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Climate activists, journalist forcibly ejected from Standard Bank HQ anti-fossil fuel protest

Climate activists, journalist forcibly ejected from Standard Bank HQ anti-fossil fuel protest
Russell Florence of Extinction Rebellion Gauteng receives medical attention after being injured during a protest at Standard Bank in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Tuesday. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A protest at Standard Bank’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Tuesday descended into chaos when a group of human rights and climate activists, as well as a Daily Maverick journalist, were forcibly removed from the building by security personnel.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion arrived at the offices of Standard Bank — the largest bank on the continent by assets — in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Tuesday to call for the bank to stop all investments in fossil fuel projects and redirect the funding to renewable energy.

The protesters entered the bank’s headquarters a few at a time so as not to alert security personnel.

Watch

Once gathered, the piercing sound of a whistle marked the start of the occupation, which saw protesters converging on the building’s reception area, linking arms and breaking into chants demanding climate justice.

While the protest started as a peaceful manifestation of civil disobedience, protesters and private security quickly clashed when authorities became heavy handed, and a protester was injured.

Russell Florence, an Extinction Rebellion activist from Eldorado Park, was dropped on his head by security guards when they carried him out of the building, and Florence lost consciousness.

standard bank protest

Russell Florence of Extinction Rebellion Gauteng receives medical attention. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Security workers whisked Florence to the building’s medical bay, where he was kept for several hours.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom told Daily Maverick on Tuesday,Standard Bank initiated medical assistance out of an abundance of caution. The person in question has since rejoined the small group of protesters outside of Standard Bank’s building.”

Speaking to Daily Maverick on the sidelines of the protest, Florence said, “We sat [in the reception area] and peacefully made the point that for our future, for our children’s future, we don’t need dirty energy.

“Security came, and we passively sat, and I was dragged by my feet and hit my head on a previous injury.”

He accused the bank and paramedics of using undue force while treating him and tying him to a gurney in an ambulance against his will.

standard bank protest

Security removes Extinction Rebellion Gauteng and social justice activists from the building during a protest at Standard Bank in Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Responding to the allegations, Linstrom said, “We can confirm that our personnel are well trained to assist in dealing with security-related situations and therefore deny that force was disproportionately used.

“Where protesters feel their rights have been impinged, they should lay a charge with the relevant authorities or report the matter to the bank so that we can take the matter further.”

Journalist manhandled

While covering the protest, Daily Maverick journalist Lerato Mutsila was manhandled by security guards and a Standard Bank employee who claimed to be the head of security, a woman who gave her name as Karen. 

Karen wrestled Mutsila who identified herself as a reporter from Daily Maverick and forcefully snatched her cellphone from her hand. She deleted all the footage of the protest that Mutsila had captured. Five security guards then grabbed Mutsila and ejected her from the building. 

standard bank protest

Security removes a man during an Extinction Rebellion Gauteng and social justice activists protest at Standard Bank in Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Linstrom said, “Standard Bank respects and is a strong supporter of media freedom. In the event that journalists approach us through the proper channels, we are open to engaging with them.”

After being booted out of the building, the activists continued their protest outside it. 

Malik Dasoo, the Extinction Rebellion activist who organised the protest, said the plan was to camp outside Standard Bank buildings until the bank met their demands.

standard bank protest

Extinction Rebellion Gauteng and social justice activists protest at Standard Bank in Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Dasoo said Extinction Rebellion had tried unsuccessfully to engage with the bank about its continued investment in fossil fuels on eight occasions.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Kumi Naidoo forcibly removed from Standard Bank HQ after protest over crude oil pipeline project 

“We are ultimately here to demand one thing, which is that Standard Bank must not finance any new and additional coal by 2024. It [fossil fuels] is killing our people. It is not improving energy access, it’s just making money for a small group of people.

“We want them to put the money they put into fossil fuels into renewable energy for poor communities. Communities like Orange Farm, Sebokeng, Meadowlands and Mzimhlophe, these are the areas that we work in and they need energy now,” Dasoo said.

