Our Burning Planet

GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKES

Protestors demand the end of profits over people

Protestors demand the end of profits over people
Protesters during the Global Climate Strike outside Parliament on March 25, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. The event aims to raise awareness on climate change and urges politicians to take stronger and decisive action to curb climate change. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Youth activists and pupils have marched to Parliament to demand government intervention in stemming the climate crisis.

More than 100 protesters against the climate crisis have chanted, “people not profits!” outside the gates of Parliament in Cape Town on Friday. 

The protest formed part of the Global Climate Strikes led by youth climate activists around the world. Youths from different climate justice movements as well as pupils in uniform gathered with posters that read “people over profit” and “don’t just watch the world burn”, among others. 

School children during the Global Climate Strike outside Parliament on March 25, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. The event aims to raise awareness of climate change and urges politicians to take stronger and decisive action to curb climate change. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

A coalition of climate and socio-economic justice organisations brought the protests to life. They included the African Climate Alliance in partnership with the Climate Justice Charter Movement, Extinction Rebellion Cape Town, Feed the Future, Fight Inequality Alliance, Fridays for Future South Africa, Green Anglicans, Project 90 by 2030, Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, Youth Arise, 350Africa.org and others. 

Alongside calling for an end to prioritising how people are going to be affected by the climate crisis over the profits that come with extraction and continued coal use, a list of demands was read out and handed over to Charles Ford, regional head in the presidency. 

The memorandum called for:

  • The establishment of a Parliamentary joint standing committee on the climate and ecological crisis;
  • The Department of Basic Education to adjust the curriculum and improve earth sciences with a focus on national literacy in climate change;
  • Parliament to table a motion to consider and debate the adoption of the Climate Justice Charter;
  • An end to all public and private investment in the fossil fuel industry;
  • A commitment to eliminate all fossil fuel electricity production by 2035; and
  • The transformation of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) alongside the firing of its minister, Gwede Mantashe.

Protesters during the Global Climate Strike outside Parliament on March 25, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. The event aims to raise awareness of climate change and urges politicians to take stronger and decisive action to curb climate change. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Addressing the crowd, one of the speakers from Nigeria, Barry Wugale spoke of the dangers of allowing fossil fuel companies to continuously extract from the country. 

“If you want to see what profit does to the people because of the extractive industry, then you should look at the Ogoni people [of Nigeria],” Wugale said. “Some 16 years ago, Shell entered Ogoni land. They ripped the land and destroyed it. We raised our voices in protest and our leaders were hung… The extractive industry, whether it be oil, coal or gold, can never be honest when it comes to dealing with people and the environment.” 

South Africa has faced several environmental cases challenging profits and investment being placed over the environmental and human rights of communities affected. Most recently, the Western Cape High Court granted an urgent interdict to have the construction of headquarters for e-commerce giant Amazon halted after it ruled that indigenous communities had not been sufficiently consulted. 

Seismic surveys along the West Coast of the country have also been halted and the company, Searcher Geodata has abandoned the project after the court ruled communities were not consulted, nor were environmental impact assessments properly conducted. 

Protesters during the Global Climate Strike outside Parliament on March 25, 2022, in Cape Town, South Africa. The event aims to raise awareness of climate change and urges politicians to take stronger and decisive action to curb climate change. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

In December, Wild Coast communities won a major case and ousted Shell for not consulting them either. 

Most recently, the DMRE granted environmental authorisation for a seismic survey by Tosaco Energy in the Northern Cape. Activists also plan to challenge this.

Sarah Robyn Farrell, advocacy and action co-ordinator at the African Climate Alliance told the crowd, “When we talk about what’s causing the climate crisis we hear about burning fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas. We hear about big industries, animal agriculture, deforestation and so on. And often the blame is put on individuals, and of course individual action counts. But what do all of these things have in common; capitalism profits before people. So we are saying today, people before profits!” 

Mitchelle Mhaka, programmes coordinator of African Climate Alliance added, “When we say people and not profits, we mean the rights of people must be placed before extractivism. We know that the exploitation and extractivism that we see today is not new but a continuation of colonialism, apartheid and corporate greed.” 

Protesters during the Global Climate Strike outside Parliament on March 25, 2022, in Cape Town, South Africa. The event aims to raise awareness of climate change and urges politicians to take stronger and decisive action to curb climate change. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Merrilyn Bayisai, 17, told Daily Maverick that she attended the protest because she felt that the government was not hearing the voices of the youth. She added that the climate crisis is an emergency and that something needed to change so that young people could have a better future. 

“I would like the government to stop being corrupt, and start putting money where it’s necessary. They need to look at where they are putting their money and what impact that has. If you look at coal for example, most of our power comes from it and nuclear. In as much as we say we don’t want loadshedding, but if they look at renewable energy, in the long term we will have clean energy and air. So it benefits us and the environment. But right now, they are looking at the short-term while we are stuck with the long-term effects,” she said.

Time and again, international and local companies have come to extract resources from the country and continent at large, leaving vast environmental damage and very little benefits to the communities they operate in. Often this has not only negative effects on the environment but negative impacts on the health of those communities. Last week, the community of the Highveld Priority Area’s air quality was declared as a breach of people’s constitutional rights. 

Protesters during the Global Climate Strike outside Parliament on March 25, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Ahluma Pangeni, 14, a climate activist from Khayelistsha told Daily Maverick that the term “people not profit” was such a simple one but leaders evidently struggled to understand it. She said with the vast amounts of land and air pollution, she would like the government to put words into action. 

“The very same people who were meant to benefit from the system are not benefitting in the long run and they did not get to choose this. At the end of the day, no one really benefits from a system that is slowly killing us all… when we speak about injustice, we are speaking about systems, not individuals,” Mhaka said. DM/OBP

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