The #UprootTheDMRE protests that took place from September 22nd to 27th, were one of the most powerful climate actions South Africa has seen. In every province across the country, hundreds of people marched to the offices of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) in their respective provinces. Their demands included that Minister Gwede ‘the coal fundamentalist’ Mantashe, step aside and that the DMRE be deeply transformed to ensure a socially and ecologically just, renewable energy powered future and a Green New Eskom.
Even before we took to the streets, the leadership was nervous, with the Minister calling to threaten leaders of the movement with possible lawsuits – an intimidation tactic that did not work. Fed up with the DMRE’s polluting and harmful agenda, people took to the streets in droves representing trade unions, mining affected communities, youth, energy, climate, social and environmental justice organisations. The powerful action was covered by dozens of newspapers, TV, and radio stations across the country.
The mobilisation is not the end though, as we know that Mantashe and the DMRE’s expensive, corrupt, and polluting mining and energy agenda will not be dislodged with just one action. In fact, their polluting agenda was on display just days after the actions when the DMRE held an investor conference in Limpopo, which excluded civil society and communities. There they declared the “attacks on coal” as “premature” and invited companies to invest in coal, oil, and gas. They pretty much ran a conference version of the Politically Aweh parody video, which pretended to be a DMRE advert inviting fossil fuel companies to do business in South Africa.
The DMRE under the “leadership” of Minister Mantashe continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to climate justice in South Africa and we will need to keep the pressure up and build a powerful movement to overcome their resistance. They are stuck in the past, attempting to prop up an archaic Apartheid-inherited minerals energy complex that has made South Africa one of the most polluting and unequal countries in the world. The #UprootTheDMRE mobilisation showed the hunger that South Africans from all walks of life have for a more socially and environmentally just future that works for the many, and not just the few.