This year the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize was awarded to two brave SA women, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid. The award which recognises the significant achievements of environmental activists was awarded to the women for stopping a secret multibillion dollar nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia to build nuclear power plants in South Africa.
Lekalakala, Director of Earthlife Africa stated “The nuclear deal was a major threat to the livelihood of South African citizens and our quality of life. There are other ways of generating energy, ways that are clean and affordable and puts the power in the hands of the people. It is important, for our sustainability, that we start thinking differently about how we satisfy our energy needs”.
McDaid, Climate Change Coordinator for the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), added “The risks with nuclear are just too high. I believe that if people had the facts they will choose differently, this is what we are doing through our campaigning”. She cited the Chernobyl disaster and Fukushima as examples of the dire consequences of nuclear energy.
The women sued the SA government, then headed by Jacob Zuma, on grounds that the deal had bypassed parliamentary consultation and debate. In April of 2017, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the deal was indeed unlawful and unconstitutional. The women combined resources from their NGOs to make this victory a reality. Though there are concerns the government may revisit the idea, both women believe the Goldman recognition will further their struggle and build a new generation of environmental activists.