The activists also demanded that the bank must agree to “a live debate with activists and experts on fossil fuel financing, where they will be held accountable for their investments and urged to commit to a transition away from coal financing by 2024”.

standard bank protest

Extinction Rebellion Gauteng and social justice activists protest at Standard Bank in Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

In a letter to Dasoo, Kirston Greenop from Standard Bank said, “Standard Bank will, in a responsible and respectful way, engage with the concerns of our various stakeholders, with due regard to proper processes.

“In the meanwhile, in light of the unprotected nature of this protest, we kindly request you to immediately, and by no later than 13h00, leave our premises, failing which we will take such action as may be advised.”

After Standard Bank threatened to take unspecified action, Julia Fish from Fund Our Future addressed the dwindling crowd outside the building. Fish said, “If we are doing an illegal act, the jurisdiction is with SAPS, not private security. They [private security] do not have the authority to arrest, assault or remove us. This is public space, and that’s what we recognise.

 “We have done nothing illegal, and we will remain until we are treated with the respect that we demand. Only once we have been deemed to be doing something illegal by the government of this country and by the police officers, and they give us a lawful Act, then we will [leave]. But until then, we will remain here.”

The private security personnel, with the help of officers from the South African Police Service, threatened to forcibly remove the protesters at 1pm, but the deadline passed, and no action was taken.

Twelve activists, including Dasoo, remained for the rest of the day and by nightfall had set up tents about 10m from the entrance, having committed to sleep overnight until the bank adequately addressed their demands.

Standard Bank South Africa by security personnel remove members of Extinction Rebellion and other environmental activists during an occupation protest at the bank head offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, 19 September 2023. Extinction Rebellion is protesting against Standard Bank’s investment in fossil fuel related projects in the country. South Africa electricity generation is largely supported by coal fired power stations. EPA-EFE/Kim Ludbrook

Why Standard Bank?

“They have the highest potential to meet the country’s transition requirements given their enormous balance sheet,” Dasoo said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA companies hold $17-billion in investments of coal, oil and gas companies — global report

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.

As a result, Just Share found that Standard Bank’s exposure to fossil fuels was about 4.5 times higher than its exposure to renewable energy. 

However, Linstrom told Daily Maverick that this assumption was incorrect, stating that “for every rand of loans extended on non-renewable energy, Standard Bank has loaned more the R5 on renewable energy”.

Linstrom said that Standard Bank had mobilised more than R28-billion in sustainable finance for its clients, of which 40% was for clients in African regions. 

“Recently, the bank raised R6.6-billion in green and sustainability-linked Treasury finance to support the group’s sustainable finance initiatives,” he said.

“The bank has thus far mobilised R82.5-billion in sustainable finance since January 2022 relative to our R250-billion to R300-billion target by 2026.”

However, Emma Schuster, a senior climate risk analyst at Just Share, said, “The bank references its renewable energy exposure versus its fossil fuel electricity exposure, but of course the bank’s exposure to fossil fuels beyond electricity is crucial.”

According to Standard Bank’s latest climate report, the bank’s financing of fossil fuel power generation (what it calls “non-renewable energy”) is only a portion of its financing of fossil fuels, which includes other activities such as exploration, extraction and production. 

“So whilst it may finance more renewable power than fossil fuel power, its contribution to funding renewables pales in comparison with its funding of fossil fuels, including coal mining, and oil and gas exploration, extraction and production,” Schuster noted.

Standard Bank’s climate policy

“We aim to actively support Africa’s transition to a lower carbon economy, mitigate the impact of climate change and improve access to reliable and sustainable energy sources, a critical factor in Africa’s economic growth and poverty alleviation,” Linstrom told Daily Maverick.

“Our climate policy commits the group to achieving net zero carbon emissions from its portfolio of financed emissions by 2050. We are also working toward net zero across our operations by 2040 for existing operations and 2030 for newly built facilities.”

Linstrom added that Standard Bank was a founding signatory of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Responsible Banking, and co-chair of the banking board responsible for overseeing the effective implementation of these principles. 

However, Just Share’s analysis of Standard Bank’s climate policy noted that the UNEP FI’s 2021 recommendations for credible net-zero commitments state, “Net-zero commitments which are not explicitly tied to, or do not follow specifically 1.5°C IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] carbon budget (as derived from the consensus of IPCC 1.5°C scenarios) should not qualify as credible.”    

In its analysis, Just Share said that as Standard Bank Group’s net-zero commitment did not follow the IPCC’s 1.5°C carbon budget, “The bank cannot therefore claim that its policy is ‘Paris-aligned.’” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Excellent

  • Louise Louise says:

    “Standard Bank’s climate policy

    “We aim to actively support Africa’s transition to a lower carbon economy, mitigate the impact of climate change and improve access to reliable and sustainable energy sources, a critical factor in Africa’s economic growth and poverty alleviation,” Linstrom told Daily Maverick.

    “Our climate policy commits the group to achieving net zero carbon emissions from its portfolio of financed emissions by 2050. We are also working toward net zero across our operations by 2040 for existing operations and 2030 for newly built facilities.”

    Clown world. “Net zero” is unachievable and is unnecessary. Yes, stop pollution of course, but the insane attack on all things carbon is an attack on life itself. Human beings are carbon based as are all animals and plants. Without CO2 in our atmosphere WE WILL DIE. Plants NEED CO2 to thrive, that’s why gardeners and farmers pump CO2 into their greenhouses. The sun drives temperature and CO2 levels, not ordinary human activity. The insane notion that cows burping and farting is contributing to the rising temperature of the Earth is just that, INSANE!!!

  • andre54 says:

    Serves these anti humanists right.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    I have no objection to moving towards a greener future with fossil fuels eventually removed from the equation – in fact, I actively support it. What I don’t agree with is the targets of the green activists. Saudi Arabia is currently squeezing oil prices to over US$100/bbl so it can make even more money, despite the fact that they have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. The Saudi regime, when it’s not slaughtering Yemeni’s, is hatching a scheme to spend US$500 BILLION building a city and artificial ski slopes in the deseert. How much energy – based on oil revenues – will that take? All for the vanity of MBS. They’ve got so much money washing around that they don’t know what to do with, that they’re spending billions of dollars buying footballers for a league that until now was nothing globally.

    Why is this important? Because Saudi Arabia pumps around 9 million barrels of oil a day (it’s cut this by 1 million barrels to force prices up, at your and my expense, and no, admitting them to BRICS won’t get us cheaper oil) and doesn’t know what to do with the money, hence the vanity projects. But countries like Namibia and Uganda want to pump a fraction of that, they contribute the square root of f-all to global warming, but are told to get lost? If there is to be a global, just transition, it must be that – the big polluters of the West, China and Middle East need to cut big time, and allow other nations a seat at the table.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      While I mainly agree with you DB, just to note that Saudi is profiting because of RasPutin’s disgraceful invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia.

      Also to note that – apart from the ridiculous Neom project – they are apparently, according to the Economist, planning to create solar farms there once the oil market has collapsed some time in the future and export the electricity.

      • D'Esprit Dan says:

        They’re definitely benefitting from Putin’s invasion, but they’ve also cut production in order to keep oil prices artificially high. So much for solidarity with the poorer nations. The oil market isn’t likely to collapse in the next 20 years either, so they’re still going to pump around 66 billion barrels of oil over that time at current production rates. Nice of them to think about a couple of solar panels once they’re done!

  • michaellukeevans says:

    No matter how much you believe in your particular cause you do not have the right to enter a private property and ‘occupy’ it.

  • montebe montebe says:

    If you want to make a statement, choose a soft target, a subject most people are vaguely aware but inherrently ignorant of, refuse to leave and when you are forcibly evicted, make it look like you’re the victim and whah, you’ve made it into the news!

  • Deon Botha-Richards says:

    Trouble is IPCC 1.5 degree targets are bogus

    • Ben Harper says:

      It’s all bogus, no one, not one single person or body can tell you how much the CO2 levels will drop if “net zero” is reached, neither can they tell you what the impact on temperature increase will be and they are VERY quiet on the taxes that the IMF is about to unleash on the world which is the uiltimate aim of this entire hoax – a powerful international body, beholden to no single voter anywhere on earth, able to extract trillions of dollars from every citizen on earth through “green taxes”

  • mjhauptstellenbosch says:

    Entering a building with the purpose to cause disruption, including a Daily Maverick journalist,
    stands in contrast to Daily Maverick’s comments policy:

    1. We encourage robust debate
    2. But anything sexist, racist, abusive, threatening and intolerant will incur immediate reaction
    3. We won’t tolerate anyone abusing our journalists.

