South Africa: Don’t frack with the Karoo

Africa Files

African Charter Article# 24: All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favorable to their development.

Summary & Comment: A number of groups gathered in Steylerville to expose the problems and difficulties of drilling and fracking for methane gas for the communities in the Karoo and for Mother Earth. They also linked with other regional and international groups.

Statement of the participants to a dialogue on fracking held in the Karoo town of Steylerville on the 22nd and 23rd of May.

Several transnational corporations, including Shell, Falcon and Bundu, propose using hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) to extract methane gas from shale rock deep beneath the Karoo. Commercial scale fracking has so far proved viable only in the USA where it has polluted the land, the groundwater and the air and so damaged people’s health and their existing livelihoods.

Mindful of this destruction, we gathered in Steylerville for a dialogue of people who live in the Karoo and concerned organisations from throughout South Africa on a transformative agenda in response to the proposals for fracking.

The objectives of the discussions were: –

To strengthen the voice of local communities who will bear the brunt of the impact of fracking on their health and environments (especially the Karoo’s precious water), and will face job losses, social dislocation, further food insecurity and a destruction of the sense of place which the people of the Karoo value.

-To develop a co-ordinated fracking response with a transformative agenda raising issues of economic, social and environmental transformation. –

To link with other national and international initiatives aimed at mobilizing and strengthening the voice of people whose lives are impacted upon by mining, oil and gas.

We believe struggle has to be led and organised by those who are suffering the negative consequences of neo-liberal policies and practices. Those that are in solidarity and support the struggle for a Karoo that provides for the poor must recognise that the organising starts where people are. We believe that our concerns about fracking for gas in the Karoo are similar to the concerns that give rise to the struggles of local people in the Karoo relating to: agrarian transformation; unemployment and decent jobs; the lack of decent levels of affordable basic services and infrastructure; and the inability of local people to access, at minimum, the basic goods of human life, starting with the most basic levels of goods like nutritious food, and safe and comfortable accommodation.

We recognise that as people of the Karoo we are connected to the world by the global crisis we face on the destruction of nature, the failing economic system and an ever more ruthless system of capital accumulation that dehumanises peoples’ labour.

Our struggle in the Karoo is embedded in responding to three challenges: ensuring an agro-ecology based on agrarian reform and food sovereignty; securing the Karoo’s scarce water resources; and ensuring that people have a direct say in how energy is produced and used in the Karoo through the approach of energy sovereignty.

We believe the above approach will allow us as the people of the Karoo to develop a meaningful and locally based response to the proposed fracking for gas in the Karoo and will ensure that we have a clean healthy environment – where people live and work – nurtured by the very way in which people live and work.


Representatives from

small-scale farmer groups, farm workers and dwellers

and advice offices in the Karoo Southern Cape Land Committee

Earthlife Africa

Cape Town Earthlife Africa

Johannesburg’s Sustainable Energy and Climate Change

Project Groundwork,

Friends of the Earth,

South Africa Oilwatch Africa

Casual Worker’s Advice Office

Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG)

Eastern Cape Environmental Justice Network Ilrig

Faith leaders

Independent researchers and academics from Rhodes, UCT and Wits Universities