Eco activists detained

2012-10-23 12:36
Police detained seven environmental activists protesting at Eskom's Megawatt Park headquarters. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Police detained seven environmental activists protesting at Eskom's Megawatt Park headquarters. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg – Police detained seven environmental activists protesting at Eskom's Megawatt Park headquarters, in northern Johannesburg, on Tuesday, Greenpeace said.

"Seven of our activists have been forcibly removed," said Greenpeace spokesperson Fiona Musana.

The activists had chained themselves to the front entrance of Megawatt Park, to protest Eskom's continued reliance on coal and the parastatal's application to again raise electricity tariffs.

Police cut their chains, handcuffed them, and took them to the Sandton police station, said Musana.

The police were not immediately available for comment.

At dawn, protesters from Greenpeace, groundWork and Earthlife Africa unfurled a banner across the front entrance of Megawatt Park.

Protest

"Eskom is under new management," the banner announced.

At the same time, activists chained themselves to the front entrance.

"Activists are asking to be invited into the headquarters as new management in order to bring about changes South Africans need," Greenpeace said in a statement on Tuesday.

Eskom said it had the same objectives as the activists, and did not object to peaceful protest.

However, spokesperson Hilary Joffe said it did have a concern about safety.

"We do engage with NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and I think we all have the same objectives as a country. We want to secure the supply of electricity, give access to energy for all, and [provide] cleaner electricity. The debate is about how we get there."

On Monday, Eskom put forward an application for a 16% tariff hike every year for the next five years.

Cost

Of this, 3% would go toward the cost of renewable energy produced by independent companies.

Eskom's average generation cost over this period was only 30 cents a kilowatt hour, compared to around R2 a kWh for renewable energy.

"The point to be made is that the cost of energy from independent power producers is up to 10 times Eskom's current cost of generation," said Joffe.

As a result, South Africans needed to ask how quickly renewable energy could, and should, be brought into the energy mix, she said.

Greenpeace said Bobby Peek, the director of clean air activist group groundWork, was its "new Eskom CEO"; that Makoma Lekalakala from Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg, was its "new Eskom stakeholder engagement director"; and that Greenpeace activist Melita Steele was its "new Eskom spokesperson".

The "new management" chained themselves to a table outside the building.

Lekalakala said the action was prompted, in part, by Eskom's decision to seek the increase in electricity tariffs, which was announced on Monday.

Renewable energy

Another factor had been a perceived lack of interest in renewable energy.

"There has been an outcry from the public for Eskom to massively invest in renewable energy. They have ignored this, and continued in their addiction to coal," she said.

Greenpeace and the other organisations promised to listen to the people and phase out coal generation in favour of renewable energy. Eskom should include them as part of the management team, said Lekalakala.

"We are also making a statement by occupying this space. Eskom belongs to the people, it doesn't belong to corporates."

Peek said the health of communities was affected by toxic by-products from coal, and as a result suffered from chronic respiratory diseases.

Steele condemned Eskom's water usage as a result of its reliance on coal.

"There are effective alternatives to coal, but there is no substitute for water," she said.

Eskom used 10 000 litres of water a second, according to Greenpeace.
- SAPA
Read more on:    greenpeace  |  eskom  |  renewable energy  |  environment
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