XR Cape Town and Partners Heap Shame on Regional Coal Conference

Cape Town, The Westin Hotel, 30 January 2020

The Southern African Coal Conference is advertised as “…the most relied upon educational and networking event for the Southern African coal market.” This seems a dubious honour, given the well-documented and devastating effects of the coal industry in South Africa and around the world: Eskom’s coal-fired power stations alone are estimated to kill at least 1000 people every year through air pollution; and coal is an aggressive driver of the climate crisis, further intensifying the unprecedented droughts, floods and fires witnessed across the globe in recent years.

On 30 January 2020, Extinction Rebellion Cape Town rallied members and allies to protest the 15th annual conference at The Westin Hotel (of the Marriott Hotel group) in Cape Town. We were especially honoured to be joined by representatives of WoMin and MACUA – frontline activists working in mining-affected communities.

Security was thick on the ground, both inside the hotel and at entrances, with guards interrogating anyone who seemed out of place. Wielding signs, flags and banners and chanting “Coal must go!”, comrades swarmed the half-circle of guards at the main entrance and demanded to be let inside. Some protestors dumped buckets of coal in front of the entrance and sprinkled it with paper canaries. Others played dead in the coal dust as plumes of red vapour from a smoke grenade billowed around them. As the smoke cleared, angry chanting gave way to soaring struggle songs, and the street theatre proceeded with the arrival of the Red Rebels – their blank white faces and “blood-drenched” robes foretelling the horrors of a coal-fired future.

One after another, speakers from XR and partner organisations took the megaphone to make our message clear: coal is killing our people, killing our economy and killing our planet; and we are not going to take it lying down.

Article by Andrew Park

Correction: A misreading of our press statement gave rise to a rumour that the conference venue had been moved to Cape Town so that mining-affected communities would not be able to protest it. We have no reason to believe that this is true. Unfortunately, this rumour made its way back into XR and was repeated by some of our members in the press. We apologise for any confusion this may have caused.