#ClimateStrike: 'You'll die of old age. I'll die of climate change,' SA protesters warn

In cities across South Africa, young people protested against the human causes of climate change. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)
In cities across South Africa, young people protested against the human causes of climate change. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)

In cities across South Africa people protested on Friday to raise awareness of climate change, reports GroundUp.

The Global Climate Strike, or #ClimateStrike, runs until September 27. The global protests come ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit, which is taking place in New York.

According to a website set up to popularise the protests: "This week will be historic. In over 150 countries, people are stepping up to support young climate strikers and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. The climate crisis won't wait, so neither will we."

Cape Town

More than 1 000 people, mostly school pupils and university students, marched to Parliament in Cape Town. The march was organised by youth-led advocacy group African Climate Alliance (ACA). 

Ruby Sampson, 18, the founder and leader of the Youth and Pan African wing of the ACA, said she was disappointed President Cyril Ramaphosa was not attending the UN summit. "We want Ramaphosa to declare a climate emergency."

An energetic crowd of children, some wearing school uniforms, marched from Keizersgracht (Hanover) Street in the city centre to the gates of Parliament, where a programme of speeches and performances were held as well as the handover of a memorandum.

Phindile Maxiti, the City of Cape Town mayco member for energy and climate change who addressed the crowd, said the City supported the strike and was "at the forefront of sustainability".

"As a local council, we will submit your memorandum to the president," added Maxiti who also described Cape Town as a water-wise city, following the drought.

ACA member Ayakha Melithafa, 17, said climate change was not just a white issue. "I see how much it affects people of colour. Our people don't know how to vocalise their issues when it comes to climate change. I'm hoping to be a voice for the voiceless."

"You'll die of old age. I'll die of climate change," read a banner held up by a young person.

People attended from across the city, including Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Delft and the southern suburbs. Some held up placards that read: "Climate change education in classrooms" and "Go green to breathe clean".

Their list of demands included:

  • The government must declare a climate emergency.
  • South Africa must end all new coal, gas and oil mining projects.
  • The country must be run with 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Climate change education must become a mandatory part of school curricula.
  • Climate change protest

              There were a colourful array of people and banners in Cape Town. (Masixole Feni, GroundUp)


    "Act now or there will be hell and high water."

    This was written on one of the many placards at the climate march in central Johannesburg where hundreds of people, led by the youth, marched from Pieter Roos Park to the Gauteng legislature on Friday morning.

    Other placards read: "F**k carbon capitalism", "Corrupt greed = climate crisis", "Eco-socialism now" and "Climate justice is social justice".

    The protesters demanded the government should declare a climate emergency and ensure a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that protected workers and communities.

    They also demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa should attend the Global Climate Action Summit in New York and commit to decreasing emissions and transitioning away from coal at the summit.

    The march was organised and supported by various civil society organisations, community groups and trade unions.

    Sera Farista, 15, said the government does not see the youth as a threat or as powerful and "that's unfortunate because we are the future of this world".

    She added the floods in Mozambique, drought in Cape Town and other natural disasters around the world were linked to climate change.

    "Our planet is dying and our future is fading with it," said Farista.

    Society is facing racism, inequality, poverty and global warming and there was a lack of food and water security, yet people ignored those issues because it was too political, she added. "Taking that stance is exercising your privilege because those issues don't affect you."

    Tebogo Mokgope from Extinction Rebellion said: "It is us, the poor, who will be the first ones to suffer [in the climate crisis]." He added once politicians were elected into power, they listened to "corporate greed" instead of the needs of people who put them in power.

    He urged the government to put the needs of people before profits.

    Priscilla Masepe, a member of the Gauteng legislature, collected and signed the memorandum. She said she would send it to Ramaphosa's office so that he could discuss the issues with his counterparts at the Global Climate Action Summit.

    She said she would try to get a response after the summit.

    Climate change protests

     Extinction Rebellion is a worldwide movement that has also taken off in South Africa. (Alex Lenferna, GroundUp)

    Port Elizabeth

    Dozens of people gathered outside the Port Elizabeth City Hall. They called on the government to take decisive action against the accumulation of profits by businesses that pollute the environment.

    Participating organisations included Live Green, Cultural Hellenville House of Rastafarians, One Million Jobs, Khanyisa Education Trust, the Rural Women's Assembly and Transition Township Kwazakhele.

    They sang, carried placards, and sat on Vuyisile Mini Square.

    Protest leader Melikhaya Blani said: "It is of paramount importance that we should gather here to convey a message that industries that are around here stick to emission standards."

    "Every day, we witness huge emissions of black smoke from the factories within our city. This is the same air that we breathe, that plants need to use to grow," said Mzikazi Nkata, the secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions in Nelson Mandela Bay.

    "We are in danger due to climate change. It puts huge pressure on our communities by making it more difficult to grow food, to obtain clean water, to keep livestock," she added.

    Another activist, Nicole Collier-Naidoo, said she was representing a small group called Climate Awareness PE.

    "The climate crisis is a huge threat to our people, yet we are not seeing it discussed as a crisis in the media. We want our government to treat this as the emergency that it is, and inform its citizens about how we are going to adapt to climate change."

    Collier-Naidoo added humans had released a huge amount of carbon dioxide, saying this trapped heat within our atmosphere and had caused rapid heating of our world.

    "If we continue at this rate, we humans will eventually go extinct too. We are part of nature and we depend on the work that all these ecosystems do for us. When they are destroyed, our species will eventually follow,” she said.

    Climate change protest

    Dozens of people protested in Port Elizabeth. (Thamsanqa Mbovane, GroundUp)

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