appeal Zuma Karoo by South African

October 19 marks the global day of action against fracking, known as the Global Frackdown. Friends of the Earth South Africa/ Groundwork sent the letter below to President Jacob Zuma.

Community people all over the world are sending a message that we want a future powered by clean, healthy, renewable energy, not dirty, polluting fossil fuels, which fracking is a part of.

Dear President Jacob Zuma,

In South Africa, the fracking debate may appear to be polarised along racial lines with greater emphasis on the Karoo. However, it is not only white farmers in the Karoo and a bunch of ‘Greenies’ who are concerned about the government’s green light on fracking, but there are citizens of every race, social and economic standing who are concerned and are vehemently opposed to fracking. This experience is global.

We are concerned that government is speeding the fracking process up by the lifting of the fracking moratorium without enough time to conduct meaningful and transparent impact studies and engage with stakeholders. Furthermore, government is moving too fast to authorise shale gas exploration, as the Minister of Trade and Industry indicated, it will happen before elections next year.

Of great concern is that the poor are once again being used as pawns in this process, with promises ofhundreds of thousands of jobs based on ‘independent’ research commissioned by Royal Dutch Shell.

The unskilled poor in whose name many such developments take place will neither receive the jobs nor will they be able to afford the electricity once it is produced. Socio-economic inequalities will continue to widen.

In our hard-fought democracy, there has been little meaningful public consultation during this process. The South African public is not being heard on the issue of fracking and our decision makers are not learning from over 100 jurisdictions around the world where fracking has a moratorium, been banned or restricted. Sadly, our ability to enforce any good legislation is currently lacking which leaves us and our environments open to abuse by multinationals – as Minister Manuel suggested at the 12 Annual International Corporate Governance Network Conference in 2007 – like Shell who have shocking records of environmental and human rights abuses in countries like Ireland, America and

We will not be acting responsibly as one of the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the world if we allow fracking. Methane gas from fracking is a far more powerful GHG than CO 2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says methane is 86 times more damaging than CO2 over a 20 year period. Coal has devastated our land and water resources and shale gas fracking will do the same. South Africa has places like the Karoo and KwaZulu-Natal which have the potential to produce alternative energy sources, tourism and agriculture, which are now earmarked for an environmentally destructive process like fracking.

President Zuma, we urge you to take leadership on the issue of the development of clean energy systems that are protective of our health and wellbeing. We urge you to take a lesson from countries that have held onto their moratoria while doing thorough investigations. We urge you to learn from the United States where the destruction of land and peoples’ livelihoods has taken place as a result of fracking. We urge you to find out what the majority of South Africans want, rather than rely on the push by corporations for the exploitation of our resources.

What will the legacy of your presidency be? Will it be that we have more polluted toxic water, land and air than ever, that result in health impacts especially on the poor who cannot afford medical treatment?

We are calling for a government that hears the voice of its citizens and not just the voice of profit and economic self-interest.

Yours sincerely
Siziwe Khanyile
Climate and Energy Justice Campaigner
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

Photo above: Karoo National Park. The Karoo is earmarked for an environmentally destructive process like fracking. Photo by South African Nature