groundWork Launches The Destruction of the Highveld. Part 2: Burning Coal

Press Release

20 November 2017, Pietermartizburg: Eskom’s coal addiction is causing health problems and killing people in the Highveld. These were the findings of groundWork’s report; Destruction of the Highveld: Part 2. The research follows coal struggles faced by those who live and work in the Highveld.

The launch is set to take place in KwaGuqa, eMalahleni on Monday 20 November, 13:00 – 16:00. Communities, workers and local activists will gather to discuss the research report. The report will then head to Johannesburg, at The Cottages, to be launched on, Tuesday 21 November

groundWork Reports are produced annually to reflect on the state of environmental injustice. In 2016, The Destruction of the Highveld Part 1 focused on the politics and impacts of mining coal. This year, Part 2 focuses on burning coal and the dirty politics that accompanies it – in Eskom’s power stations, in Sasol’s coal-to-liquids petrochemical plants, and in the big metal smelters that dominate the industrial landscape of eMalahleni and Middelburg. These are the industries at the heart of the minerals-energy complex (MEC) that has shaped South Africa’s development for the last century.

This report documents the experience of fenceline communities and workers and people’s struggles for clean air to breathe. It also reports on the slow and partial responses to this growing environmental health crisis by a reluctant regulator.

groundWork Researcher, David Hallowes had the following to add on the research and coal struggles in Mpumalanga;
“The violence of production hangs in the air of the Highveld. On the one hand, workers are exposed to a volatile and destabilising global market and thousands have lost their jobs in the bitter competition created by the glut of coal, steel and other commodities. On the other, air pollution from big industries burning coal kills thousands of people and workers every year. Hundreds of thousands more suffer debilitating illness.”

This public health scandal goes unseen. The health system does not register what is happening and these deaths and illnesses are not reported in official records or in the media. It is not just that the bodies cannot be lined up for inspection. The majority of those who die early are poor and live alongside the polluting plants, that leave trails of destruction through polluting the air, water,land and every corner of the Highveld where they operate.

That the deaths because of the destuction of air, water and land remain invisible is convenient to the political and economic elite. The environmental injustice and racism of the apartheid regime was handed on to the new South Africa as if it were natural to development.

Report Link: here.


Zinzile Sibanda
Intern, groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Tel (M): +27 (0) 74 695 9970
Email: [email protected]

David Hallowes
Author and Researcher, groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Tel (m): +27 (0) 83 262 4922
Email: [email protected]

Victor Munnik
Author and Researcher, groundwork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Tel (m): +27 (0) 82 906 3699
Email: [email protected]

Kind Regards

Nombulelo Shange
Media and Communications Manager
groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa
Tel (W): +27 (0)33 342 5662
Tel (M): +27 (0)74 874 2177