Africa contributes less than 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Why should the continent care about global warming? 

I believe that we are in a climate emergency when I look at the extreme weather events in this country and around the world. I have no doubt, I have seen pictures of floods in Europe that scared me and the one thing that scares me even more is that, yes, we are in this pandemic, have we actually looked at the link between the Covid pandemic and the broader climate change issues? 

Have we really researched that? Are we satisfied that this is it or are we going to face more pandemics like this? What is the science telling us?

Climate change doesn’t discriminate. It is affecting all of us in the world. I look at those floods in Europe and, with all the money they had, they couldn’t stop all those cars to be swept away. And I believe that they have got robust systems in place. Their infrastructure is top notch. 

And then, how can a small country like Lesotho, Swaziland, the small island states – how will they cope? These extreme climate events are going to be a regular occurrence. How are we going to start?

South Africa must care if it is going to participate in the multilateral process that is currently underway, must adhere to the Paris Agreement, should become more ambitious in terms of how it is going to cut down its carbon emissions, etc.…

Is it true that climate change affects women a lot more than men? 

Women represent a majority of the poor in South Africa, and, we can say on the continent. We can then draw a conclusion, because we are saying that climate change affects the poor the most. And within that group of the poor, when we look deeper, we find that, like for example in many many rural communities like for example in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, huge populations are women because the men have migrated to provinces like Gauteng where there is economic opportunities. 

I come from Limpopo where Mopani worms, the Marula tree that we process, …people harvest resources, there’s brooms in towns that they’re selling and all of that, they are living the livelihoods of subsistence agriculture, the natural environment and … they are all affected by the impacts of climate change. We’ve seen droughts, we’ve seen floods, we’ve seen unpredictability of natural resources that women have been harvesting. 

I say women because they are – these are the kind of things that they are reliant on in the rural areas and the added burden that women carry in natural disasters, they are the majority in the rural areas - if there’s been a tornado or a flood, they have to move away from their roles of looking after the children, looking after the elderly to now looking at rebuilding. 

We also have studies that show that a lot more women died during the Tsunami? Why? And also that women are more vulnerable in these relief efforts where they are put in churches without considering any private spaces and sanitation and facilities placed outside. Women tend to suffer gender-based violence in those areas. 

How does energy poverty impact poor people?

It does so in different forms. There are opportunities that the poor cannot access like for example to produce clothes and uniforms etc., whatever that would see them start diversifying their livelihoods from subsistence agriculture and doing better. 

The second one is just living a decent life. Having lights just for the children to be able to study. A decent life, right? And these kids are expected to perform miracles to become the leaders of this country in future. We are not going to get them. 

In this century, we shouldn’t have people who are constantly exposed to smoke and coal or wood in closed areas.

It is also about health issues. They continuously use unhealthy energy sources and in this century, we shouldn’t have people who are constantly exposed to smoke and coal or wood in closed areas, because in winter they have got no choice. So you’ve got health impacts, you’ve got economic impacts you’ve got just issues around living a decent life. 

Any final thoughts?

This country has had a water crisis, I believe for many decades. If I think of my village in Limpopo where I come from, we’ve had day zero even before I went to university more than twenty years ago. Now, all of that is being exacerbated by these droughts that are coming as a result of climate change – drier, hotter environment that we are facing. 

If I think of my village in Limpopo where I come from, we’ve had day zero even before I went to university more than twenty years ago.

We need the private sector, we need all of the stakeholders, we need the science, we need the engineers, everyone to come on board in order to solve this problem because this has been ongoing. If you have situations in Limpopo where the mining companies are taking water away from the people – there is a big contest between the mines and the people over access to water. It is also connected to our energy issues as well and we need to look at it in a holistic manner to be able to  get to the heart of it and actually come up with innovations. 

You can catch watch the interview here: