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Bluff, Durban, South Africa, 13 November 2013 – Siga Govender, a local small scale farmer who has been working the land next to the former Durban airport for 25 years, is aware that he is either going to have the land beneath his feet literally dug out beneath him for expansion of the port, or washed away if an alternative approach to energy production globally is not implemented immediately. Tomorrow at 14h00, in solidarity with the farmers, the People’s Climate Camp will march from the Reunion Beach Centre to the farmer’s land in Prospecton, ending in a press conference at 15h00.

The City of Durban and Transnet’s proposed multi-billion rand Durban port expansion will also squeeze out many other communities in the south Durban basin, who will be inundated with increased trucks, logistics parks and the expansion of the already heavily polluting petrochemicals industry. While government proposes the project as development, the reality is that it will destroy the farms, destroy jobs within the small local economy, destroy the earth and destroy a unique eco-system. It will obstruct and divert ocean currents, accelerate coastal erosion and cut a wide gap in the natural defences against sea level rise.

Govender, who is the Chairperson of the Airport Farmer’s Association, explains what losing his land would mean to him:

“The land means the world to me in the sense that I’m here six days a week from 7 o’clock in the morning till 5 o’clock in the afternoon and when I get home it’s only my farm that I think of and nothing else. So it’s my livelihood and I would like to remain on the land”.

As the estimated human death toll of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines rises above 2000, the annual UN climate negotiations are under way in Warsaw, Poland. Haiyan is not the only natural disaster the world has witnessed this year; from India to Canada, people’s lives, homes and communities are being wiped out as a result of the rapidly increasing average global temperature.

Corporate capture of the international negotiations by big polluting energy corporations, such as Eskom and Sasol, who are seemingly permanent members of the South African delegation and the lack of real change in most government’s energy policies, highlight that changing the approach to energy production lies not with an international process but with the people.

Details of tomorrow’s march and press conference are as follows:
Venue: Starting at Isipingo Reunion Beach Recreational Centre, left onto Refinery Road and right onto farmer’s land.
Time: March 14:00 – 15:00 and press conference 15:00 – 15:30

Details for the camp are as follows:
Date: Thursday, 14th November to Sunday, 17th November.
Venue: Eco Park, 55 Grays Inn Road, Bluff, Durban

[1] South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (and its affiliate organisations), Airport Farmers Association, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Durban, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, KwaZulu Regional Christian Council, Newcastle Environmental Justice Alliance, University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, Greater Middleburg Residents Association, Mpumalanga Youth Against Climate Change, South African Waste Pickers’ Association, Streetnet, Umbano Traders Alliance, Diakonia Council of Churches, Timberwatch, Biowatch, Abahlali Base Mjondolo,, Umphilo waManzi, Refugee Centre, Pietermaritzburg Association for Community Action.

[2] Govender is one of 16 farmers who employ around 100 farm workers. Most have worked on the land next to the former Durban airport in Prospecton for about 25 years under a monthly lease held formerly by Acsa but which has recently been taken over by Transnet. They sell fresh produce to local street markets and larger supermarkets. The Airport Farmers Association was established with the support of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance to organise the farmers around previous issues of removal and any other grievances.

[3] The purpose of the People’s Climate Camp is to resist projects that damage climate, environment and people and still is seen directly in the proposed port expansion project; to articulate and build capacity for the alternative of people’s sovereignty (food and energy in particular); and to make a platform for people to articulate views on climate and energy justice on the way to the people’s pre-CoP in Venezuela in 2014 and CoP21 in Paris in 2015 – this is the CoP that is supposed to agree a new climate deal for implementation in 2020.

Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Officer at groundWork
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 450 5541

Desmond D’sa
Coordinator at South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 982 6939

Vanessa Black
Chairperson at Earthlife Africa Durban
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 472 8844