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Kumi Naidoo forcibly removed from Standard Bank HQ after protest over crude oil pipeline project

Kumi Naidoo forcibly removed from Standard Bank HQ after protest over crude oil pipeline project
Activists Kumi Naidoo (left) and Malik Dasoo are carried out of the Standard Bank’s Rosebank, Johannesburg headquarters by security on 12 June 2023 after protesting against the bank’s involvement in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (Photo: Julia Evans)

Human rights activist Kumi Naidoo and Extinction Rebellion climate activist Malik Dasoo were forcibly removed from Standard Bank’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday after protesting against the bank’s potential involvement in the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline project.

‘Let’s be very clear — the crisis of climate change is with us now, lives are being taken now. It’s just that the lives that are being lost are not the lives of the wealthiest, it’s the lives of the most vulnerable people who have contributed least to the tragedy of climate change,” said human rights and climate activist Kumi Naidoo.

He was standing outside Standard Bank’s headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Monday, while the bank held its annual general meeting.

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Human rights and climate activist Kumi Naidoo addresses a group of activists outside Standard Bank HQ in Johannesburg. The activists were protesting against the bank’s involvement in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. (Photo: Julia Evans)

The handful of activists who managed to make it inside the building, and the more than 400 activists protesting outside from behind a balustrade, were calling for the bank to “redirect its funding towards renewable energy initiatives that prioritise low-income communities rather than catering solely to wealthy clients” and to divest from the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (Eacop) and the Cabo Delgado gas project.

The Eacop project plans to build a pipeline in 2025 spanning 1,400km across East Africa that will transport crude oil from Uganda to Tanzania.

Based on several human rights and environmental impact assessments, the project will be the world’s largest heated crude oil pipeline, but will not service local energy demand as the oil will be transported out of Africa, according to the #stopEACOP campaign.

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Security forcibly removed climate activist Malik Dasoo from Standard Bank headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on 12 June 2023. (Photo: Julia Evans)

“We want them [Standard Bank] to stop putting their investment into fossil fuels and to invest in renewable energy for the mass population — direct it where it’s needed,” said Malik Dasoo, the Extinction Rebellion climate activist who organised the protest.

According to shareholder activist organisation Just Share’s briefing on Standard Bank Group’s climate disclosures from 2022, Standard Bank’s exposure to coal mining, oil, gas and power generation from fossil fuels increased by 22% from 2021 to 2022, with total exposure at R119.4-billion, compared with R97.6-billion the previous year.

South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Investment Plan estimates that the private sector would need to contribute R475-billion toward wind and solar projects to meet the country’s entire energy demand.

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Climate activists protest outside Standard Bank’s HQ in Rosebank. (Photo: Julia Evans)

“Standard Bank, just with their fossil fuel investment, can finance almost a quarter of that,” said Dasoo.

“And shareholders can put pressure on Standard Bank to do that, that’s the call to them as well.”

Read more on Daily Maverick: South African banks financed $8.4bn in African fossil fuel projects since 2016

Some 10 minutes after the activists began speaking, Dasoo and Naidoo were carried out of the building after a disagreement with security and media relations staff.

‘You own the bank’

Speaking to the climate activists gathered outside the building, many of whom came from townships and rural areas across Gauteng, Naidoo, a former Amnesty International secretary-general, said: “If you bank with any bank, whether you have R5 or R5-million, you own the bank — they don’t own you. You tell the bank what it should do. We are here today to say to the bankers that you are using the people’s money to make the rich people richer.”

standard bank oil

Climate activists outside Standard Bank’s AGM protest against the bank’s involvement in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project. (Photo: Julia Evans)

Uhuru Mbele from Orange Farm told Daily Maverick that the people in attendance at the protest have real, first-hand experience of the impact of climate change.

“If you talk to them, you will hear that they know about climate, even if they can’t explain it with [academic] language. Gradually the people in the grassroots are starting to understand.”

Mbele, who grew up near coal-fired power plants said her mother has had asthma for three years and she has been diagnosed with a lung infection.

“What I like is that we have people from the grassroots level, kids from the middle class, university students — and we have one voice,” said Mbele.

She said she got upset when she heard some observers of the protest say that those protesting didn’t know about climate change and were just there for the free food and a ride into the city.

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Climate and gender-based violence activist Uhuru Mbele from Orange Farm (right) during a protest against Standard Bank’s involvement in the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project. (Photo: Julia Evans)

“You have missed the point. The poor are getting more and more empowered, that’s why you will see revolutions soon. Because when you empower the grassroots, that’s where you’re gonna see a revolution.”

