02  September 2022

                                 Landmark ruling on the seismic oil exploration in the Wild Coast: The people and planet first before profits.


Oxfam South Africa welcomes the ruling of Judge President Mbenenge, presiding over the court case on the seismic oil exploration in the Wild Coast. The ruling set aside oil exploration rights of Shell. The oil company had been granted the exploration right to conduct seismic surveys on the Wild Coast of South Africa despite protestations by subsistence fisher communities and environmental justice activists that the survey will cause significant environmental harm, which has a negative impact on sustainable livelihoods. Concerned communities also raised the lack of adequate consultation with ocean-facing communities that were going to be largely impacted by the project.

The court case was brought by Sustaining the Wild Coast NPC, Wild Coast communities, Wild Coast small-scale fishers, and All Rise Attorneys for Climate and the Environment NPC, represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Richard Spoor Attorneys. Natural Justice and Oxfam South Africa who are partners to the African Activists for Climate Justice project and Greenpeace Africa joined the court case and were represented by an environmental law firm, Cullinans, and Associates.  Ultimately, the case was about the rights of communities to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), an international legal principle which says that the full and informed consent of communities to be impacted by mega projects must be obtained prior to the commencement of such projects.

In the context of the impending climate disaster characterized by extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding, and wildfires, among others, Oxfam South Africa’s position is that a just energy transition to low carbon development must be socially inclusive and should deliver socio-economic outcomes for marginalized communities who are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The direction of this system change must be determined by the needs of those at the coalface of the climate change crisis. Therefore, their lived experiences should be centered in the ongoing public discourse and by focusing particularly on excluded and vulnerable groups such as women, youth, and indigenous people.

It is high time the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy put the people and planet first before profits. Oxfam South Africa is encouraged by the efforts of environmental rights activists and communities and remains committed to supporting interventions that seek to advocate and promote FPIC.

“The judgment sets a precedent that multinationals should not insult the intelligence of ordinary communities. It recognized the importance of public participation which these multinationals don’t consider as an important factor. Fishing and coastal communities mustn’t be taken for granted in terms of decision-making on issues that will affect them and the environment negatively. It’s a big win, but we know for a fact they will try to maneuver to get what they want, that is why we are having briefings with a number of civil society organizations to develop a strategy on a way forward,” said Owen Ndidi from our partner organization, the Eastern Cape Environmental Network

“This is not the end of the fight, there is still a long way to go as Shell might appeal. Even if they don’t appeal, the fight continues and we are going to continue ensuring that these processes are done in such a way that protects human rights and the planet. The economic recession we are facing will push more private companies to come and destroy the planet and displace many communities,” Said Nonhle Mbuthuma from our partner organization, the Amadiba Crisis Committee

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