Activist calls to boycott Shell intensify

Keshia Africa (IOL News) 12 December 2021

POCKETS of protesters gathered outside 13 Shell petrol stations across the country yesterday calling on consumers and companies to boycott the company.

Environmentalists continue to protest against Shell’s plans to search for oil and gas deposits off South Africa’s Wild Coast – a key tourist attraction – over concerns it could endanger marine life.

Activists have filed a second interdict against the multinational that will be heard in the Makhanda High Court on Friday.

“I cannot help but ask: are the objections meant to ensure the status quo remains in Africa… and South Africa in particular,” Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said at a press briefing this week, listing long-standing “energy poverty”, unemployment, stagnating economies and debt.

Shell plans to use seismic waves emitted from boats equipped with air cannons to analyse the geological structure of the ocean floor, hunting for spots likely to contain hydrocarbons.

Ecologists say the exploration technique could upset marine animals, particularly sea creatures such as whales that rely heavily on their sense of hearing.

Yesterday’s protests, 10 of which took place in the province, were held by various organisations including Extinction Rebellion, The Green Connection, Environmental Justice Solutions and Sustaining the Wild Coast.

Youth coordinator for the African Climate Alliance and environmental activist Gabriel Klaasen was stationed at the Shell petrol station in Bo Kaap.

Klaasen said the fight was about resistance and also economic, climate and social justice.

“With their seismic blasting, they’ll be causing so much damage to so many ecosystems within the ocean,” he said.

Klaasen said they want to get bigger companies to divest from Shell.

“Express Petroleum withdrew from using Shell as a supplier. We need to see more of that.”

He added: “We need to boycott Shell. Resistance worked in apartheid through boycotting and being forced to change.”

Simon Mayson from Extinction Rebellion also joined the protest.

“Many people and organisations have expressed concern about people’s livelihoods being affected. Many fishermen and people relying on the oceans are going to be affected by the surveys,” he said.

He added: “The surveys make extremely loud sounds that penetrate to the depth of the ocean.

“We are saying no to this.”

Mayson said: “We won’t be able to stop further fossil fuels from being exploited.

“This will lead to the destruction of the marine habitat and the people relying on it.”

“We are saying no to a foreign company exploiting our natural resources to the detriment of communities on the coast,” he said.

In addition to the hearing of the interdict in the Makhanda High Court this coming week, more environmental organisations have doubled down on their fight against Shell and future seismic survey applications in South Africa.

A petition by Ocean not Oil has been signed by more than 300 000 people thus far.

This follows the announcement of a reconnaissance permit application submitted by seismic survey company CGG, to conduct a multi-client 3D seismic survey over several exploration blocks located off the south-east coast.

Organisation Green Connection said the survey would result in unacceptable ecological degradation and environmental harm.

Green Connection also made submissions regarding inadequacies in the public participation process.

They argued that fishing communities and affected groups were not made aware of the reconnaissance permit application.

The Green Connection’s community outreach coordinator, Neville van Rooy, said it was unlikely that affected communities were able to provide any meaningful comment.

“The appeal mechanism is an ineffective remedy. With seismic blasting planned to commence from January 2022, CGG’s seismic survey could commence and may even be complete before the appeal process has run its course,” he said.

Barend Fredericks of the Bigai Community Small-Scale Fishers said their community was not consulted.

“We are opposed to any seismic activities in our coastal waters,” he said.

He added: “The seismic blasting not only kills marine life near the seismic gun arrays but also impacts fish navigating systems and their migration habits, which will negatively impact our catches come harvest time.”


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