South Africa's grid is dissolving...climate activists hit hardest

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)

I ran across this article in Climate Change News decrying the fact that the coal lobby in South Africa is fighting against shutting down the coal industry and replacing it with renewables.


It’s a tale filled with evil carbon villains. A morality tale about how nasty polluters are stopping the transformation of the energy grid into one powered by clean, renewable energy fueled by the sun, the wind, and unicorn farts.

If only the mean, nasty coal people would let the activists work their magic, all would be rainbows and sunshine and butterflies fluttering in the breeze.

Sad, really, that such mean people are so powerful.

Of course, the story ignores one minor point: South Africa’s power grid is collapsing, with electricity shut off to residents for 8-13 hours a day. The problems that most South Africans face these days has nothing to do with carbon “pollution;” it is the fact that they are forced to use candles to light their homes and watch their food rot for lack of refrigeration.

That the coal lobby has any political power at all is a miracle in South Africa. The country is falling apart before our eyes, becoming a failed state after decades of being one of the only functioning countries on the continent.

The power company? Apparently not as well functioning as the coal lobby, perhaps because it is run by the government which is a socialist mess.

If you are looking to understand South Africa’s current struggles – its soaring crime and unemployment rates, its stubborn inequality and stagnant economy, its relentless corruption and crippling power cuts, and its broader drift towards what some fear could become “gangster state” or even “failed state” territory – then this one act of industrial sabotage, at a coal-fired power station on the high plains east of Johannesburg, is a good place to start.

The alleged saboteur, Simon Shongwe, 43, was working as a sub-contractor at Camden – a plant that was built back in the 1960s, bombed by anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s, mothballed in the 1990s, and more recently brought out of retirement to help a country now battling to keep the lights on.

There are several theories about the alleged sabotage.

It could have been designed to break the coal mill in order to enable a corrupt repair company to come and fix it at an inflated cost.

It might have been done as a way of threatening Camden’s management in to accepting some other corrupt contract.

Or it may have been part of a broader political conspiracy to damage South Africa’s energy infrastructure and undermine an ANC government increasingly seen as floundering after nearly three decades in power.

What is certain is that the sabotage at Unit 4 was not an isolated event.

Instead, it was one relatively small act in a vast, ongoing, and highly successful criminal enterprise that involves murders, poisoning, fires, cable theft, ruthless cartels and powerful politicians.


Climate Change News, though, describes what it believes is the bigger problem with the energy industry in South Africa: selfish coal interests who would rather rape and pillage, despoil the planet, and plunge the world into a climate crisis that will destroy the world by next month if Greta Thunberg turns out to have been right with her prediction of 2017.

Pascaline Mazibuko has become a recurrent voice in government consultations on the energy transition in Emalahleni, a municipality of South Africa’s energy heartland Mpumalanga province. The former politician has now turned her efforts to keeping coal alive in the region.

From 2015 to 2020, Mazibuko held public office as a councillor in the Emalahleni Local Municipality. Now, through a a non-profit called Bullet Mkabayi Foundation, she has actively lobbied against the rapid deployment of renewables and the country’s planned coal phase out.

“We have been lobbying, and will continue to lobby our people to say: reject this thing. It is not going to work for us,” Mazibuko told Oxpeckers and Climate Home News.

South Africa is at the heart of one of the most ambitious energy transition deals in the world — an $8.5 billion partnership with a group of wealthy countries, among them the US, UK and EU. The Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) seeks to phase out coal in the country by 2035.

But the nation’s coal sector has exerted a significant pushback to this plan, partnering with politicians and even managing to water down or delay key policies, such as the Climate Change Bill and the Carbon Tax Act.


There are two alternate universes here. One of which the major crisis the country faces is a failing government, organized crime, sabotage, graft, and a rapid decline into chaos; the other is one of mean coal lobbyists who are standing athwart history to make a buck.

The BBC’s portrayal includes murder, poisonings, government officials colluding with organized crime, and a power grid that is already collapsing due to these problems:

“This is treasonous behaviour. The ANC is involved at every level. The villains are members of the ANC or associates of the ANC. It is involved so deeply that it doesn’t know how to extricate itself. They are tipping us over towards that terrible situation of a ‘failed state,'” said political commentator Justice Malala, noting there was a direct link between the looting and the near-constant power cuts now crippling South Africa.

“It’s very depressing. It’s very concerning. Our country is in a serious, dark place,” said Paul Pretorius, a lawyer who played a key role at a recent public inquiry into the state corruption that flourished under former President Jacob Zuma.

As an indication of the seriousness of the crisis, soldiers have recently been brought in to guard some power stations, and to accompany convoys of trucks carrying coal, after the railway network was looted and sabotaged so comprehensively that many companies were obliged to switch to using South Africa’s roads.

Eskom security chief Ms Pillay said company investigators had recently identified more than 60 “black sites” where quality coal was still being stolen or swapped for rocky, poor-quality coal, by criminals.


But Climate Change News doesn’t see any of these rather mundane problems. There are billions in First World subsidies to spend (why, one wonders, is the First World trying to pour over $8 billion into “clean energy” into a country where corruption and graft are so endemic that nothing actually works? Hmm.), and nasty coal interests are in the way.

“Coal lobbying has the greatest impact on green energy investments by increasing uncertainty and thus reducing the appetite of investors to invest in green energy,” said Mary Stewart, chief executive of climate consultancy Energetics.

South Africa currently relies heavily on coal for about 70% of total electricity production. The country is also one of the top five coal exporting countries in the world, hosting an influential coal mining industry.

Several major companies with stakes in the coal sector have kept fossil fuels in their corporate planning. The petrochemical company Sasol, for example, claims to lead development of a “gas economy”, while South Africa’s public electricity company Eskom plans to “repower” stations using gas, according to their 2021 sustainability report.

Climate Change News doesn’t even HINT at the fact that many South Africans can’t get any electricity at all for half the day. There simply isn’t enough to go around, so there are rolling blackouts. That 70% of the electricity that coal generates? It is 70% of the 50% that South Africa needs, and shutting down those plants is only going to make things immeasurably worse for the actual people who need power.


The Climate freaks simply don’t care. Shut down the plants and put in unreliable “clean” energy to replace it.

Except in a state where sabotage and graft are the norms, and executives can get assassinated for bucking the system, the only thing we will see from that $8 billion is some worthless pilot plant and a lot of money split between the crime bosses, the government, and the Western contractors who are pushing this scam.

If you want an example of how distorted the propaganda is from the Climate scammers, here is Exhibit A. There is one sentence about blackouts in South Africa in the Climate Change News story about the power problems and the horrendous suffering they cause. They blame the problem on “aging coal” plants:

South Africa’s ageing coal-fired power plant fleet has caused an energy crisis all over the country, with blackouts more than tripling in 2022 compared to 2021.

Uh, nope. Read the BBC article.


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos