Resisting Green Extractivism in South Africa
The history of extractivism in South Africa is long and extensive and takes a uniquely toxic form due to the legacy of colonialism and Apartheid. We are seeing the rise of a new form of extractivism and a new ‘scramble’ for Africa in the name of “solving” climate change and transition from fossil fuels for energy. This new variant of extractivism includes energy generation through ‘green’ gas, green hydrogen, and mega-dams; green metal and minerals extraction to support energy production and storage, new green technologies such as electric cars, as well as components needed for large-scale solar plants and wind farms. ‘Net zero’, REDD, carbon markets, biofuels, cloud seeding, etc. are false solutions that continue to exploit and contribute to rising climate impacts.
This scramble for Africa is a new form of colonialism in which our land and resources are being grabbed and our sovereignty, our rights, and our ecosystems are being subordinated. The rise of green extractivism is alarming and fails to address the developmental interests and needs of women and their communities across South Africa. Electricity generated by large-scale renewable energy projects, and the energy generated from green and other hydrogen projects will largely benefit corporations and the elites, given the privatised nature of our energy systems, whilst most of the green hydrogen will be shipped out of the country to support the energy transition of the Global North. The rapid upscaling of green minerals and metals extraction will only deepen the crisis confronting rural communities whose lands will be grabbed, and livelihoods destroyed with minimal or no compensation and benefit.
Our work in South Africa is located in the Northern Cape province, an area which has been largely neglected but for the exploitation of their minerals. We are focused on working in Namakwaland across 11 towns including Pella, Concordia, Komaggas, Nababeep, Steinkopf, Port Nolloth, Alexander Bay and the four villages of Sandrift, Kuboes, Lekkersing and Eksteenfontien in the Richtersveld. We support, build, and inform the political positioning of women and their communities. To support the transfer of communal land back to indigenous communities, support women and their communities’ consent rights, and in determining the type of development they would like to see by supporting the building of proposals, from below, for alternative energy transitions that are genuinely just and fair for the majority of South Africans.
Other programme activities and highlights include hosting our first School on Extractivism in 2022 on the theme of Dreaming Futures Beyond Extractivism. We have supported the community of Concordia being the first community in Namakwaland to have their land transferred back to their Communal Property Association as well as supported the launch of the movement VVVT Namakwaland (Vrywillige Vooraf en Voordeurende Ingeligte Toestemming).