Joint Media Release: Recent engagements between Minister of Energy Mahlobo and civil society organisations
7 December 2017
Below we set out key events in recent engagements between Minister of Energy David Mahlobo and civil society organisations around the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity and the Energy Indaba scheduled for 7-8 December 2017.
On 10 November 2017, Greenpeace Africa, together with the Life After Coal Campaign (made up of groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)), sent a letter to the newly-appointed Minister of Energy David Mahlobo to congratulate him on his appointment, to highlight numerous concerns and questions in relation to South Africa’s future energy plans, and to request a meeting with him. No response was received.
On 28 November 2017, a larger number of civil society organisations sent a joint open letter to Minister Mahlobo raising concerns around the planned Energy Indaba, the inadequate consultation around the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), and the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP).
On 29 November 2017, the Minister contacted the CER and invited the organisations who had sent the 10 November letter to a meeting on 5 December 2017. During that call, the Minister indicated that the organisations that had sent the joint open letter had incorrectly assumed that they had been invited to the Energy Indaba convened for 7-8 December 2017.
On 5 December 2017, 6 representatives of CER, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and Greenpeace Africa attended a meeting with Minister Mahlobo and 5 representatives from the Department of Energy, held in Johannesburg. The contents of this meeting are recorded in the attached letter sent to the Ministry today.
Importantly, at the meeting on 5 December 2017, the Minister made it clear that:
- there would be no further public participation on the contents of the IRP before its approval by Cabinet, and its subsequent publication; and
- the Energy Indaba was not intended to address the IRP in any way, shape or form – instead it was for business, labour, and government to discuss ways to reinvigorate the energy sector in order to stimulate economic growth.
The organisations who attended the meeting with the Minister have reported fully on the contents of the meeting to a broad coalition of civil society and community-based organisations working on energy issues. A number of these organisations attended a meeting on 6 December 2017 to discuss recent events, the state of the IRP, and the Energy Indaba.
At this stage, we know that:
- very few civil society organisations were invited to the Indaba, and people from affected communities and members of the public have not been involved in this process at all;
- a number of civil society organisations who tried to register for the Indaba did not have their registration confirmed;
- others who tried to register by email had their emails returned as undelivered, presumably because the email address for registrations was full;
- the evening before the Indaba, 6 December 2017, representatives of at least 2 civil society organisations were invited to the Indaba, although the invitation indicates that a response to the invitation was required by 4 December 2017;
- the leaked, and allegedly confidential draft agenda for the Indaba does not address any of the issues raised repeatedly by civil society organisations as serious concerns around South Africa’s electricity plans – including nuclear, coal and renewables, and the IRP;
- the final agenda will only be made available to delegates on registration at the Indaba on 7 December 2017; and
- the media advisory circulated to certain members of the media on 4 December appears to have been since amended. Whereas the initial advisory stated that “the Indaba will be attended by all energy stakeholders including academics, and civil society,” the amended version no longer states that civil society will be attending. The initial advisory indicated that the Indaba’s purpose is to “stimulate a national conversation for South Africans to find solutions towards a sustainable energy sector”. By contrast, the amended version indicates that the Indaba
“brings together various role players in reigniting economic growth amid the challenges of growth”.
The Minister has failed to respond to our joint open letter of 28 November 2017. In particular, the Minister has failed to provide the long list of information requested on numerous occasions by organisations – and formally from the Department through the Promotion of Access to Information Act – included in the list below.
The undersigned civil society organisations wish to make it clear that we regard the consultation around the IRP as inadequate, and susceptible to legal challenge. Furthermore, we do not regard the Energy Indaba as a legitimate process for the discussion of South Africa’s energy future – a discussion which should include members of civil society, particularly members of communities most impacted by the pollution and harmful effects of electricity generation; and labour.
The serious concerns that we have raised with the Minister remain, even after the meeting that was scheduled on 5 December 2017. We now await the publication of the IRP, following which we will decide the way forward, which may include further litigation.
EARTHLIFE AFRICA JOHANNESBURG
CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS