Thursday, February 13, 2014

Zuma's State of the Nation Rent-A-Crowd - An Environmentalists Critique

There was something mildly disturbing watching Zuma's speech. It was difficult to pin point exactly what it was. As his speech came to an end, and the entire crowd spontaneously and instantaneously gave him a standing ovation, it struck me like a cold shower after unprotected sex. Unless the show is outstanding, a standing ovation doesn't usually spontaneously erupt, it spreads with uncertainty. More like the sitting DA representatives who were shown to be looking around them as if to say what the hell are people standing for??? A crowd of overpaid fat cats doesn't just simultaneously and instantaneously rise en masse. For that matter, neither do they clap at 97% of all statements, adding enthusiastic assent to everything that is said. Clapping is hard work and painful. One metes out one's energy when appropriate, not at every haltingly stated sentence and phrase. No, Zuma's speech had the hallmark of a well-primed audience that was either paid to clap, had heavily vested interest in affairs of state, or threatened with something terrible if they didn't.

Zuma's speech was an unsurprising copy-paste of the ANC manifesto. So, what were the most scary statements about his speech? It seems that Zuma and his cronies are gearing up to rape once again. This time to rape the country of its mineral resources, and desecrate its natural resources in the process. This is a cynics take on statements made during the speech to support this argument.



On Priming the Country for Rampant Environmental Degredation

"Arising out of that process, we have now streamlined regulatory and licensing approvals for environmental impact assessments, water licenses and mining licenses. Parliament is finalizing amendments to the law to give effect to this very positive development, which will cut to under 300 days, the time it takes to start a mine, from application to final approvals. The Deputy President of the Republic continues to facilitate discussions between government, mining companies and labour."
i.e. We're going to ensure that EIA's cause no impediment for development, and are granted water and mining licences without due diligence having been done. We're paving the way for a mass takeover of vast areas of land by corporations.

"And more importantly, industrial relations processes are taking place in a manner consistent with the law. "
i.e. we're changing the law so that it is no longer illegal for industry to pollute, take land from people, and be unaccountable for health problems.

Local mining company near Tzaneen found guilty of environmental damage


"Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licenses."
i.e. Having weighed up the economic risks, with opportunities to make money - we will be uncritically granting licenses to oil industries. Has due diligence been done to the environmental and social risks. They cannot have been done, otherwise the government would not be proceeding with fracking with such zeal.

"Close to 1500 kilometres of new roads or lanes have been built."
Out of 362 000 km of South African roads, this is less than 0.5%. i.e. We've prioritised roads to allow access to mineral resources and coastal developments where previously they were undeveloped or developing slowly. Zuma - if you want to create jobs in the green sector that are sustainable AND positive, how about managing our extensive roadsides for biodiversity?

"We have to work more intensively to develop emerging or black industrialists."
i.e. We will be ensuring that key individuals gain financially from industrial operations like fracking, nuclear power stations, dam building, and manufacturing in general.

On Fracking

"We continue to explore other sources of energy, in line with the Integrated Resource Plan for Energy. The development of petroleum, especially shale gas will be a game-changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy. "
Game-change? Game-killer more like it given that the Karoo is a major source of our meat production. Its not Zuma's call to make whether it will be a game-changer. Its too dependent on gas prices and other uncertainties. What is absolutely certain is that it will have a huge and negative impact on the lifestyles of nearly every South African who passes through a fracked area.

With the uglification of vast areas, the release of trillions of litres of volatile toxins and greenhouse gases, the depletion and contamination of unfathomable amounts of water, displacement of people from homes and massively reduced property prices, the increase in meat prices, the loss of tourism to key areas in the karoo, and the increase in STD's to rural areas - few South Africans will remain untouched by Zuma's grand game-changer.


On Power Stations and Nuclear Power

"Construction is continuing at the new power stations, Medupi in Limpopo, Kusile in Mpumalanga and Ingula near Ladysmith, employing more than 30 000 workers. "
This is an example of unwelcome, misdirected development for the sake of jobs and handouts and payouts, at the expense of the rate-payer, the environment and our health.

"We expect to conclude the procurement of nine thousand six hundred megawatts of nuclear energy."
Zuma recently appointed himself as chair of the National Nuclear Energy Co-ordination Committee. And that "The National Planning Commission commissioned a study by the University of Cape Town's Energy Research Centre that recently found investment in nuclear power was unnecessary for 15 to 25 years and was not cost-effective" (http://bit.ly/1cBWUWH).


Alternative energy would provide jobs, provide increasingly cheaper and long-term energy, and once installed, provide free energy, not require ongoing input of costly coal or gas, not radically drive up the cost of electricity like the construction of Eskom's new power plants. In the light of these statements and in the face of the ongoing threat from Fukushima and cleanup costs that would cripple this country, it seems rash and foolish to be making bold statements about nuclear energy.

On GMO foods and pesticides
Nothing.
However, Zuma does point out the following:
"The first 88 smallholder farmers in this programme supplied the United Nations World Food Programme with 268 tons of maize and beans to send to Lesotho last month. We expect this number to increase."
Almost all our maize is currently GM. The growing body of evidence of impacts of pesticides and the consumption of GMOs on human health are alarmingly increasing.


On Corruption

"South Africans are united in wanting a corruption free society. Fighting corruption within the public service is yielding results. Since the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Hotline by the Public Service Commission, over 13 000 cases of corruption and maladministration have been referred to government departments for further handling and investigation."

Yes, but how many of these cases have resulted in satisfactory impeachment?
"1 542 officials were dismissed from the Public Service.
140 officials were fined their three month salary.
20 officials were demoted
355 officials were given final written warnings.
204 officials were prosecuted. "
This amounts to 2261 officials who have been removed from office or given a slap on the wrist for corruption. In many countries, fraud is a crime for which people are imprisoned. What is a fine of a three month salary, demotion, and written warning relative to the amount gained by fraud?

Conclusion
In spite of the enthusiastic canned clapping, an audible heckling was heard when when Zuma ironically spoke out about corruption. In light of the massive impacts on peoples lives and health that fracking would incur, combined with the ongoing critical lack of adequate health care, it seems that Zuma's penultimate statement: "South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994", might be true - but not for much longer if South Africa's fracking and nuclear potential is allowed to proceed in the wild-west style that Zuma and his band of officials are racing towards.

-TNB
Twitter: @TNBloganist



Thanks to Zapiro for the cartoons.





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