In a letter addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa, an urgent call had been made to Parliament to adopt the Climate Justice Charter as per Section 234 of the South African Constitution Memorandum of Demands.
On World Food Day, which had recently been celebrated, members of the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (SAFCC), the Climate Justice Charter Movement (CJCM) and the Orange Mask Campaign had called for an end to hunger, thirst, pollution and climate harm.
In the memorandum it was stated that before the pandemic, 14 million people went hungry in the country, not only as a result of COVID-19, but also because of the continuing six-year drought in the country. Water stress and pollution were also highlighted as negatively impacting communities.
Acknowledging the State President’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, these organisations however said that most of these policies would benefit only a few and stated that transformation was now more urgent than ever.
With Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology repeatedly calling for nuclear power stations and being called “nuclear Blade” in the media, it provided activists with all the necessary proof that national government was not considering the long-term effects of coal-fired and nuclear power plants.
A section from the memorandum reads: “All of this is connected to the worsening climate crisis which has continued even during COVID-19. We have multiple crises that need to be tackled at once. Our state is failing the people on all these fronts. The pandemic had exposed the deep roots of corruption in our society. Civil society, the courts, progressive media and our academy were crucial in pushing back against Zuma-led corruption. His removal was a people’s victory and rescued our democracy from complete destruction and the post-Zuma period gives us an opportunity we cannot squander.”
The memorandum also highlighted what these organisations called societal looting – money stolen which had been meant to address hunger, thirst, pollution and climate harm, calling it “cruel.” The multi-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund had, by all accounts, provided additional opportunities to defraud the state
The President had been presented with facts clearly showing that the food parcels distributed during the pandemic had been inadequate and would not stem the growing tide of hunger. The memorandum also indicated that local resourcing, capacity and support were reaching its limits and demanded government to consider democratisation of its Disaster Management approach during COVID-19 to work in partnership with civil society at national, provincial and local level to ensure the worsening hunger crisis is properly addressed. The distribution of these food parcels were also mired in corruption according to the Auditor General’s report.
The government’s topped up grants and special COVID Social Relief Distress grant of R350 is considered “too little, too late”, proving that bureaucratic red tape resulted in only 50% of the poor receiving any form of assistance.
With the cost of an essential basket of nutritious food now higher than that of the minimum wage, urgent calls were made to national government to consider the “existing humanitarian crisis in SA.”
These activist organisations said it rejected the ANC government’s approach to globalised commercial agriculture and food security, including the State President’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. They also promised to intensify efforts to affirm the right to food through building agro-ecology centred food sovereignty pathways in communities, villages, towns and cities.
“We will secure implementation of the people driven Food Sovereignty Act” which can be viewed in full on https://www.safsc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FS-Act-no.1-of-2018.
Water inequality was also high on the agenda of demands to the President and senior members of the ANC government. It stated that before the pandemic, 19, 54% of households did not have access to clean water from a tap and said that the democratic government had not rolled out the necessary water infrastructure to meet the needs of people.
“Besides bureaucratic incompetence and lack of planning capacity, corruption had been a central problem in the realisation of water rights and needs. The Auditor General’s report had also confirmed this including numerous community struggles as a result.
“We demand action against the looters of public finance in local government that have undermined the needs and rights of communities to water and other basic needs,” the memorandum stated. As a water scarce country, SA is facing multi-year droughts and these organisations demanded that water and sanitation infrastructure spending be prioritised to fix the current inadequate system.
The Climate Justice Charter (CJC) said that the country’s water and soil had been seriously polluted by mining, industry, refineries and commercial farming activities. “If we continue exploiting our resources as we are doing now, we could end up with a country that is akin to a waste land.”
Numerous researched had shown Africa as the 11th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the world. In SA, the Sasol Secunda plant is the largest single point source of CO2 emission in the world, spewing tonnes of poisonous compounds. The estimated annual health cost of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations is about R28 billion per year. Health impacts from air pollution include asthma, pneumonia, heart disease and cancers and are very prevalent in communities around polluting industries. “In many instances this is about racialised environmental injustice,” the CJC said.
In Mpumalanga, more than 63% of agricultural land falls under prospecting and mining right applications. Known as the province with the richest soil, research shows that 12% of SA’s arable land could be ruined in the near future. Acid mine drainage and high levels of radioactive pollutants are destroying entire river systems such as the Vaal-, Olifants- and Crocodile Rivers which had already been severely affected by salinity mainly attributed to mining activity.
All this is worsening the climate crisis and threatening food security on the African continent as it population grows by 2.7% a year in sub-Sahara, more than twice as fast as South Asia (1.2%) and Latin America (0.9%). That means Africa is adding the population of France (or Thailand) every two years and indications are that the population would double by 2050. It currently stands at far more than one billion (United Nation estimate as on 25 October 2020). It is equivalent to 16.72% of the entire world population.
Finally, the CJC and the SA Food Sovereignty (SAFSC) called on
Government to halt any new projects and expansion plans including off-shore gas and oil exploration, fracking and the mega coal-fired power station planned for the Makado Special Economic Zone.
“Deep and just transition plans from Eskom, Sasol and other big polluters are necessary to prevent a 1.5°C overshoot in planetary temperatures and limit the harmful impacts of pollution.”
If anyone wishes to join any of these organisations, contact
- Vishwas Satgar on 082 775 3420
- Jan Cherry – 084236 3649
- Awande Buthelezi – 079 613 8191