Kerri-Anne Swanepoel
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On 4 August 2023, the Extinction Rebellion held a protest during the Minister of Electricity’s public lecture at a Future Africa event on Hillcrest campus. This public lecture was on ‘Energy Sovereignty in the Context of the Sustainable and Just Energy Transition’ delivered by the Minister of Electricity, Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC),UP as well as the University of Johannesburg, called the Just Energy Transition Platform (JET Platform).

Ramokgopa has been a figure of public interest for his controversial decision to decommission the Komati power station. It is believed that he was influenced by financial gain and pressure to transition to more environmentally sustainable alternatives.

In opposition, the Extinction Rebellion is an international non-violent civil disobedience movement fighting against climate and ecological collapse. According to spokesperson Cameron Rodrigues, the purpose of the protest was to hold the Minister accountable for the false comments he has made in the last few weeks. Rodrigues said “It was a civil action, a couple of people made statements and raised questions. It was meant to be disruptive but not ungovernable.”

They also added that, “He has claimed the government was forced to shut down Komati power station ahead of its time due to ‘forces’ pushing for renewables via the government’s own Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET
IP). And he also claimed Komati was producing 1000 megawatts before its mothballing and that the community around the power station is now a ghost town because all of this was forcibly rushed. None of these claims are true.”

Rodrigues then went on to say that “Ramokgopa’s description of Komati did not match its condition prior to its closure last year and when Bloomberg reporters visited the plant in early 2021 only one of its nine generating units were still operating, meaning it was producing just over 100 megawatts. The town surrounding the plant was rundown, and there was little evidence of economic activity.”

According to Extinction Rebellion’s Instagram post, the Presidential Climate Commission holds that “South Africa needs a plan based on trust”, but the event organisers told members that it wasn’t the right time to express their frustrations and reassured the delegates that proceedings would carry on as planned.

The protestors from Extinction Rebellion were escorted off the premises by security and the event continued.