It has been a busy week for the #OceanTotalDestruction campaign – a joint bid, between South African NGO The Green Connection and Bloom in France – to stop TotalEnergies’ oil and gas expansion in Africa.
In Cape Town South Africa yesterday (8 February), The Green Connection – supported by several organisations – held a picket at the French Consulate calling for TotalEnergies to halt oil and gas exploration and extraction projects in South Africa. And eco-justice activists also held a picket at a TotalEnergies KwaDwesi Eastern Cape. Then, in France, The Green Connection and a group of South African small-scale fishers headed to the French Parliament, a follow-up from the presentation to the European Union (EU) Parliament (on 7 February). The small-scale fishers shared their testimonials about the negative impacts offshore oil and gas extraction has on their livelihoods and their way of life. This forms part of a week-long visit to highlight the threats posed by French company TotalEnergies’ push for new oil and gas in South Africa.
The Green Connection’s Advocacy Officer Kholwani Simelane says, “We came to the French Consulate to defend our democracy, but they would not take our letter to President Macron, calling on him to advise TotalEnergies to stop all oil and gas exploration and exploitation within the coast of South Africa. But we will continue to raise our voices. We also call on our President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign section 6 of the National Energy Act into operation, so that we may move forward with an Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) that takes climate change into account. An IEP developed with meaningful public participation is key to addressing the country’s crippling energy crisis.”
According to The Green Connection’s Lisa Makaula, in Cape Town, “We are not happy with TotalEnergies’ application for a production license to exploit two major gas fields in South Africa. Oil and gas projects are major contributors to climate change. They release greenhouse methane gases that worsen global warming. Exploring for oil and gas will not help the current energy crisis of South Africa nor will it help the coastal communities that depend on the ocean for their livelihoods. Total must move towards a just transition and stop exploring oil and gas in South Africa.”
Zukisa Mankabane, an activist from Gqeberha with the Eastern Cape Environmental Network says, “We are united, together with the rest of the world to resist TotalEnergies and their joint application for a production license for oil and gas exploration between Mossel Bay and Cape St Francis. We are calling for an end to Total imperialism in Africa because the Total scoping report fails to consider the principles in the MSPA – in particular the need for holistic planning and management and also reliance on the best available information.” Mankabane was part of the action at TotalEnergies in KwaDwesi on 8 February.
He adds, “We are here to defend our marine protected areas and are deeply concerned about the lack of public participation in these processes. We call on Ministers Creecy and Mantashe to ensure that consultations with affected communities are fair and that they are not consulted under false pretences. We call on the government of South Africa, together with the French government, to look into our concerns and consider us that are solely dependent on the ocean for our livelihoods.”
The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville Van Rooy says, “We are in France to send a clear message to the French government and to Total that we will continue to oppose this French company putting our oceans and, as a result, our small-scale fisher livelihoods at risk. Oil and gas are part of our fossil fuel past and must be phased out as part of the just transition. So, it makes little sense that this French company is poised to exploit Africa’s oceans in search of climate change-causing oil and gas.”
He says, “We have handed over a letter to the French Embassy calling on the French President to put a stop to the French company TotalEnergies’ application to drill for oil and gas outside Mossel Bay. South Africa has great potential for greener renewable energy that Total could put its millions and billions towards. Total must stop oil and gas exploration in Africa and start focusing more on greener alternatives that will be better for our planet.”
Liz McDaid, The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead says, “It’s been a very exciting journey that started off in Cape Town and ended up in Paris – yesterday, we were in Brussels speaking to the European Union Parliament. The idea was to raise the issue of the French company, Total coming to South Africa in what we feel is a total onslaught on our ocean. We fear that their operations, if allowed to go ahead, will negatively impact marine life and the lives of small-scale fishers that depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods. We were very pleased that the European Union acknowledged and promised to do whatever was in their power to help us to withstand this onslaught by the European company – Total.” McDaid is one of five Goldman Environmental Prize Winners who are using their platform to oppose TotalEnergies’ attempts to continue with fossil fuels. The campaign is supported by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and Reclaim Finance.
She adds, “We have long been opposed to Total’s attempts to further explore for oil and gas in our oceans not only because we are in a climate crisis and do not need to begin any more fossil fuel projects, but we are also trying to protect our ocean for future generations, and for the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale fishers. We are living in a time of much uncertainty regarding food and water security. Why would we risk our precious oceans? This is why we completely reject TotalEnergies’ efforts to come and exploit oil and gas off the South African coast.”
