Mantashe affirms commitment to coal as Greenpeace disrupts his Indaba speech

7th March 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Mantashe affirms commitment to coal as Greenpeace disrupts his Indaba speech

Greenpeace Africa activists during Gwede Mantashe's speech at the Africa Energy Indaba

Greenpeace Africa on Tuesday disrupted Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe’s opening speech at the Africa Energy Indaba in Cape Town by staging a silent protest in front of the podium.

Five protestors held up yellow placards that declared Coal = Corruption, Coal = Loadshedding and Gwede Stop Blocking Renewables.

The Indaba’s organisers wanted to remove the protestors, but Mantashe insisted that they stayed, noting that doing so would only provide them with the attention they wanted.

Greenpeace Africa told reporters afterwards that the protest was driven by the continued resistance by Mantashe to fast-tracking the addition of new renewable energy to the grid in South Africa, as well as the unprecedented levels of daily loadshedding seen in the country since October last year.

“Coal is a dangerous dead-end pushing South Africa to the brink of destruction, yet almost all of South Africa’s electricity comes from an ancient fleet of coal-fired power stations which are literally falling apart, breaking down more quickly than they can be fixed,” said Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Thandile Chinyavanhu.

She referred to Mantashe as a “coal fundamentalist”.

“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.”

Mantashe noted in his address that cutting coal as an energy source was not Africa’s decision, but that of developed economies. 

“We must resist with everything we have. We must develop our economy to the best of our ability.”

Mantashe said the main cause of the current loadshedding crisis was not a shortage of renewable energy sources, but the suboptimal performance of Eskom’s power stations.

He said the solution to loadshedding in South Africa was 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.”

Mantashe said South Africa was indeed focused on lowering its emissions, but that this did not necessarily mean stepping away from the coal it had been endowed with as an energy source.

He emphasised that it was necessary to avoid a polarised debate on energy, noting that the various energy technologies had to “coexist and complement one another”.

He also noted that corruption was everywhere, including in the renewable sector, “I can tell you that”.