Climate activists refuse to be silenced by arrests

Pickets outside Standard Bank will continue, says Extinction Rebellion

By Masego Mafata

13 March 2024

Photo of protesters

Climate activists have been picketing weekly since September last year, calling on Standard Bank’s senior officials Kenny Fihla and Sim Tshabalala to engage in a public debate with them over the funding of fossil fuels. Photo: Masego Mafata

About 80 activists from Extinction Rebellion Gauteng, #StopEACOP and Mining Affected Communities United in Action picketed outside Standard Bank headquarters in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Wednesday morning.

The protest was in solidarity with climate activists who were arrested at a three-day protest in September last year and at a picket on Friday last week.

“We will keep coming back because you cannot kill an idea whose time has come,” said Zaki Mamdoo from #StopEACOP, a campaign to stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project.

Extinction Rebellion Gauteng has picketed weekly in Rosebank since September 2023, calling on Standard Bank to stop investing in fossil fuels and to withdraw from the pipeline project.

Climate advocacy groups are campaigning against the pipeline taking oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to Tanzania’s Tanga port for global export. Besides being an extractive fossil fuel project, activists say it will have a negative impact on biodiversity and displace communities in its path.

The groups want a public debate with Standard Bank’s investment banking head, Kenny Fihla, and its group head, Sim Tshabalala, over what the protesters say are contradictions between the bank’s climate policy and its continued funding of fossil fuel projects.

On Wednesday, picketers were met by a large force of private security, SAPS and Metro police with a Nyala.

Protesters previously arrested appeared in the Hillbrow Magistrates’ Court on Monday. Angelo Doyle, arrested during a three-day campout at the bank in September, was charged with public violence and common assault. He has made 13 court appearances. The case was postponed until 28 March for possible mediation.

Extinction Rebellion’s Malik Dasoo was arrested on Friday within minutes of arriving at the picket. He says he was arrested without warning and detained for seven hours before being released on bail. He was charged with public violence and inciting public violence. However, in court on Monday, the prosecutor declined to prosecute him.

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom said the bank is “open to meaningful dialogue with all organisations … and has had engagements with Extinction Rebellion”.

Linstrom said, “Since the launch of its climate policy in March 2022, Standard Bank has been tracking ahead of its target to raise between R250-billion to R300-billion for sustainable finance by the end of 2026.”

He denied “any use of excessive force”.

But Extinction Rebellion’s Grace Alter says they are met with “an increasing and disproportionate police presence”.