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Mantashe calls environmental activism ‘colonialism and apartheid of a special type’ amid opposition to Shell Wild Coast survey

Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources Gwede Mantashe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has asked whether environmental activists are opposing oil and gas deals to protect the environment or to maintain Africa’s economic status quo.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe finally broke his silence about those who have protested against the Wild Coast seismic survey, lambasting environmental activists for “oppressing” economic development.

Mantashe was speaking on the failed court application to interdict Shell from blasting the Eastern Cape Wild Coast and called environmental activism “apartheid and colonialism of a special type” as it deters investors and stalls job creation opportunities.

“South Africa’s economic development is oppressed in the name of environmental protection when we have an environmental framework that ensures that licensing is done with the utmost environmental care founded on Section 24 of our Constitution.

“We, therefore, appeal to all objectors to acknowledge this and allow South Africa to exploit its natural resources for the benefit of its citizens,” Mantashe told the media in a press conference on Thursday.

Last week, the Border Deep Sea Angling Association (BDSAA), Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, human rights law agency Natural Justice, and environmental movement Greenpeace lost their urgent interim interdict application to stop Shell from conducting a seismic survey on the Wild Coast when Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee dismissed their case, with costs for counsel. 

Govindjee said the applicants failed to show how the survey would cause material long-term damage to marine life. The various environmental groups said they planned to submit such evidence, but were denied the opportunity.

“As these developments unfold, we have noted with interest the pushback, and objections from environmental lobby groups against the development of these resources,” said Mantashe, who has consistently opposed activists’ and communities’ efforts to influence the awarding of mineral and oil rights.

The minister continued: “I cannot help but ask myself, are these objections meant to ensure the status quo remains in Africa, in general, and South Africa, in particular? That is, the status quo with regards to energy poverty, high unemployment, high debt-to-GDP ratio at country level, and economies that are not growing and, in some cases, jobless economic growth.”

“We consider the objections to these developments as apartheid and colonialism of a special type, masqueraded as a great interest for environmental protection.”

Mantashe said South Africa deserved the opportunity to capitalise on its natural resources, including oil and gas, as these resources had been proven to be economic game-changers in other countries.

“Investors in the South African upstream petroleum space are assured of our commitment to work with them within the confines of the law to ensure that the exploitation of these resources is done in an environmentally friendly manner and benefits all South Africans,” said Mantashe.

He said seismic survey applications across the globe were not met with the resistance seen in South Africa’s upstream petroleum space and that in the past five years there had been at least 12 seismic surveys in the country, including a 3D survey by a company called PGS in 2018 in the same area of the Wild Coast.

Mantashe cited the long histories of oil and gas exploration in Norway, Saudi Arabia and Germany and said several countries on the African continent had announced their oil and gas finds which presented massive opportunities for economic growth, industrialisation and job creation. 

Dr Phindile Masangane, CEO of the Petroleum Agency South Africa said an environmental management programme (EMPr) was actually approved on the back of an environmental impact assessment (EIA), meaning you could not hold an EMPr without an EIA.

“You cannot advise how you are going to mitigate the impact if you don’t know what the impact is. For you to develop an EMPr you do a full EIA underpinned by specialist studies. That is how Shell came to put up, proposed the mitigation measures which the government has accepted,” she said.

Masangane said it was a fallacy to think that no EIA had been done. The environmental groups have said that such an impact assessment had been done years earlier and was out of date.

Masangane continued, “The EMPr is not drawn from thin air. It is drawn from the EIA. The fact that the study was done in 2014 with the recommendations under NEMA, the environmental management framework for oil and gas was for a long time fully outlined in the EMPr.” 

She said the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources issued special regulations, bringing it under the National Environmental Management Act (Nema), and a transitional framework was put in place to say that an audit had to then be undertaken to ensure that they were still compliant. 

“It is this audit that was done in 2020. I’m happy to confirm that that audit actually assured us that the EIA and the mitigation measures proposed still had the efficiency that would still comply, even under the new regulations. I want to dispel the notion that the regulations and the provisions that were there under the MPRA were weaker than what we have under the Nema currently,” said Masangane.

She said 20 onshore explorations rights licences and 18 offshore licences had been issued.

Masangane said the impact of seismic surveys on marine life had been studied comprehensively across the world.

“In one of the recent publications by one of the leading research institutions in Australia, they were comparing their [seismic surveys’] potential impact even to the impact caused by large shipping vessels,” she said.

“You can see that they’re saying this impact is actually unmitigated from the shipping industry and they go on to say that when you have the mitigation measures that are used in the oil and gas industry, this impact is minimised.

She said as a regulator, they had not seen any scientific evidence indicating that such surveys would cause irreparable harm to marine life.

“Yes, the extent to reach this impact is a subject of debate, but what is not debatable is that when you have mitigation measures, this impact is minimised,” she said.

Deputy Director-General of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy Ntokozo Ngcwabe said that as early as the last drilling exercise by Total last year, Shell’s preparations to apply for its production right were already at an advanced stage.

“They have confirmed with us that they are almost complete with the preparations, so we’re expecting that the application will be launched with the regulator soon,” she said. DM/OBP

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All Comments 56

  • As soon as they start wheeling out the “colonialism and apartheid” bullshit, you know the government’s resources destroyer in chief has lost the argument.
    The ANC has already raped and pillaged the country’s natural wealth stocks (mostly via their Chinese and Indian friends) and just look how much poverty and unemployment it has created.
    As a major sponsor of our Burning Planet, I would like to hear ABSA’s take on Mantashe’s lambasting of environmental activists.

  • No surprise here – gm is just another racist anc cadre who, when shown up for being imbecilic, takes the fallback route of aparthate and colonialism being the cause of their stupidity.

  • Actually, what Shell and you, Mr Mantashe, are doing, IS the old Colonialism and Apartheid game: extracting natural resources from African countries and leaving devastation in your wake only to enrich a few of yourselves and your foreign overlords. Please show me how this will pull our countrymen and women out of poverty? No. This is too much. In the words of a basic white b****: “I literally can’t”.

  • If we are going to exploit our resources, please just do it responsibly by ensuring our marine life is protected for generations to come.

    If the impacts are adverse it will be at a price future generations will have to pay.

    Years ago mid 80’s the SOE Soekor sought oil at a time when embargoes made this a priority for the government of the day. No viable oil fields were uncovered by a government desperate to find them…

  • What planet does Mantashe come from. everyone knows that using economic growth at the risk of destroying mature is fundamentally wrong. nature has the habit of coming back to bite one if you mess with it. Mantashe, looks at the mess of climate change and global warming. humans did that and now we all pay the price with heat, flooding and so on. hope when nature comes to bite us for blowing up the sea he /she visits Mantashe first!

  • “Colonianism” Colonialism has been going on since time immemorial. The Romans colonised most of Western Europe and England. The Ottoman Empire colonised most of Eastern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula; to name but two instances. In all cases the benefits were greater than the detriment that resultated. Without colonialism the world would be a very different (and in all probability much more backward) place. So this constant harping on colonialism is a load of cr*p; and just a method of raising support for change, whether good or bad. Take not Mr Mantashe.

    • Agree 100%. There is no difference between the Turks invading and occupying Europe and what happens in Africa. It would appear that this, like so many other issues, are only important/bad if it happens to Africans. And certainly, where would Africa be today without this? If you wish to “decolonise” (wonder if they know what it actually means) then I suggest you start by stop using the English language. That would show them!

  • The largest fossil ever found on the African soil. And its alive. How perculiar. It really is time he joins his half dead, half alive fossil in Nkantla

  • Follow the money … GM might have a vested interest in this? And, to equate environmental issues with apartheid is scandalous – diminishing both.

  • Let’s see:

    Dutch-British resources company gave ruling party in African state 15% shares in the company. This is not colonial or racist.

    Community organisations across the economic and racial spectrum object to exploration. This is colonial and racist.

