Environmental activists disrupted a speech by South Africa’s energy minister to protest against the country’s continued use of coal to generate electricity, a practice they said was exacerbating power shortages and corruption.
Africa’s most industrialised nation, which burns the dirtiest fossil fuel to produce more than 80percent of its electricity, is being subjected to record blackouts as poorly maintained plants break down.
While the government has committed to transitioning to cleaner sources of power, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe stands accused of frustrating the process.
Activists from Greenpeace Africa carrying placards reading “Gwede Stop blocking renewables” and “Coal = corruption” took to the front of the stage as Mantashe began addressing a conference in Cape Town on Tuesday. The minister told the audience the protesters had a right to be heard and urged staff who tried to get them to move not to give them the attention they were looking for.
“They call me a coal fundamentalist, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. He reiterated his view that South Africa needs to consider using new technology to control emissions from coal-fired plants, which will enable it to prolong its use of the fuel.
Mantashe also said the problems state power utility Eskom had in controlling graft weren’t limited to the theft of coal. “Corruption is everywhere, including renewables,” he said. — Bloomberg