent for all communities impacted by extractive oil and gas projects.
“This must be included in all practices of the government and corporate projects. Communities must be given the right to say no to all oil and gas-related projects as per the Xolobeni judgment. They must be given the authority to deny these developments if they believe it poses a threat to their health or wellbeing, as is enshrined in section 24 of our constitution. This includes the right to a sustainable and just alternative form of development.
“Corporations must be held accountable and have their license to operate revoked for failing to deliver on their social labour plans or for violating other laws and regulations resulting in harm to the wellbeing of their workers, surrounding communities and ecosystems,” the memorandum reads.
The Market Users Committee said global warming will impact more than two billion people in the informal sector globally. “This informal sector needs to be included in all sectors within the confines of the state to ensure that none of us are left behind. With very little to no savings, this informal trade and market sector is on the border of extinction which will result in even further disaster and pain to the people who already find ourselves being swallowed by large business concerns. We are the very people who toil the soil and work extensive hours for our daily bread. Our sacrifice must not go in vain. Our voices must be heard for it is us at the grassroots who are closest to saving this one Earth we have,” the organisation said.