EARTHLIFE Africa (ELA), the environmental organisation started by ‘four bearded white men’ during the 1980s, in the aftermath of the banning of the End Conscription Campaign, transformed itself into a national movement headed by women, in the process winning awards.
One black woman in particular, ELA national director Makoma Lekalakala has been named co-winner of the prestigious Goldman Award alongside Liz McDaid of SAFCEI, a Southern African multi-faith institute addressing environmental injustice.
The pair received global accolades for building a powerful coalition to stop the South African government’s massive secret nuclear deal with Russia. This is the first time that a director of Earthlife Africa has received the award.
ELA, alongside SAFCEI, has a long and illustrious history of grassroots activism and coalition-building on environmental justice issues.
From the early days of the environmental alliance with workers affected by mercury poisoning (Thor Chemicals) and asbestos, (both well-known international cases), to several coalitions which evolved around various nuclear deals — the now mothballed R10bn PBMR programme and subsequent programmes — Earthlife Africa has always sought to mobilise issues affecting the earth, human health and human habitat.
The connection between ‘earth rights and human rights’ was a crucial dimension of the broad campaign to include ‘ecological sustainable development’ in South Africa’s constitution. A key element of our democracy.
Defending article 24 via a broad-based environmental justice movement has been a key to the success of the organisation and its latest coalition with SAFCEI.
While the later emergence of the anti-nuclear umbrella organisation known as CANE, which aside from the communities of Eastern Cape (Thyspunt) and Overberg (Bantamsklip), in many respects, dissipated anti-nuclear activism on the ground, failing to draw experience from previous epochs of anti-nuclear activism.
The latest round of coalition-making under the auspices of Makoma and McDaid, has certainly brought home success and international attention.
We wish ELA and SAFCEI well in the future.