    When will CR get rid of this stain on what’s left of the ANC’s repuation? The powership deal alone should be grounds for summary dismissal

  • Mantashe needs a simple Economics 101 course to dispel his slavish adherence to Communistic dogma and his complete lack of understanding as to how jobs are created. Sad & pathetic!

  • There are three separate issues here: Mantashe’s typical ANC ministerial deflection of any criticism by equating colonial and apartheid practices to those critics with genuine and sincere objections. It’s cynical, dishonest and mostly unintelligent. The second issue is the actual environmental damage that will result from this seismic survey – how can a seismic survey NOT damage the ocean environment?
    The third issue is the whole tone of this piece: it is unequivocally on the side of Gwede Mantashe and his department. Extensive quotes from Mantashe and Masangane and nothing from a single environmental activist. All that is mentioned is that the environmental groups sought to submit evidence of environmental harm but were denied the opportunity. Why not present this evidence as a right to reply to Mantashe and the petroleum industry? Doesn’t fit with the pro-ANC narrative?

  • Trained in Russian communist ideology what do we expect.Communists are the enlightened who must make all people equal, except themselves they are the superior leaders who are allowed to benefit from capitalism.Story of the ANC

    • But in communism as practiced in Russia and Cuba the political elite are all entitled to all sorts of benefits such as dachas all over the place. Stalin apparently had more than 30 and Castro something like 29. Upkeep must be terrible.

  • In the Museum of the Revolution in Havana Cuba, they have the “Cretins Corner” featuring Batista and various US Presidents … in South Africa, the Cretins Corner would have many more candidates!

  • Usual gm mumblespeak echoed by the other apparatchiks. If the activist litigants didn’t provide enough detail about potential damage.. the ANC certainly gave the vaguest response about mitigating measures. All said with the usual arrogant we – know – best swagger. No doubt they’re all drooling with anticipation at a new pot of gold for corrupt fingers to dip into. Disgusting how they can still posture after these years of destruction wreaked on the country.

  • For all sorts of reasons including previous statements made by the ANC, it can hardly be accused of encouraging investors and promoting job creation.

    Quite the opposite in fact. Which calls into question the statement made by the minister calling environmental activism “apartheid and colonialism of a special type” as it deters investors and stalls job creation opportunities.

    What utter rubbish!

    When cornered, wheel out the trusty rusty old apartheid/colonial excuse.

    Pathetic.

  • White privilege needing nice playgrounds to enjoy. Economic progress for all is impossible without affordable, ubiquitous and practical energy. Oil and gas are essential for 50m South Africans to make a better future for themselves.

    • Or, renewables hold the best promise but the old guard of the special post colonial type have bet heavily on coal and nuclear resources and stands to loose big time.

      • Being so up on these matters you will have noticed the shortcomings of renewables already becoming apparent, both in terms of reliability and cost. This has resulted in the continued, and sometimes expanding, use of fossil fuel and nuclear.

        As for your snide remark about, possibly, my motivation, the market will decide on the best options. The renewables excitement is already waning while that for gas and nuclear is quickly coming to the fore. Japan, China and India are the most visible markets for these fuels with Japan having developed an extremely impressive Small Modular Reactor and China and India making it very clear that clean coal and even cleaner gas are their preferred vehicles into a cleaner future with sound energy policies that benefit the national economy.

        There is nowhere that a sophisticated economy is operating on wind and solar alone and there never will be. South Africa needs access to affordable energy now. Oil, gas and coal are the only viable fuels for that and of course nuclear energy. Having a group of economically secure white eco-dilettantes telling us what to do so they can have pretty places to play in is, and should be, a non-starter. Whatever Mantashe’s motivations are he is trying to do the right thing for South Africans.

        • Don’t confuse result with cause Craig. The reason is sadly that the majority of South Africa isn’t even able to spell “environmental impact”.

