In 2016, ‘two men pretending to be police officers’ murdered Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe the founder of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, an environmental group opposed to mining in Umgungundlovu in Eastern Mpondoland.
In November this year, Fikile Ntshangase, deputy chairperson of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, was assassinated amid ‘claims of death threats and bullying by those in favour of the expansion of Somkhele Coal Mine, which requires the relocation of 21 families, which Ntshangase opposed’.
Instead of releasing paid advertising promoting their house brand, one would have expected WWF and others, to stand up in solidarity against the slaughter of environmentalists. The latest round of ‘leadership’ material glosses over the fact that environmental justice leaders are being killed and assassinated as we speak.
South Africa’s environmental justice movement originates in the tumultuous period in which organisations such as End Conscription Campaign were being banned. In particular, Earthlife Africa arose as a broad movement for environmental justice which broke terrain by being inclusive of human development and issues affecting ordinary black citizens.
Having linked the environment to apartheid and its deleterious effect on our climate and habitat, environmental justices activists such as myself, took to the streets in successive waves of protest action over the decades. However it is abundantly clear that bankers and financiers are seeking to control this narrative by a strategy of ‘electing’ leaders within the movement.
A newsbrief posted this past month bluntly states: ‘WWF Nedbank Green Trust environmental leaders graduate internship programme has been dedicated to developing the leadership capacity of graduates who want to contribute to a better environment’.
WWF is an organisation co-founded by apartheid financier Anton Rupert, the man responsible for creating a National Party sponsored cabal which continues to ignore the massive contribution of organisations such as Earthlife Africa, Environmental Justice Network and allied organisations.
In 2018 ELA national director Makoma Lekalakala was named co-winner of the prestigious Goldman Award alongside Liz McDaid of SAFCEI, a Southern African multi-faith institute addressing environmental injustice. Unlike ELA, SAFCEI is considered inside of the fold of the WWF Nedbank alliance. It took a foreign award to recognise the achievements of both parties.
Banks and corporate South Africa need to be told that they while they are free to support environmentalism, promoting their own favourites as ‘leaders’ whilst ignoring the immense sacrifice of persons such as Fikile Ntshangase and Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe, is nothing more than a gross form of greenwashing, paid propaganda exercises calculated to deflect attention away from obvious holdings in oil, gas and fossil fuel.
Similarly, environmental activists need to be called to account for failing to raise solidarity with the Mfolozi Commmunity. We must take a stand on democratic accountability within the broader environmental justice movement. Leaders should be elected and accountable to membership of their organisations. Fund-raising should be transparent and open to member scrutiny.