Home News Greenpeace Africa Activists call out Mantashe’s obsession with coal

Greenpeace Africa Activists call out Mantashe’s obsession with coal

by Luqmaan Rawat
Greenpeace Africa activists staging their silent protests Photo Twitter/EnergyIndaba

Cape Town – Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, was interrupted by Greenpeace Africa activists on Tuesday during his keynote address at the African Energy Indaba in Cape Town. 

The five protests staged a silent protest each holding up yellow placards that declared Coal = Corruption, Coal = Loadshedding and Gwede Stop Blocking Renewables. The activists made their feelings known with regards to Mantashe’s support for the coal industry, other fossil fuels and his previous staunch resistance to adding renewable electricity to the grid.

Mantashe continued to speak as the activists stood in front of the stage with their placards. He even announced they should be “given a chance” while he read their placards. He reiterated that coal will continue to be the key component in creating energy for South Africa long into the future.

After a while, security came up to the protestors to leave. However, Mantashe stopped his speech to inform security to “stop giving them attention” and let the protestors stay until his address was done.

SMread: Kgosientso Ramokgopa has ‘huge’ task ahead of him


The reason for the protest 

Greenpeace Africa activists addressed the media outside saying the protest comes after  Mantashe’s continued resistance to fast-tracking the addition of new renewable energy to the grid in South Africa. This coupled with the fact that South Africa is experiencing unprecedented levels of loadshedding forced them to act, said Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Thandile Chinyavanhu.

“Fast-tracking a shift to renewable energy is clearly the solution…but Minister Mantashe is too biased to see the real solutions, and his fossil fuel obsession is literally bringing South Africa to its knees and cannot remain unchallenged. Enough is enough.”


The coal debate and solving the energy crisis

Chinyavanhu called Mantashe a “coal fundamentalist”. To her, coal is pushing South Africa to “the brink of destruction”. The coal power plants are “literally falling apart, breaking down more quickly than they can be fixed”.

For Mantashe, solving the energy crisis would require improving the Energy Availability Factor of power stations. The solutions, according to the minister, to end loadshedding in South Africa were fourfold: improving the reliability factor of the current fleet of power stations; accelerating the acquisition of emergency energy; importing energy from neighbouring countries; and focusing on building skills within the power sector.

“That is what we must focus on, not walking away from coal. Coal is going to be with us for a very long time,” said Mantashe.


Moving away from coal is not easy

While Greenpeace Africa is fighting for a just and noble cause, moving away from coal power stations is not that easy. Looking at first world countries like England and Germany, one will find that even they are opening coal mines and importing coal at a massive rate.

While renewable energy is much cleaner and safer, one cannot utilise solar and wind energy all the time. Solar panels can only produce electricity when the sun is out. Demand is at its peak during the nights when there is no sunlight. While there are batteries that can store the electricity generated, it is far too expensive for South Africa to invest in currently. 

Mantashe noted in his address that it was not Africa’s choice to stop using coal as an energy choice but rather developed countries. These countries that have so far failed to incorporate renewable energy into their grid effectively now want a developing nation to make the jump. Mantashe reiterated that South Africa “must develop our economy to the best of our ability” before even thinking about making that jump.

For now, it seems Mantashe has little use for renewable energy and is firmly set on using coal for the foreseeable future to the dismay of Greenpeace Africa. He noted that in the coming months, he will engage with various stakeholders in the electricity space in an attempt to end the loadshedding crisis.

Related Videos