Exploration of oil by French company Total off the coast of south Africa

17 Feb 2019

One of the most bizarre things South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his state of the nation address during the opening of parliament on the 10th of February 2019 is that South Africa has granted prospecting rights to a French company Total for the exploration of oil off the coast of South Africa. He said it without batting an eyelid.

Yesterday I addressed one of the things he said in that state of the nation address about the unbundling of the power utility Eskom. Ramaphosa is trading in euphemisms. Unbundling, like restructuring, is a euphemism for privatisation. Be that as it may this article seeks to address the ramifications of oil exploration by French company Total off the coast of South Africa.
Geopolitically, South Africa is the envy of the imperialist West because it is located at a strategic position at the southern tip of the African continent with excess to two Oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian. The coasts of these Oceans, as far as I am aware, are still in their pristine condition. Besides trying to turn South Africa into an imperialist and a colonial outpost of the West, Ramaphosa’s ANC government wants to pollute the pristine coasts of South Africa because the petroleum drilling is a dirty and polluting industry.

Moreover, many South Africans were hearing for the first time about that polluting imperialist project. There was no consultation with the people of South Africa; yet the ANC government trumpets itself as a democratic state. The hallmarks of a truly democratic state are consultation, accountability and transparency. There is a paucity of this lofty ideals in the ANC government because the ANC government takes the African people for granted.

Is it true that the French company Total is going to do oil prospecting and exploration or they knew all along that there is oil at the shores of South Africa? Information that is available shows that through satellite technology, the US knew as far back as 1950 what mineral deposits existed and where throughout the globe. That is the reason they knew that Zimbabwe’s mineral deposits can supply the West for five hundred (500) years. If the US has information about which country has what minerals deposits, it is possible that France knows there is oil at the coast of South Africa and pretends it is coming to do prospecting.

Has the ANC government suddenly forgotten what France did in Algeria during the colonial period? Haven’t ANC leaders read the accounts of the atrocities of France on the Algerian people and the racism of the French people from Martinican revolutionary intellectual Frantz Fanon? Is the ANC government not aware what France is doing right now in its former colonies in West Africa? France literally controls the currencies and foreign reserves of many, if not, all of its former colonies to give carte blanche to a French company the rights to do prospecting in South Africa.

During apartheid, South Africa was over mined using the blood, sweat and tears of the African people; yet the mineral wealth benefitted foreigners as Miriam Makeba's Sesotho song Gauteng says. She says in that song that Africans have been turned into slaves in the land of their forefathers. This song and the one she sings about Robert Sobukwe, especially the one she sings about Sobukwe are never played in the South African radio stations. Even today South African miners are still slaves in the land of their forefathers. They work for a pittance under dangerous conditions in which they die without consequence. In Australia, miners earn a million Australian dollar a year.

After Botswana’s independence in 1966, minerals including diamonds were discovered. Its first President Sir Seretse Khama convened meetings to solicit the views of wise men and women. Some advised him to wait but he went ahead with the mining of diamonds beginning around 1970. He might not have waited long enough but at least he consulted his people. I am not oblivious of the fact that Botswana’s mineral wealth does not benefit the people of Botswana but De Beers of the Oppenheimers and a handful of that country’s elite.

There is a proposed titanium mine in Xolobeni located in the wild coast region of the Eastern Cape where an Australian company wants to do mining. The ANC government with the Minister of Mineral Affairs Gwede Mantashe in the forefront backs the proposed mining project because they are going to receive kickbacks.

The decision by the ANC government to support the Australian company Mineral Commodities’ application for mining rights was challenged by the local community who would be affected by the mine. The conflict involved violence and one of the community members who chaired the community organisation was assassinated in 2016. The Xolobeni community recently won a court case against the ANC. Mantashe now suggested that that there be a referendum. But he does not have the power to call for a referendum. There has been issues of national importance which screamed out loud for the holding of a referendum such as, for example, the redrafting of the country’s elite constitution and the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank but the likes of Mantashe have not called for the holding of a referendum.

From my experience in Canada if my memory serves me well, when a community is against mining the government of the day does not insist let alone calling for a referendum after losing a court challenge. There were communities in Canada who were against the mining of one or the other radioactive mineral. The government relented.

Mining is not the exclusive prerogative of the ANC government, the President and cabinet ministers. Democracy entails consultation, accountability and transparency. Ramaphosa and Mantashe should accord a little respect for the people of South Africa instead of looking at what is in it for them and the ruling party.