By Elana Greyling

If someone had told me that we would stop the Thabametsi Independent Power Producer (IPP), and at the same time, the Thabametsi coal mine, I would have smiled, because I am an optimist and a dreamer. But, I would not have believed it. Now with the writing on the wall, and in the press, we can truly believe. But, the days of Goliath towering over David are not yet gone.

The fight against Thabametsi started a little late. Public participation was done in a very quiet and low-key way, with the usual objections lightly brushed over. As a community, we felt that the project should not continue because of the following reasons:

  • Water scarcity is a real issue. There is no water source for the power station. They have been waiting for the Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project (MCWAP) Phase 2, but that is still not a sure thing. This is a water scarce area and we believe bringing grey water from Gauteng’s sewerages is not a plus to our pristine bushveld.
  • Air pollution is a huge factor in our area, because of the two Eskom power stations, Matimba and Medupi. The cumulative effect of this pollution will be very dangerous to the health and wellbeing of our communities.
  • Yet another power station, will have a negative impact on jobs in the area. Already jobs are lost in the agricultural sector due to the economic impact on eco-tourism and game farming in the area. As we have seen with Medupi, the unemployment figures in our area actually rise with the announcement of such a large project, with a lot of jobseekers and hopefuls streaming to the area. This not only exacerbates issues relating to the lack of housing and other socio-economic ills, but it puts even more pressure on the already crumbling infrastructure.
  • Our social problems are countless. Crime rises. Drug- and alcohol abuse rise. There are more school dropouts and teenage pregnancies, and the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) also rise. There is also a notable imbalance between the sexes, with the large number of male migrant workers and jobseekers flooding to the area.

Thabametsi proudly explained that they have new technology that would minimize Sulphur dioxide pollution. They did not, however, remember to consider the huge carbon footprint they would be leaving, with high amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. This was such a huge issue that even their own consultants admitted that this project would have a significant impact on climate change.

With this in mind, in both 2016 and 2018 the legal team from the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), part of the Life After Coal alliance, took the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Thabametsi to court. To support the legal battle, Earthlife Africa continued the campaign at grassroots level, and funders were also targeted. With the help of, local community members wrote to the Japanese government, citizens and investors about the plight of the Bushveld. And as they say, the rest is history!

It is not easy standing up against huge companies with international backing, but with the right help and a good attitude, the fight is not lost before it has begun. This gives hope and renewed energy to activists in the Lephalale area, whose fight against coal projects is far from over.

READ more on this, in the below link – a release issued by the Centre for Environmental Rights on 1 December: