Greenpeace Africa activists fined after climbing up Nelson Mandela Bridge to hang a banner

Attempts by Greenpeace Africa activists to hang a massive banner on the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg on Tuesday in protest against the inclusion of new coal in the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2018 were thwarted by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe released the IRP plan for 2018 on Monday for public comment.

The IRP 2018 plan details the electricity plan for the period until 2030.

The iconic bridge came to a standstill as the JMPD and the fire department tried to get the activists who had climbed up the bridge back down.

JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar told News24 that officers were assisted by the fire department in an attempt to bring the four activists and their manager down.

He said there were no arrests, but that the JMPD had fined them R1 000 each for obstruction of justice and R1 500 each for illegal advertising. 

He said the five were also fined R500 for each of the 20 posters that they had put up on the bridge. 

Greenpeace Africa said on Twitter that the inclusion of new coal in the draft energy plan would make electricity more expensive for all, and be disastrous for water, health, air quality and climate.

The organisation tweeted that the JMPD had taken its posters down.

In a statement released by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) on Tuesday, the Life After Coal Campaign – consisting of Earthlife Africa, the CER, groundWork and Greenpeace Africa – said the inclusion of new coal in the updated IRP draft would cost South Africa close to R20bn. The statement read that this was "more than we need to spend, and will make electricity more expensive for all South Africans".

"If the Department of Energy were to publish the least-cost plan that civil society organisations have been demanding, it would not include any new coal. Allowing the two new coal plants contemplated by the draft IRP to go ahead would be disastrous for water resources, air quality, health, land, and the climate," said the statement.

The Life After Coal Campaign argued that the inclusion of an additional 1 000 MW of new coal-fired power – on top of existing and under-construction coal production – puts the department in conflict with the rights enshrined in the Constitution, "given that there are safer, cleaner, and less expensive energy options available".

"While we recognise the increased emphasis on renewable energy in the draft IRP, unless the minister of energy substantially revises and amends the draft IRP to ensure that the constitutional right to a healthy environment is preserved and protected – and specifically excludes any new coal – the department runs the risk of the IRP being challenged in court," warned Melita Steele, senior climate and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace Africa.