Join Prof Thuli Mphambukeli (HOD: Urban and Regional Planning) as she presents a talk on: “The political economy of energy provisioning and profiteering nexus in South Africa: The case of Emalahleni – the coal city / Witbank, South Africa” Helsinki University, Finland

The Emalahleni Local Municipality, famously known as Witbank, the Coal City, is one of the largest coal producers and exporters of coal in the world and South Africa’s main energy-producing area. However, despite the Municipality being the custodian of the natural environment, its control over mining activities is constrained by many factors, including coal swapping. As inequality remains inevitable in our modern society between people with higher socioeconomic status and people living below the poverty line who struggle to make ends meet. This paper argues that, in terms of load shedding and climate change, the exchange of good coal for bad coal through illegal coal yards and the usage of this coal for energy production has injected more woes than wealth, vis-à-vis its negative impact on the lives of the local communities, particularly the people who live in poverty, of whom the majority are black Africans. Indeed, the colour of poverty in South Africa, and possibly elsewhere, are African black people. This paper seeks to explore the political economy of the energy provisioning and profiteering nexus in Emalahleni, the Coal City in South Africa.

It draws its theoretical framing from an economic concept known as the “tragedy of the commons”, accumulation by dispossession and infrastructural violence. Home to over a hundred coal mines, Emalahleni continues to experience infrastructural violence and accumulation by dispossession where energy provisioning and profiteering are at war with each other. As rich companies profiteer, on the one hand, the poor local communities bear the brunt because residents must fight for their health as coal mining takes its toll on people’s health and livelihoods. On the other hand, the government is overwhelmed with the scale and demands of energy provisioning in South Africa and elsewhere. A systematic literature review incorporating case studies was employed as a methodology. The study was motivated by the fact that the country is experiencing excessive load shedding and environmental degradation, yet other people are benefiting from the crises. The study highlights the gap and a missing link in the provision of energy and health issues associated with coal mining. It paves the way for sustainable use of resources and gives recommendations on both the energy and health policy in South Africa


Date: 09 June 2023

Time: 10:00-11:00 (UTC+02:00) Harare, Pretoria


June 9, 2023

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