News / South Africa / Politics

Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
6 minute read
5 Nov 2021
9:27 am

COP26 billions a ‘colonial takeover engineered by the West’ – EFF’s Shivambu

Nica Richards

Shivambu believes the COP26 deal was signed to have Ramaphosa 'in the pockets of the West', to control him, and use him to control Africa. 

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu. Picture: Twitter/@EFFSouthAfrica

“There’s no American that is going to build any energy security here in South Africa.” 

These were the determined words of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu, who said in an interview with SABC News that the party intends to contest a recently signed deal with the US and European countries to help boost South Africa’s just transition away from coal and towards renewable energy.

The $8.5 billion (R131 billion) pledge from France, Germany, the UK, the US and the European Union was signed at the 26th United Nations climate change conference (COP26)

South Africa aims to decommission its coal-fired power plants over the next 15 years.

The billions are meant to make the transition just, meaning workers and marginalised communities dependant on the coal industry will be looked after – although it is not yet clear how. 

ALSO READ: SA can’t have a just energy transition without ‘support from wealthier nations’

It is hoped workers will be upskilled and therefore able to work on renewable energy plants, which, thanks to more bidders being appointed under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), are expected to mushroom over the next few decades. 

Renewable energy is also currently cheaper than coal, costing between 34.4c and 37.5c per kilowatt hour, compared to Eskom’s 42c per kilowatt hour charge. 

Load shedding is in part indicative of the delicate balance South Africa has yet to achieve when it comes to decommissioning coal plants and investing in green energy solutions. 

Eskom cannot pump too much money into solving all power station problems if these solutions will end up extending the station’s lifespan. But on the other hand, the country is so reliant on dirty energy that it needs it to keep the lights on. 

The COP26 pledge sounds good on paper, although details do still have to be ironed out. 

So, why is the EFF so opposed? 

West wants to ‘control’ Africa 

Shivambu believes the deal was signed to have President Cyril Ramaphosa “in the pockets of the West”, to control him and use him to control Africa. 

ALSO READ: Europe to give SA billions to help free country from coal and Eskom

“We have got our own capacity. There is also a lot of options that we can explore in relation to coal. There’s clean coal technologies.

“We have got 400 years of coal lifespan and we are just instructed by Americans that ‘stop that we are going to give you money for that’. 

“And when they do that, they are going to tell us the details of what must happen and what must not happen.” 

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as clean coal. 

According to the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), there is no way to neutralise the effects of coal mining and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on the environment, the health of people, and its climate change impacts. 

Coal mining, the CER explains, means losing arable land, leads to acid mine drainage, which pollutes water sources, causes dust emissions and pollution. 

South Africa produces around 254 million tons of coal every year. 70 million tons of this is exported. But the rest requires between 42.5 million cubic metres and 147 million cubic metres of water. 

Shivambu does point out, however, that billions were recently spent on two power stations, and announcing South Africa’s commitment to green energy so soon after this is hypocritical. 

Medupi and Kusile stations began construction a few years ago to boost the country’s electricity generation, but have been riddled with problems, and have not been able to provide a constant power supply to the embattled national grid. 

Germany should go green first 

“If they want to experiment the transition from coal to different energy sources, let them do it in Germany first. Germany is still dependant on coal despite an attempt to go green. Different parts of the world are still dependant on coal,” Shivambu argued. 

Germany does still have over 40 coal-fired plants running on imported hard coal, and 30 that run on ignite. 

Small villages are also still being bought out by coal companies to create new open cast mines to dig for coal.

However, less than 30% of Germany’s energy supply comes from coal, with the aim to phase it out completely by 2038, an enviable transition when compared to South Africa. 

ALSO READ: Mantashe announces 25 preferred bidders for renewable energy projects

Last year, 86% of our electricity came from coal, leaving just 14% for alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. 

The global coal reliance average is 34%. 

What is a just transition? 

Shivambu said in his interview that areas such as Mpumalanga and Limpopo have whole communities completely reliant on coal for an income. 

“The reality is we are going to devastate a lot of our small towns and economies here if you just want to superimpose a transition which is not managed in a proper way domestically.”

Shivambu wants to create “alternate industries” in areas currently dependant on coal locally, without international assistance. 

Ramaphosa believes the COP26 grant will help South Africa “implement our ambitious goals and to develop a model for a just transition that we hope can be used elsewhere”.

ALSO READ: SA must transition to clean energy – but it’s too broke to do so

He also emphasised in his speech to the COP26 on Thursday that it was significantly easier for developed nations to move to renewable energy than it was for developing nations. 

“For many developing economies this requires massive investment in alternative energy sources and other infrastructure.

“It requires substantial support for workers and communities throughout the coal value chain who stand to lose their jobs as well as their livelihoods.”

But in order for South Africa to stand any chance of achieving a just transition, financial support is essential. 

How reliable government’s task team being set up to manage the billions in pledge money is remains to be seen, however, with the country having a rather undesirable corruption track record. 

Ramaphosa will be gone by 2024 

Shivambu concluded his disdain for the COP26 deal by saying the party would succeed in its opposition. 

One silver lining, Shivambu said, was the deal may not happen by 2024. 

“By 2024, they will have removed Ramaphosa, if they have not removed him in his own political party next year.

“So 2024 we are going to remove him, definitely, from office, and then we’ll stop this nonsense called COP26 deal, which is absolute rubbish.

“We can see this is a colonial takeover engineered by the West and we don’t agree with this.”