Climate justice activists want President Cyril Ramaphosa, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and ministers to be charged with culpable homicide following the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal that killed more than 400 people.
In a statement, the Climate Justice Charter Movement said they wanted Ramaphosa, Zikalala, deputy chairperson of the Presidential Climate Commission Valli Moosa, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, and Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy charged.
The climate activists said the South African government had failed to take climate crisis seriously.
“The South African government has failed to take the climate crisis seriously and it must be held accountable for its dereliction of duty.
“The South African government has been part of the UN-COP and International Panel on Climate Change process since the early 1990s. Almost three decades later, not much has happened to protect South Africa from the worsening climate crisis,” the activists said.
“There is a clear pattern of destructive and extreme weather patterns in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) as a result of the climate crisis. La Niña induced droughts from 2014 to 2016, decimated livestock and crop farming across the province, leaving many subsistence farmers without food.”
The group said South Africa could have been on a climate emergency a long time ago, should the government have taken its Paris Climate commitments seriously.
“We are not dealing with a ‘natural disaster’ which could not be foreseen, given the urgencies and concerns raised by climate science and lived experience. If the South African government took its Paris Climate commitments seriously, heeded climate science and appreciated the pattern of extreme climate impacts in everyday life, the country would have been on a climate emergency footing a long time ago.“
They said the harms of the flood in KwaZulu-Natal were the result of an uncaring, rotten, corrupt and failing government, at the national, provincial and local government levels.
“Instead of looting, mismanagement and fomenting violence, the ANC in power in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) should have been using public money to upgrade infrastructure, provide homes, provide a lead in mitigation, adaptation and ultimately the deep, just transition. Instead, it has brought great harm to the people.”
The group said in 2020 they called on the government to adopt the Climate Justice Charter endorsed by 261 organisations, and to put the entire country on a climate emergency footing to deal with the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.
“We shared a climate science document prepared by South Africa’s leading climate scientists on the dangerous climate future we face and the need for action. We also shared a memorandum from communities with Parliament wanting an end to hunger, thirst, pollution and climate harm.
“We have been ignored. We reiterated this call in 2021 when we gathered outside our Parliament on November 9, 2021. We were ignored again.”
According to Climate Justice Charter Movement, climate justice activists opened cases at the Johannesburg Central police station and Mayville police station on April 14.