Press Release: International Action against Anglo-American and Vedanta

Earthlife Africa Jhb
26th of July 2104

Anglo American Thermal Coal and Vedanta Zinc International have plans for a dirty coal partnership in the Waterberg region in Limpopo Province. Anglo American will supply low grade coal to a Vedanta owned coal-fired power station. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg has had its eye on this underhanded relationship for some time, maintaining that another coal-fired power station, beyond Mepudi and Matimba, in the Waterberg will spell environmental and human-health disaster. On the 31st of July and the 1st of August, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will join in a world-wide protest and demand an end to Vedanta’s polluting ways. The action coincides with the Vedanta AGM in London.

The protest will be held outside the Anglo American headquarters on 44 Main Street, Marshalltown, Johannesburg from 10:00 to 13:00 on both the 31st of July and the 1st of August 2014.

Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg states, “There are many reasons why the Waterberg does not need another coal-fired power station. One, the area is water stressed.  Two, the Waterberg is already an air quality high priority area. Three, South African international commitments to climate change cannot support more coal-fired electricity generation.

The protest by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will be in support of the international solidarity group Foil Vedanta. Foil Vedanta aims to one day see Vedanta brought to justice in court in London, but in the meanwhile works at linking community struggles against Vedanta around the world. Activists from Zambia, Odisha, Delhi and Johannesburg will demonstrate against Vedanta on the 1st of August.

While Anglo America is a well-known name in South Africa, Vedanta is less so. Vedanta is a British and Indian owned mining company which is registered in London. Vedanta is attracting world-wide criticism for its poor environmental and human rights record from grassroots movements. Currently, Vedanta is taking a stronger interest in Africa, where it has already shown a complete lack of respect for local law and communities. In Zambia, the Vedanta Konkola Copper Mine has poisoned thousands of people from the surrounding communities and still refuses to pay any damages.

CONTACTS:
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:

Makoma Lekalakala
Senior Programme Manager
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: + 27 (0) 82 682 9177
Email: makoma [at] earthlife.org.za
www.earthlife.org.za

Dominique Doyle
Energy Policy Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: + 27 (0) 79 331 2028
Email: dominique [at] earthlife.org.za
www.earthlife.org.za

Protesters outside NERSA public hearing

Whilst the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) public hearings on the guidelines for the electricity reseller tariffs were ongoing inside Gallagher convention centre today, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and different community based organisations were demonstrating their frustrations over the unreasonably high electricity tariffs charged by Eskom and its many electricity resellers outside the venue.

Here are some impressions of the protest:

See more photos on the ELA jhb Facebook page and the protesters demands on the press release.

Press Release: Earthlife to Protest at NERSA hearings tomorrow

Earthlife Africa Jhb
21st of July 2014

On the 22nd of July 2014, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will be holding public hearings on the guidelines for electricity reseller tariffs in South Africa at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and its community organisation partners will protest outside of the event, demanding that 1) Free Basic Electricity allocations be expanded, 2) NERSA does not grant any further increases until it deals with Eskom’s loss-making supply contract with BHP Billiton, 3) NERSA conducts a urgent investigation into Eskom and its inability to build power stations to budget and on time.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and its community based partners will protest from 10h00 to 13h00 outside Gallagher Estate. Gallagher Estate is located at 19 Richard Drive, Midrand, Johannesburg.

Firstly, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and partners are concerned that the public call for Free Basic Electricity for all has not gained any momentum with NERSA.  According to Makoma Lekalakala, Senior Programme Manager at Earthlife Africa Jhb: “Electricity is a basic human right and a necessary for social inclusion and participation. The price of electricity is too high for many low-income households and Free Basic Electricity would assist households in meeting other basic needs.”

Secondly, protesters are concerned that South African consumers are not seeing the promised investment in social infrastructure because of the huge national debt being accumulated by Eskom. But one of the reasons for the debt is the cheap electricity supply deal that the power utility holds with Australian company BHB Billiton resulting in losses estimated at more than R11.5 billion. Lerato Maragele, Education and Outreach Officer at Earthlife Africa Jhb, explains that: “NERSA must investigate and widely publicise how lost Eskom revenue translates into electricity tariff increases for households.”

Thirdly, protesters are concerned by NERSA’s apparent inactivity on Eskom’s failure to build electricity power stations to budget and on time, and the resultant electricity price increases. “The mandate of NERSA is to promote the protection of the interests of vulnerable groups within the Electricity Supply Industry. The delays at Medupi and Kusile are causing a ripple effect throughout the whole supply chain and impacting on the most vulnerable consumers,” explains Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.