    How much more holy can you get?

    and then sneak into a building?
    with the only goal to cause disruption?

    • tom eden says:

      Some of the comment here is akin to that against the antiapartheid struggle –don’t worry too much, be nice, our children or grandchildren will sort this out – but just like it has turned out for many of us – it could be too late for them – and they may well be sorry, we weren’t more radical.

    • Rob Scott says:

      Daily Maverick can you explain to your readers what your opinion is of this?

  • Rob Scott says:

    Everyone has the right to protest however you don’t have the right to infringe on someone else’s rights. Secondly I hope they walked to the protest so as not use fossil fuels and didn’t use mobile phones as currently, due to load shedding, a good % of mobile phone networks are being driven by diesel

    • Ben Harper says:

      Not just that – every single item on him he has from fossil fuels – shoes, belt, clothes, wallet, money, phone – literally everything. Take it all away as these doomsday cultists demand (yes that what extinction rebellion and just stop oil are) and the world will collapse in a matter of days

  • mjhauptstellenbosch says:

    How much are these protesters paid?

    Surely they do not do this for free?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Yeh .. just like most of us who were ‘paid’ for taking part in the struggle against the apartheid regime !
      Very evident from many responses that the oil industry has colonised a significant portion of people’s views worldwide (not surprising given the enormous resources they have – see Dee Bees analysis) … very Trumpian ! Also explains the symbiotic relationship of MBS (journalist slaughterer) and Trump (now taken over by son in law).

      • mjhauptstellenbosch says:

        Kanu, many of you people lived in luxury in exile, in countries in Africa and Europe.

        Many of these people PRETEND to be an activist!

        Stealing money to live is luxury started way before 1994.

        And the same can be said if preachers/pastors/dominees/etc who pretended to be religious,
        with their only motivation to work as little as possible for one day of the week.

    • Ben Harper says:

      Isn’t the going rate a Streetwise 2 and a t-shirt?

  • David Forbes says:

    Absolutely disgusting behaviour by Standard Bank. Security doesn’t do their work without getting orders from management. To assault protestors AND a journalist is illegal. Why didn’t they call the police to eject them peaceably? To delete footage and photographs from a journalists phone is not only illegal and an invasion of privacy, but a female journalist was assaulted by five men and forcibly ejected. What kind of violent society does Standard Bank endorse with these actions? As for the pathetic argument that this was private property, it’s a bank. The public area of the bank is a public area, and therefore can be demonstrated in/on. The protestors did not infringe on the private areas of the bank, nor did they assault anyone. They were making a point, and it is to the detriment of Standard Bank that they reacted the way they did.

  • Emile Santos says:

    You refused to leave private property and you are now crying wolf?

  • Erik van Heerden says:

    Journalists should not be activists… Shameful conduct by this group of radical self-righteous activists.

  • Andrew Baxter says:

    Well, if anything, this little scuffle has elicited more comments than the Zondo Commission’s exposé on State Capture. It’s a delight to witness how the ignorant, the trolls, the pseudo-scientists and the holier-than-thou brigade all delight in taking a little hand-bag slap at each other. My favourite troll is Harper. Ben Harper. He’s a funny chap, and clever too. He must be eating abundantly from the trough at the crude oil pipeline. And since it’s my turn to swing my hand-bag, let me add that it really is long past worrying about those dastardly fossil fuels. As a species, we’ve pretty much shat on our only patch and its all going to be downhill from here. I feel sorry for the innocents – the other life forms – with whom we share this increasingly miserable piece of cosmic dust. Since I’m resigned to my fate, I intend to drive my gas guzzling car with gay abandon, while I can still afford it, knowing that the more I can contribute to the climate catastrophe the sooner the coastline will erode and collapse my front-facing neighbour’s property thereby restoring my priceless sea-view. Because, really, who cares about anyone else?

  • Lifeboy (still affloat) says:

    I’m not a Standard Bank fan, but Extinction Rebellion are the pits. They lack logic, knowledge, understanding and comprehension. They are obnoxious and act retarded. Pretty sure they are getting paid to stage these protests.

    The contribute nothing to society and create problems out of this air that don’t exists in actual fact. The only thing that should go extinct asap is ER.

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