South Africa’s Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said non-governmental organizations funded by US philanthropic groups are stifling economic development.
Environmental groups have blocked exploration activity by Shell and other companies searching for hydrocarbons in South African waters through legal action.
TotalEnergies is planning to look for resources off the West Coast after making earlier discoveries.
“Climate change standards are set by the developed nations and imposed on the developing nations,” Mantashe said at an oil conference in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“Foreign-funded non-governmental organizations are also being used to weaponize environmental preservation to block development in developing nations.”
Mantashe’s remarks follow President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments at the United Nations castigating industrialized nations for not honouring a 2009 commitment to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance.
African leaders have said they need to develop their natural resources, while rich nations — responsible for the biggest share of emissions — are dictating their agenda to de-carbonize.
Mantashe said US funding was behind the nonprofits opposed to oil exploration, adding that the Ford Foundation and George Soros Foundation fund many organizations.
“South Africa has a constitution that allows civil activists to have their voices heard,” Liziwe McDaid, strategic lead at The Green Connection, an environmental nonprofit that has opposed a number of fossil-fuel projects in South Africa, adding that the group doesn’t oppose development. “We need to protect that right.”
The minister pointed out successful oil and gas developments in neighbouring Mozambique and Namibia, while South Africa has become mired in legal issues.
“We’re not going to run away from NGOs. If they take us to court, we will go to court with them regularly,” Mantashe said. “We can’t give up development out of fear.”