CONTACTS:

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:
Makoma Lekalakala
Senior Programme Manager
Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 082 682 9177
Email: makoma [at] earthlife.org.za
Dominique Doyle
Energy Policy Officer
Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 079 331 2028
Email: dominique [at] earthlife.org.za

Press release: CER calls on SAPS and NPA to investigate criminal liability for deaths of three infants in Bloemhof

Centre of environmental rights
Cape Town, 4 June 2014

The Centre for Environmental Rights has today written to the Northwest Police Commissioner and the Northwest Director of Public Prosecutions asking them to investigate the criminal liability of all parties involved in the deaths of three infants at Bloemhof, Northwest, allegedly as a result of drinking water contaminated by sewage.

Over the past two weeks, there have been multiple media reports of drinking water contamination in Bloemhof in the Lekwa Teemane municipality (“the municipality”) in Northwest, resulting in hundreds of hospital admissions and the deaths of at least three babies from diarrhoea.

On the basis of these reports, we have requested the SAPS Provincial Commissioner to commence an urgent investigation, and for the Northwest Provincial Director of Public Prosecutions to assist the SAPS Provincial Commissioner in finalising a criminal docket for prosecution, into criminal offences that may include:

  1. culpable homicide, in relation to the death of at least three infants;
  2. contraventions of provisions of the National Water Act, 1998, particularly sections 19, 20 and 151;
  3. contraventions of the Water Services Act, 1997 particularly section 82;
  4. contraventions of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998, particularly sections 28, 30 and 49A(e) and (f).

We further respectfully requested that the investigation considers the potential criminal liability of the Municipal Manager, the contractor allegedly engaged to fix the broken sewage pipe, any municipal employees whose responsibility it was to oversee the work of the contractor, and any party who had a legal duty to notify residents of proper measures to be taken to avoid becoming ill.

CER Executive Director Melissa Fourie: “While millions of South Africans live with violations of their environmental rights every day, compromising their health and wellbeing, holding back their development and life expectancy, in this case these violations resulted in the death of innocent children. These deaths were preventable, and unnecessary. The least we can do for the memory of these three lost lives and their families is to investigate whether their deaths were the result of criminal negligence.

“We need municipal managers across the country to understand that, while there are many pressing needs in municipal management, sewage treatment and the delivery of safe drinking water have to be prioritised above everything else. If these things are not in place, people die.

“We also want to see the new Department of Water and Sanitation impose early and effective community warning systems so that the mothers of babies, so vulnerable to dehydration from the symptoms of drinking contaminated water, have the information and access to alternative sources of hydration for those children.”

The following chronology of events in Bloemhof, Northwest is drawn from various media reports and media statements (see references below):

  • In the week of 19 May 2014, more than a hundred children at Thuto Lore Secondary School in Boitumelong in Bloemhof report stomach cramps at school, and the principal instructs children not to drink the tap water. From Monday 26 May 2014, the school is closed as a result of this situation.
  • On Saturday, 24 May 2014 the SAPS Community Centre in Bloemhof has to take more than 10 prisoners with diarrhoea in holding cells to clinics.
  • Between Saturday, 24 May 2014 and Tuesday 27 May 2014, 200 people reported to clinics with symptoms typical of water contamination (stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea).
  • In the week of 26 May 2014, it is reported that Municipal Manager Andrew Makuapane blames a contractor for the water contamination, saying that “we know there was a sewage spillage and there was a contractor in Extension Five in Boitumelong who was supposed to fix the problem – but he abandoned his work due to protest riots in the area.”
  • On Tuesday, 27 May 2014, a leaking pipe is closed by the municipality.
  • On Wednesday, 28 May 2014, a baby of 9 months, Lehlonolo Sehau, dies on arrival at the township clinic after contracting severe diarrhoea. His mother, Ms Kehapilwe Sehau, walked to the local township clinic early that morning with her very sick baby, but the nursing sister pronounced him dead (8 hours after he became sick). By 5pm on that day, another 30 people had sought medical help.
  • On Friday, 30 May 2014, the municipality drains the system, cleans sand filters and flushes the system. On the same day, another 5 babies are admitted to hospital for observation. The Northwest Health Department warns residents to continue to boil tap water before drinking.
  • On Saturday, 31 May 2014, a Bloemhof pharmacy reports treating 65 people for stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • On Monday, 2 June 2014, the Northwest Health Department reports that another two babies (one 7 months old, and one 13 months old) had died of diarrhoea. It appears that the 13-month old was Onalenna Mogoregi, who started to vomit and have diarrhoea on Monday, 26 May 2014. According to a media report, his mother Maserame Mogoregi took him to the clinic on that day, but was told that the clinic had run out of medicine. She took him home and kept giving him mageu and Powerade. On Wednesday, 28 May 2014 Ms Mogoregi took her son to the chemist, but he did not improve. On Thursday, 29 May 2014 she took him back to the clinic and he was put on a drip, and then moved to Bloemhof Hospital. On Friday, 30 May 2014 at 6am Onalenna was rushed to Klerksdorp Hospital, but died on the way to the hospital. Ms Mogoregi is reported as saying “I had been giving him the boiled water and the mixture as people were saying the water is bad. But (the government) told us too late.”
  • On the same day, the Northwest Premier announces the suspension of Lekwa Teemane Municipal Manager Andrew Makuapane. According to the Premier’s spokesperson, a “forensic investigation was underway and a preliminary report was expected”. The next day, the Member of Executive Council for Social Development, Women, Children and Persons with Disability Collen Maine is quoted as saying that Makuapane was suspended on charges of dereliction of duty and negligence”. MEC Maine is also quoted as saying that he believed Makaupane failed to get an existing contractor to fix holes in sewerage pipes, which resulted in spillage. According to MEC Maine, the Municipal Manager should have called the contractor and made sure he was doing his job.” It appears from this information that at least a month had passed between the date on which the maintenance work the contractor was engaged to do had been deserted, and the date on which people became ill and at least three infants died from drinking contaminated water.
  • On Tuesday, 3 June 2014, the Northwest Health Department says 11 babies with diarrhoea had been admitted to Bloemhof Hospital since previous week, and another 10 had been transferred to larger hospitals in Klerksdorp and Christiana.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases stated the following in a statement on 2 June 2014:

“An outbreak of diarrhoeal disease in Bloemhof Municipality, North West Province, was reported during the week of 26 May 2014. Healthcare facilities in the area noticed an increase in the number of patients presenting with diarrhoea on Sunday 25 May 2014. On Monday 26 May 2014, numerous schools closed after more than 100 school children were ill with diarrhoea. Over 300 cases of diarrhoea were seen at healthcare facilities by Friday 30 May 2014, with 7 persons (mostly young children) requiring admission to hospital; the majority of cases were mild.

“A total of three deaths have been reported since the outbreak began – all were young children <2 years of age with diarrhoea complicated by dehydration who presented late to healthcare facilities. Laboratory testing of stool samples has excluded cholera as the cause of the outbreak. Final results of stool sample testing for other bacteria, viruses and parasites that commonly cause outbreaks of diarrhoea are pending. Water samples have also been submitted for laboratory testing, and results are awaited. There have been recent problems with safe water quality and supply in the area, with reports of sewage spillage and possible water supply contamination.”

Media reports:

Media statements:

CER’s letter to the SAPS and NPA, 4 June 2014

http://cer.org.za/news/media-release-cer-calls-on-saps-and-npa-to-investigate-criminal-liability-for-deaths-of-three-infants-at-bloemhof-northwest

Executive Director
Centre for Environmental Rights NPC
A non-profit company with registration number 2009/020736/08
PBO No. 930032226, NPO No. 075-863, VAT No. 4770260653
and a Law Clinic registered with the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope
2nd Floor, Springtime Studios, 1 Scott Road, Observatory 7925, Cape Town, South Africa
Tel 021 447 1647 Fax 086 730 9098
mfourie@cer.org.za www.cer.org.za
www.facebook.com/CentreEnvironmentalRights www.twitter.com/CentreEnvRights

MEDIA ALERT: Public Panel Event- Waterberg Electricity

Balancing Water Reserves and Carbon Budgets – and Toxic Tour
26th May 2014

Environmental justice organisations, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and groundWork, are to hold a public panel event to discuss the proposed coal-fired power plants in the water stressed region of the Waterberg and the potential climate change and water impacts.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and groundWork invite members of the press to attend in order to gain a broad perspective on the balance between the need to generate more electricity in South Africa and the environmental impacts of coal-fired generation. The discussion promises to present a wide range of perspectives as members from environmental groups, the Department of Environmental Affairs, Eskom and the CSIR debate the Waterberg; or the next “African Energy Hub”.

Because the Waterberg region of Limpopo province is so close to the boundaries with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the event will be attended by NGOs from across Africa. Also in attendance will be South African government departments, academics, and interested members of the public.

The public discussion will take place at Lamunu on 90 de Korte Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg on the 28th of May 2014. Discussions will begin at 10:00 am, but the public is invited to arrive from 09:30am onwards. Lunch will be served at 13:00pm. Please RSVP to seccp@earthlife.org.za.

The panel will include: Olga Chauke from the Department of Environmental Affairs, Yousaf Haffajee from Eskom, James Dabrowski from the CSIR, Tracy Sonny from the Botswana Climate Change Network and Dominique Doyle from Earthlife Africa-Jhb (chair).

Members of the press are also invited to join Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and groundWork afterwards for a toxic tour of either the Vaal Priority Area or the Witbank Priority Area. The tour will include transport, a guided tour of pollution hotspots and an overview of the state of environmental regulation, interviews with affected community members and dinner.

CONTACTS
Makoma Lekalakala
Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Programme Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 682 9177
Email: makoma [at] earthlife.org.za

Dominique Doyle
Energy Policy Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: +27 (0) 79 331 2028
Email: dominique [at] earthlife.org.za

Earthlife Africa’s Johannesburg branch was founded in 1988 to mobilise civil society around environmental issues in relation to people.