Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe was interrupted during his keynote address at the African Energy Indaba in Cape Town by a group of Greenpeace Africa activists.
Holding banners and standing in front of the minister, the activists protested Mantashe’s support for the coal industry and other fossil fuels, as well as his previous opposition to adding new renewable energy to South Africa’s grid quickly and the country’s unprecedented daily loadshedding.
Also read: Activists protest the arrival of a Russian research ship in Cape Town
When the activists approached the podium, Mantashe paused in his speech and stated that they should be allowed to speak freely. He then resumed his speech.
After a few moments, conference staff approached the protesters and asked them to leave. Mantashe then stopped his speech again and instructed the staff to “stop giving them attention”.
Thandile Chinyavanhu, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, told News24 that switching to renewable energy is clearly the answer, but that the person standing at the podium today is the biggest obstacle to getting South Africa out of the oppressive darkness of the electricity crisis.
Chinyavanhu said that the activist group wanted to convey the message that coal is blocking renewable energy and said that Mantashe is a “coal fundamentalist.”
“We are demanding that government brings online renewable energy to ease the constraints of load shedding and deploy them for energy security,” she told News24.
Mantashe has stated publicly that renewable energy lobbyists and environmentalists are attacking the fossil fuel industry.
During his speech, under the theme of “African Energy Transitioning to a Sustainable and Prosperous Future,” the minister incorrectly referred to the AEI as the African Mining Indaba, which took place a few weeks ago in Cape Town.
“Forgive me, I’m a coal miner,” Mantashe said. “Africa is endowed with resources such as coal, oil, and gas, which are needed for base-load energy to power our industrialisation.
He continued, “Our continent deserves the opportunity to develop its own oil and gas infrastructure—storage, refinery, and distribution—to cushion its people against the turbulence of global markets and thereby secure its continental energy needs.”
In his remarks to conference attendees and the protesters, Mantashe stated that the emphasis should not be on abandoning coal because the solution to the energy crisis required improving the energy availability factor of power stations, accelerating emergency energy generation and building new skills.
WATCH 🚨 our activists just paid a visit to SA’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe while he addressed a room of company heads and African Ministers.
Isn’t it time we ended his obsession with coal and sorted out load shedding @PresidencyZA? pic.twitter.com/qaCNXWnsAs
— Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeaceafric) March 7, 2023
Picture: @Greenpeaceafric / Twitter