Currently in France, see below some comments from the South African small-scale fishers from the West Coast and Eastern Cape:
A small-scale fisher on the West Coast, Christian Adams says, “We are faced now today with a bigger challenge and struggle on our hands, in terms of the exploration of oil and gas in our oceans. One of the companies responsible is a French company Total. We are aware that France does not allow oil and gas drilling in their waters. Yet, you have a company called Total from France who want to drill for oil and gas in South African waters. We fear that our livelihoods will be detrimentally affected by the effects of all these oil and gas companies. We fear that Total will be doing the same in destroying the environment, our livelihoods and this beautiful ocean.”
Adams – who was in Brussels on Tuesday 7 February – says, “My family and I have been fishing for many generations. Yesterday, in the European Parliament, I spoke about how we need to protect our age-old culture and tradition of fishing in South Africa – a culture that TotalEnergies is threatening with its oil and gas. On top of exacerbating climate change. Our leaders in South Africa and Total board members are disregarding us, as small-scale fishers, and subsequently the health of the ocean and our planet.”
He adds, “The European parliament needs to step up now and stop this madness of oil and gas extraction that Total, a European company, wants to do in South Africa – in the ocean I depend on for my livelihood. What stood out most for me is the promise from a member of the European Parliament, Raphael Glucksmann – that they will do everything in their power to protect our 2000+ year old tradition of small-scale fishing, and that they will ramp up support from the entire European parliament to stop Total from drilling for oil and gas in South Africa. For the protection of small-scale fishers in South Africa.”
Ntsindiso Nongcavu, a small-scale fisher from Port St John’s Coastal Links Eastern Cape says, “As oil and gas operations take place, there may be areas which we will not be allowed to fish, due to protecting the project’s operations. As Africans, we connect to our ancestors through the ocean. The oil and gas operations may restrict our ancestral practices.”
Eco-justice activist with Eastern Cape Environmental Network (ECEN) Vuyiseka Mani says, “If TotalEnergies drills for oil and gas in the ocean, it may lead to fish dying and some migrating to other areas. That would result in our fishers getting less fish, which will restrict them from being able to make an income and provide for their families. TotalEnergies wants to invade our ocean and drill for oil and gas, that will put the livelihoods of many small-scale fishers at risk – this is why we have decided to be part of handing over the letter to the French Consulate – to stop Total from exploring and exploiting for oil and gas in our ocean.”
More about the visit to the EU Parliament on 7 February:
Additionally, on Tuesday 7 February, The Green Connection’s Liziwe McDaid was one of five Goldman Environment Prize winners who attended an event at the European Parliament in Brussels. They were joined by small-scale fisher, Christian Adams (see relevant comments provided above).
The eco-justice activists say they aim to achieve the following six key objectives:
1. To make TotalEnergies’ expansion in Africa a problem not only for France, but for Europe.
2. Raise awareness about the failure of current EU policies to stop oil & gas expansion, and to stop EU-based corporations from wrecking the climate to make a profit. Make the “gas lies” of the EU taxonomy visible.
3. Make visible the impact of the EU inaction on people’s environment, ocean, livelihoods.
4. Encourage the EU Commission & MEPs to think about a proper ban, actual due diligence and legal liability for corporations who are launching new climate bombs, and to reverse the decision on the EU taxonomy with regards to gas investments.
5. Put EU under watch for its action in the “Just Energy Transition partnership” signed at Glasgow to “help South Africa move out of coal”.
6. Mobilize public opinion about Total’s strategy and denounce its financial enablers.
The Goldman Environmental Prize winners have written to 78 banks, investors and insurers to demand they commit to stop supporting, either directly or indirectly, TotalEnergies’ expansion strategy in Africa, where the French company is developing a number of projects.
Lucie Pinson (2020), director and founder of Reclaim Finance, said: “The International Energy Agency is clear – there is no room for new oil and gas projects in a net zero world and civil society organisations all across Africa are calling for a just energy transition towards a green energy future. We are determined to make their call heard and demand that it is respected by European companies and financial institutions. Banks, insurers and investors must step back from TotalEnergies’ plans to blow the world’s carbon budget and lock Africa into the dirty energy sources from the past.”
Claire Nouvian (2018), founder of French NGO Bloom, said: “Each announcement of record profits by TotalEnergies only serves to accelerate climate chaos and the destruction of nature. Every dividend paid to TotalEnergies’ shareholders has a corollary in the destruction of the natural world, destroying the very conditions that make life possible on our planet. It is more necessary than ever to legislate and stop the growth and lies of the oil and gas majors”.