This is not the first time climate activists have gathered outside Standard Bank’s HQ to protest against its role in the climate crisis. But this time, said Dasoo, they wanted to do something different by getting inside the building, and they had originally planned to speak at the AGM.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Standard Bank contradicts their net zero goals by investing in ‘brown’ energy

“I’ve been here so many times,” said Dasoo. “I don’t care about Standard Bank. I care about this kind of movement. My ultimate goal with this action was to make the case for civil disobedience.”

standard bank oil

Climate activists protest outside Standard Bank’s headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Julia Evans)

Impact assessments provided by the StopEACOP campaign indicated that more than 100,000 people across Uganda and Tanzania will lose the land they rely on for farming and livestock raising, and many will be forcibly removed from their homes. The pipeline will disturb nearly 2,000 square kilometres of protected wildlife habitats.

The Eacop project has $3.5-billion in investment and is in partnership with TotalEnergies, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, the Uganda National Oil Company and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation.

Standard Bank’s response

Standard Bank’s spokesperson, Ross Lindstrom, told Daily Maverick that “potential lenders” to the Eacop project, including Standard Bank, “are relying on the services of an independent environmental and social consultant (IESC/LESC) to undertake their environmental and social (E&S) due diligence”.

Lindstrom said internal experts were currently reviewing the findings of the consultant’s E&S due diligence report.

“Once this internal review is complete, Standard Bank will provide their final assessment and make a decision within the project’s established timeframes,” Lindstrom said. 

Standard Bank said its participation in the funding of the project “remains subject to its credit approval process which includes evaluating the findings of the E&S due diligence assessments and complying with the requirements of the Equator Principles”.

Furthermore, it is subject to a full assessment of the Eacop project sponsors’ climate change strategies and targets. Project finance deals undergo a thorough suite of due diligence assessments that inform the decision-making process. Such assessments cover various aspects, such as legal, technical, security, market, reserves, E&S and other relevant considerations and concerns.

Standard Bank said it is “committed to maximising opportunities for sustainable and inclusive growth across the continent, and managing the risks posed by climate change”. DM

To read all about Daily Maverick’s recent The Gathering: Earth Edition, click here.

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  • Iam Fedup says:

    Oh dear, so the big bullies felt it appropriate to physically attack a handful of brave protesters. Can’t handle a little bit of debate, hey? Like Woolworths, they seem incapable of engaging like adults. On another note, you can build a helluva lot of renewable alternatives with R120 Billion.

  • Rob Fisher says:

    As a big shareholder of Standard Bank shares, I am pissed off with them.
    As an account holder with them for 45 years, I am pissed off with them.
    I equate crude oil pipelines with tar sands oil extraction, inefficient and polluting. If you have to pump oil, refine it locally, make local investment and jobs. If you have to burn fossil fuels, burn LPG or natural gas. Locally produced and consumed like Renergen in the Orange Free State, extract it and burn it to make electricty and/or industrial heat. Then at least you are setting up local infrastructure that will one day connect green energy to the grid.
    Shareholders need to let their voices be heard by these corporate thugs.

    • Sam Shu says:

      Smart comment, thank you

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      EACOP is part of a Ugandan project that will see a 60,000bpd refinery built to provide products for the broader East African region, rather than importing. A fact the activist-funded EIA’s ignore, is that the bulk of the pipeline will be buried, limiting the real impact to the construction phase. They also ignore the thousands of jobs created in Uganda for Ugandans by these projects, in construction, logistics, manufacturing, camp developments, food and beverage services and other services in the country. This will also happen in Tanzania once construction of the pipeline and export terminal, north of Tanga, starts. There is little balance in the arguments of the activists.

      Standard Bank funded R55bn in renewables in 2022, with this expected to grow to R250bn to R300bn in three years – outstripping fossil fuel investment by 4.39 to 1.

      However, the biggest issue is not these globally insignificant projects – Saudi Arabia is planning a $500bn ski resort in the desert, whilst increasing oil output at the same time; in Europe and the USA you can walk around in shirtsleeves inside in winter because of the enormous energy used to heat buildings. West Africa is a dumping ground for discarded clothing and electronics from Europe and the USA that is poisoning rivers, farmland and cities and killing local industries. Why not target these countries and their grotesque excess, which is the real cause of climate change? Too difficult, when you can pick on small African countries?

