Tomorrow, 15 November, Open Secrets launches its latest report: Who Has the Power? South Africa’s Energy Profiteers. The report is Open Secrets’ first to investigate South Africa’s energy sector and climate crisis. And shines a light on the private interests who seek to profit from South Africa’s current energy crisis and proposed energy transition. It maps the some of the prominent networks of private corporate power in the coal, diesel, gas and renewable energy industries. We call the corporations that dominate these sectors ‘energy profiteers’. The report focuses not only on the corporate actors that profit from South Africa’s current reliance on fossil fuels, but also those that are benefiting from the transition to renewable energy sources.
South Africa is at a critical point, facing complex socioeconomic, climate, and energy crises. The rising costs of electricity, and continued lack of access to power by millions of people in South Africa has further contributed to a strained grid that is currently dependent on fossil fuels to function. This report highlights a disjointed and disconnected approach to South Africa’s energy transition. Whether it is the continued investment in outdated and dangerous fossil fuels, or a haphazard shift to renewable energy sources, the evidence is that corporations are currently set to be the key beneficiaries. Such an approach will in all likelihood maintain the status quo and not address the multiple overlapping crises in South Africa that have emerged in part from a deference to private interests. South Africa cannot afford more of the same.
Zen Mathe, investigator at Open Secrets and co-author of Who has the Power? says that: “We focus on corporate actors deliberately, to demonstrate that South Africa’s energy and climate crises are not solely the fault of the state and the result of the collapse of Eskom. In doing so, we hope that the report contributes to the ongoing conversation on the climate crisis and energy transition in South Africa and helps identify those corporate interests that may stand in the way of a just transition. Challenging these, we argue, is fundamental to challenging South Africa’s role in the planetary climate crisis”.
While the report outlines the significant risks to a just transition in South Africa, it also shows that a different way is possible. Drawing on publicly available advocacy and research, the report makes recommendations that ensure that South Africa’s energy transition not only reduces emissions and reduces environmental harm, but does so in a way that disrupts the economic status quo. Such an approach could see the well-being and interests of people put above the profit margins of large corporations, and it would require embracing a different economic model. These recommendations are:
- Regulation and accountability for loss and damage: it is vital that adequate penalties are handed to polluters in new legislation that addresses climate change. It is also important to hold corporations and the government accountable for the harms their conduct has caused to the environment and health of people in the past.
- Listen to the people, not corporations: large corporations’ access to law makers and state institutions currently outweighs that of civil society and affected communities. Public officials should work to ensure that this access does not give corporations a greater day in policy. Previously marginalised voices must be included in decision-making processes in order to actualise a just transition that disrupts the power imbalances in the energy sector.
- Greater transparency: the state and state-owned enterprises need to proactively publish detailed information about all procurement and other energy related contracts in South Africa.
- No more monopolies: the just transition in South Africa must provide opportunities to communities and other members of society to take part in and benefit from energy production and its use.
- Follow the money: the potential corruption of politics through the funding of political parties or individual politicians by influential lobby groups with vested interests in the fossil fuels industry needs to be closely monitored.
The report goes live at 9h00 on the 15th of November 2023, you can download it here
For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Mamello Mosiana, Head of Campaigns, firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Secrets is committed to investigative work on private actors who profiteer in South Africa’s energy sector. If you have information that you think would help us, particularly information linked to any allegations of wrongdoing or corruption, we encourage you to get in touch with us. Contact us at email@example.com or on Signal at +27725650173
Attend the Launch
Open Secrets’ Michael Marchant will be in conversation with Zen Mathe, Abby May and Luthando Vilakazi. Activist and author, Kumi Naidoo will also be delivering a keynote address.
15 November 2023,
Bertha House, 67,69 Main Road, Mowbray, Cape Town