          • I should say “most likely” as I think a lot of people speak “truths” that are in reality over-simplifications and conjecture based on insufficient knowledge – and I don’t want to become one of them

    • “White privilege needing nice playgrounds to enjoy”.
      Do you trot this rubbish out whenever you encounter efforts to protect the environment? Did you submit this analysis to COP26 in the hopes that they would say “My goodness, this whole climate change and environmental protection issue is at the behest of white privilege! This guy has opened our eyes. Triple the fossil fuel budget!”
      If oil is discovered in the Kruger National Park, would it be fair to say that getting rid of all the animals and destroying the habitat would be worth creating a portion of wealth for the 50m South Africans you’re so concerned about?
      “nice playgrounds” equate to unspoiled environments – the enjoyment of unspoiled environments does not equate to “white privilege”.

  • Why has this old fossil not yet been put out to pasture and so typical always the fault of colonialism and apartheid? Somebody should remind him how long his party has been in power and colonialism .. how long ago was that?

  • My reading of this is that the old guard of the post colonial type placed the wrong bets on coal and nuclear raw materials … which with other fossil resource companies will loose their value.

  • No, Minister Mantashe. You have it dead wrong. A foreign entity extracting resources from another while causing untold damage is what colonisers do. And the post-apartheid government is allowing it.
    As for activist bashing, how low can you go? As a member of the electorate who pays your salary, I suggest you apologise to us by making an immediate donation to Greenpop. They are tree activists and enablers of economic development and employment through their work. Like many activist prganisations. Funny how you can do both at once.

  • Gwede is acting like a naughty toddler and should go play with his toys on a train track.

    If he want to talk about natural resources, he should put more focus on solar power. SA have areas in the Karoo and Northern cape that gets the most sunlight in the world. But there is no kickbacks for him and his cronies because it would be privately run companies.

    Seriously, Cyril have to get rid of this old man, way past retiring age, ASAP.

  • To echo other commentators – the real ‘colonialism and apartheid’ exists in taking money from big oil to line the pockets of politicians, while the poor get poorer and so does our planet.
    Shame on Mantashe and the SA government.

    • So you would deny our chance for economic advancement on the grounds that the politicians are crooks? Why do you hate the poor so much that your desire to stop corruption trumps anything they might want; wouldn’t you be better employed trying to minimise the corruption rather than just preventing economic activity?

      • I love the leap to “why do you hate the poor so much”. People like yourself simply cannot fathom that people will fight to save what little is left of healthy, unspoiled ecosystems even if they can’t benefit from it at all; motivated purely by a love of what’s good and green. In destroying nature we destroy ourselves – you cannot get people out of poverty sustainably by destroying the planet. The corruption issue is just to highlight GM’s comments. Shell can go to hell.

  • Whether GM is for real (he really believes this cr*p) or not (he is an ideologue and/or a crook), he has become one of the most dangerous people in South Africa. His continued push for coal and nuclear both contaminate the environment (air, soil and water) that all South Africans live in and bankrupt our economy (stranded fossil fuel facilities and mines, health care costs, water treatment costs, poisoned soil) all, supposedly, in defense of mining jobs?

  • The Minister’s agendas are so transparent, as is his hostility towards anyone who potentially threatens the achievement of those agendas and their lucrative payoff. His vehement opposition to renewable energy and environmentally sustainable development are because he and his associates cannot figure out how to score off of those sorts of projects. Every single project that he stridently promotes (karpower, nuclear, gas, further coal development) reeks of corruption, and it is completely obvious to everyone, and demonising environmentalists makes it even more obvious!

  • Shell, a Dutch company, is here to make money again. “The status quo with regards to energy poverty, high unemployment, high debt-to-GDP ratio at country level, and economies that are not growing and, in some cases, jobless economic growth.” was here before this seismic survey as a result of the ANC and the incompetent crooks in it. What is this man on about?

  • Dear Minister Mantashe, please show me where in Africa and where in South Africa has the local population benefited from such a development. Quite the contrary. Most of the money goes into politicians pockets all over Africa (example Mozambique) and to foreign Countries. Looking at SAs fraud and corruption rate amongst politicians and Heads of Departments I would say it is fair if the population of South Africa take your “good Intentions” with a pinch of salt.

  • A mumbling, bumbling walking fossil making decisions that will affect the future of our natural world and all the children dependent on it, with comments so stupid and without merit as to defy a reasoned response…

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