South Africa: Impacted mining communities speak out against the dangers of coal

Break Free13 May 2016, Sweetcrude, Mpumalanga — Communities, farmers and individuals gathered yesterday to speak out on the daily realities of living in a town with the most polluted air in the world. This public speak out took place in, which directly translated means “place of coal.”

Emalahleni is part of the escalated and peaceful actions organised by Break Free South Africa. Affected communities and farmers represented by South African Food Sovereignty Coalition (SAFSC) and the Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA), came in numbers to have their voices heard. Communities spoke out on climate change and its impact on the food water energy nexus.

“Emalahleni is rotten to the core”, these are the people’s words. People are suffering from illnesses such as sinuses, lung cancer and TB. The TB hospital is unable to handle the numbers of sickly people walking through their doors every day. The people want transparency in the energy sector. Communities are being undermined by giant mining corporations. They are not consulted on new mining projects and their ancestral land is being grabbed.

To harness the moment, activists, concerned citizens, and affected communities have united to put pressure on energy providers, as well as local and national governments, to implement the policies and additional investments needed to completely break free from coal.

“The voiceless and invisible exposed the destructiveness of coal extraction, the link with climate change and food profiteering. Moreover, society is invited to join this conversation so we secure just and transformative alternative to sustain life- Professor Vishwas Satgar – Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre.

“It is up to us, the people, to stop corruption and dirty deals prevalent in the coal mining industry. The people in Emalahleni are living with the impacts of dirty coal every day. Eskom’s deadly expansive plans will lock South Africa into a future characterised by millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions, Matthews Hlabane -MACUA.

“The devastating daily reality for the people living in Emalahleni is a clear indication that the true cost of coal is destruction at every step. We cannot afford to let the impacts of coal continue to poison our people, when renewable energy is affordable, clean and ready-to-go. There are no major barriers to shifting towards 100% renewable energy, so the South African government and the country’s leading companies must immediately start to see renewable energy as a viable solution in order to support the change, which will help put the power back into all of our hands” said Melita Steele – Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager, Greenpeace Africa.

“The time is now for a just energy transition that does not only exchange one source of energy for the other but that tackles the root causes of natural destruction and social injustice caused by profit-driven corporate power”, Ntombi Tshabalala- Right2Know.

“The call to Break Free from fossil fuels has never been this urgent. Despite being the third best location globally to generate electricity from sunlight, South Africa still gets 93% of its power supply through burning coal. The time for a just transition to renewable energy has never been better. Climate justice demands transparency with existing coal deals”, Amir Bagheri – 350Africa BreakFree Campaigner.

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