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Fourteen activists from three South African social organizations were arrested on Tuesday while demonstrating in Johannesburg to highlight that Eskom, the state energy utility, has failed to deliver clean, affordable and accessible electricity to the population. The demonstrators were also demanding the company to shift away from coal as an electricity source.
The lawyers of groundWork - Friends of the Earth South Africa, Earthlife Africa JHB and Greenpeace are working to release the activists, who were taken to Sandton prison in Johannesburg. It is to be expected that the activists will be released in a few hours.
The protest took place after Eskom’s announcement of further electricity price hikes to pay for new coal-fired power stations, according to the three environmentalist organizations involved in the action. Nearly 100 per cent of South African energy is generated from coal. Real World Radio interviewed groundWork’s Media Campaign Manager, Megan Lewis. The director of that organization, Bobby Peek, is one of the people arrested.
The demonstration took place in Eskom’s headquarters in Megawatt Park and the activists simulated the installation of new management members of the company, which included Peek as CEO. Greenpeace representatives dropped a banner reading "Eskom: Under New Management". All activists and "Eskom’s new management" locked themselves to the front entrance of the building. This was followed by the arrest of 14 of them.
GroundWork- Friends of the Earth South Africa, Earthlife Africa JHB and Greenpeace consider a new management of Eskom is fundamental to, among other things, shift way from coal as an electricity source and focus on the development of renewable energy. The organizations demand the state company to work to benefit the South African people first.
“We are here today because Eskom has clearly failed the people of South Africa, and we are united in calling for a fundamental shift away from coal by Eskom. Whilst government pumps billions into developing new Eskom coal-fired power stations to power industry, community people’s health is increasingly affected by the toxic by-products of coal from industries. This happens during each step of the coal to energy lifecycle. Those exposed to this constant air pollution suffer from chronic respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and pneumonia” said Peek during the movilization.
Please listen to the interview with groundWork-Friends of the Earth South Africa’s Media Campaign Manager, Megan Lewis.
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