#UprootDMRE March, A Personal Account
Written by Sabatini Motloung, Founder of Community Empowerment Committee
Community Empowerment Committee (COMEC) is a Community based organisation that advocates for Women’s rights and Climate Justice through civic engagement and collective action. COMEC is an SACAN affiliated community based organisation
On the 18th of July 2022, Community Empowerment Committee (COMEC) joined the Climate Justice Coalition on the #UprootDMRE march to advocate for an urgent renewable energy plan and remove Gwede Mantashe from the Ministry. The march converged at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy offices in Pretoria, joined by over 100 community activists, civil societies, trade unions and concerned residents. Then, as a unified group, we proceeded to the Union Buildings to submit the Memorandum of Climate Justice Demands and Requests to the Presidency. Unfortunately, the premises were closed beyond the park; participants chose to continue on the march despite the change of plans.
We sang and chanted before settling down to give a platform to the registered speakers of the day. Thankfully, the march had much media coverage, so the general public was aware of our demands and shared messages of solidarity. The most pressing issue that the participants and speakers discussed concerned load-shedding; most speakers were women, who are commonly perceived as the face of poverty since they bear the brunt of poverty in South Africa. They expressed how dehumanising the nature of load-shedding is. Moreover, they elaborated on how they cannot afford the increased electricity costs and are faced with the threat of having no valid electricity connection and with the exorbitant fees required to regain an electrical connection.
Such discussions make one ask themselves, in this highly unequal society, in this poverty-stricken country with a high unemployment rate, how does the government expect people to live under such conditions?
Another prominent issue raised by speakers and participants was youth participation in decision-making processes concerning climate justice. It was expressed that in as much as we want to transition from coal-fired thermal energy to renewable energy, Eskom still feels threatened by the power of solar energy and how it will cripple their pockets; they want to make citizens pay over R900 to use solar energy to generate power when the sun shines for free. Again, this indicates that their main goal was never to serve people but rather to loot profits.
Local labour analysts expressed that load-shedding has decreased productivity at mining companies, leaving workers to work fewer hours, get paid less, and adapt to changes caused by climate change. In this line of thinking, trade unions demand a global agreement based on just transition principles and plans: national and industry/enterprise plans that protect and create new jobs by investing in the necessary industrial transformation. The march adjourned after all speakers were allowed to share their perspectives. After which, participants took pictures after that.
In closing, as much as the media covered petition delivery, we believe that actual change isn’t achieved by media coverage but by substantial changes. We will continue to challenge governmental power to deliver on the needs we demand; we didn’t win our revolution by having a seat at the table and discussing. If marching in the streets and being called public nuisances is not proof enough that we’re hitting the right nerve, we don’t know what else is. If anything, the pushback serves as motivation to continue to fight against energy racism, load-shedding, and climate injustice.
We cannot afford to be led by civil servants ignorant of our energy and climate crisis solutions. It’s time to demand the resignation of Minister Mantashe, restructure and repair the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), and implement a renewable energy emergency plan.