      • John Smythe says:

        I don’t care about Saudi Arabia, Europe or the US. That’s their problem that they’ll have to live with. We can’t say that we’re insignificant compared to them and so they must sort themselves out first. We’re African, and we need to look after Africa. Not the West. Not the East. Not the Middle East. The only continent that is ready for plundering (again) is Africa because it has weak and greedy leaders. And Africa is ripe for the picking my those miserable agents of greed (Chinese political money and Russian arms included). And so Standard is joining the ranks of those who plunder.

        • D'Esprit Dan says:

          Just a further point: global weather and global warming doesn’t discriminate according to political borders. So burning through half a trillion dollars to create an artificial snow slope in Saudi affects you, absolutely directly.

        • D'Esprit Dan says:

          Let me try again. We’re constantly told it’s a global crisis and yet those who’ve been responsible for the worst of environmental destruction now want to maintain their comfortable status quo? It’s frankly evil that Africans are expected to exist in poverty with lack of development so that those in the global north can carry on abusing the planet beyond its ability to sustain it: the global compact on just energy is a chimera – it’s a sleazy way of maintaining lifestyles in rich countries that are beyond the pale whilst expecting poor countries to live in energy poverty. It’s immoral. And it’s time that people looked at the bigger picture. A further point: global weather and global warming doesn’t discriminate according to political borders. So burning through half a trillion dollars to create an artificial snow slope in Saudi affects you, absolutely directly.

    • Mark Gory Gory says:

      You’re spot on Sell your shares. It’s the only language they understand. There are better places to grow your money

    • John Smythe says:

      Totally agree. But it’s all about money, money and more money. They don’t care about environment.

  • Mark B B says:

    Simple really . Don’t borrow money from Standard. And for heaven’s and our sakes take your deposits to another greener bank … Consumer action needs to follow the protesters and the technical climate and shareholders arguments…

    • Mark Gory Gory says:

      Right on

    • Donnet Dumas says:

      But which South African banks are greener? Its almost impossible to find a bank that doesn’t have some dirty investments somewhere. The transitions are slow. However, most of the banks are starting to offer renewable energy bonds, etc. Including Standard Bank. That being said, I believe protests such as these keep the pressure on, and are sorely needed to make sure that the message of ‘we own the bank’ really come through.

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    Why didn’t they invite Kumi Naidoo and Malik Dasoo into their meeting – they could have learned something of value. I’ve been a customer at Standard Bank for at least 40 years – I think I will make a move to the Green Bank now.

  • Pierre Rossouw says:

    So it seems that the protesters , at least some of them, were offered free food and transport, bussed in.

  • William Dryden says:

    The sun decides whether the earth is hot or cold and to what extent, not us mere mortals? Man was burning wood for thousand of years with no affect to the planet.

    • Johan Buys says:

      William: if we were burning wood, we’d be releasing carbon that was captured into wood in this era = net no effect.

      What we are doing with coal, oil and gas is releasing carbon that was captured eons ago AND burning multiples of what our existing plan life and oceans can recapture.

      Imagine Johnny in retirement spending more than the income on his capital savings.

      The silly part is we can now set aside bunny hugger arguments and just be capitalists. Solar plus storage is cheaper than the grid’s coal diesel gas and nuclear. We’re not talking about a cottage sized power user – MW sized factories are rushing to go solar plus battery to save money on grid and on diesel for loadshedding. The bunnies are a bonus.

  • Terril Scott says:

    Quite a lot of virtue-signalling political wannabes are making their bones on “Climate Change”…….

  • sl0m0 za says:

    I would support Standard Bank just for that. We need more fossil fuel investment to stop the Financial Suicide of “Green Policies” which in effect are killing the poorest people and destroying economies. More CO2 also means more food and more plant cover over the globe. I wish these “Activists” would do their research to see through the rubbish the IPCC is spouting about climate.

  • William Stucke says:

    > The pipeline will disturb nearly 2,000 square kilometres of protected wildlife habitats.

    Talk about cherry picking numbers! The 2,000 km² is the area of the habitats that pipe will cross through. You could just as well say that it will disturb 1,186 ,127 km² because that’s the size of Uganda and Tanzania, and it’s passing through both of them.

    The pipeline’s actual length through the 2 reserves is 65 km. But let’s include its full length of 1,445 km. The “reserve” used for construction and maintenance is 30 m wide. That comes to a total of 43 km² that will be directly impacted. There are of course additional areas required for the pump stations, etc, but still a very far cry for the 2,000 km² claimed.

    Link to this data in the article.

    Given all that, I also agree that SBSA should be funding renewable energy projects. And as some else has pointed out, they are – to a much larger extent.

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