March 25, 2022

People’s Tribunal puts DMRE on trial over harmful energy and mining policies, demands Mantashe’s resignation

South Africa — On Friday, youth leaders, civil society groups, trade unions, and grassroots movements under the Climate Justice Coalition held a people’s tribunal, dubbed The People of South Africa vs the DMRE. The People’s Tribunal put the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on trial over corrupt and polluting policies and practices. The tribunal featured testimonies by communities and activists from across the country, detailing how the DMRE harms their communities, the environment and the economy.

The DMRE came under fire for continually allowing polluting corporations to further their interests and prioritise profits over the people of South Africa. The people’s tribunal was held in solidarity with the Global Climate Strikes happening the same day under the theme #PeopleNotProfit. The theme of the strikes is a call to build a global system that values people over profits. The tribunal was a continuation of the coalition’s Uproot the DMRE campaign, which has several demands including a transformed DMRE; the resignation of Minister Gwede Mantashe; rejection of new coal, oil and gas projects; a Green New Eskom and a rapid and just transition to renewable energy for South Africa.

Lungisa Nqapi, an activist working with the Extinction Rebellion, testified to how the people in Nelson Mandela have continued to suffer under the DMRE’s persistence with a fossil fuel agenda. “One of our major problems in Nelson Mandela Bay is the pollution of water sources caused by projects such as Karpowership and systemic testing, which is a precursor to drilling oil and gas off our coast. Such activities put communities that have used the sea’s bounty to survive for generations in a precarious position. We want to point out to the DMRE the dangers of such projects to our marine ecosystems, including biodiversity loss and the decline of life systems. South Africa’s dependence on fossil fuels is unnecessary, given the abundance of sun to produce energy for the entire country. Lungisa says, “the DMRE must get out of the way, and we will help ourselves. We don’t need a department that should be helping us, hurting us.”

Ferron Pedro, Working Class Campaigner of The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), joined the people’s tribunal and expressed that “SAFTU’s position is that the climate crisis is an absolute priority for the working class. The working class and poor communities will face the brunt of climate change. SAFTU calls for a socialist and just transition that priorities environmentally friendly and renewable energy generation in order to protect the livelihoods of mining and energy workers and ultimately the lives all in South Africa who are affected by environmental pollution.”

Alex Lenferna of said, “The voice of the people of South Africa is loud and clear today. The tribunal has exposed the plight of the people who are negatively impacted by the policies of the DMRE. The department, led by Minister Gwede Mantashe, has put the interests of polluting corporations over the needs of the people of South Africa. The department is promoting corrupt, polluting and expensive energy and mining projects, like the powerships, fracking, and new coal power, that are harmful to the people, our environment and our country’s economy. Instead, the DMRE should work towards securing a just energy and mining future that benefits the citizens and not just the corrupt few. We must transform our Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and hold it accountable. In the spirit of the climate strikes theme of #PeopleNotProfit, the needs of the people must come before the polluting profits of an elite few.”

Summarising the matters raised at the people’s tribunal, Cleopatra Shezi of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee urged Minister Gwede Mantashe to listen to the voices of the people of South Africa and accept the evidence that points to the need to transform the DMRE for the benefit of communities. Cleopatra spoke firmly and said, “selfish interests must be put aside – profits can no longer be put before people’s lives. It’s time to listen to the people and accept our demands as a coalition that are consistent with the right to health enshrined in the constitution.”

The people’s tribunal was held during the Climate Justice Coalition gathering in Gauteng, running from the 24-27th of March 2022.

Notes for Editors

  • About “Uproot the DMRE”: 
  • Uproot the DMRE is a campaign by The Climate Justice Coalition (CJC) seeking the transformation of South Africa’s harmful mining and energy sector to ensure a more socially, economically and environmentally just future. More information about the campaign and its demands is available on the Uproot the DMRE website
  • The Climate Justice Coalition is a coalition of South African trade unions, civil society, grassroots, and community-based organisations, working together on advancing a transformative climate justice agenda, which tackles the inequality, poverty and unemployment that pervades South Africa.
  • Photos and videos from the People’s Tribunal can be accessed here (this folder will be updated as the event takes place). All images should be credited to  
  • In case you missed it, you can replay The People’s Tribunal here.


For interviews and additional information, contact:

Boitumelo Masipa

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Telephone:+27 (0) 824529096