Makoma Lekalakala is a South African activist who is the director of the Johannesburg branch of Earthlife Africa, she was awarded the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize for the African region for their work on using the courts to stop a Russian-South African nuclear deal in 2017.Lekalakala is no stranger to standing up to those in power. The activist grew up in Soweto under apartheid and joined the liberation struggle as a young woman. In 2008, she turned her attention to environmental justice. The NGO’s work has never been more urgent. The effects of climate change are increasingly being felt across the world and, according to a huge UN report last year, there are only 12 years left to avoid a catastrophe.Lekalakala therefore advocates on widespread issues in South Africa, from pollution to water scarcity. The achievement for which she is best known, however, was stopping the construction of eight to ten nuclear power stations in 2017.
Nuclear energy has been promoted as green energy, but the negative environmental impacts of the nuclear industry are substantial. For every pound of enriched uranium that goes into a nuclear reactor, more than 25,000 pounds of radioactive waste are produced in the mining and processing of uranium. Used reactor fuel remains extremely hot for hundreds of years and radioactive for thousands of years. Since South Africa currently has one nuclear power station, a deal would have been a dream for countries like the US and Russia due to their high dependency over nuclear power. South Africa is also known for being a dumping ground for nuclear waste according to an article written in Goldmanproze: Countries have been burying nuclear waste in the Namaqualand desert since the 80s. This sort of event is what prompted South Africa to make a deal with Russia to create 10 nuclear power stations throughout the country. In consequence, the nuclear waste dumped around the country would have affected various biomes for example raising the temperature of marine ecosystems. Other consequences include seismic activity similar to the one that occurred in Japan’s plant in 2011. Thanks to Makoma Lekalakala advice and consultations during the process of agreement, the South African high court decided to pull out of the contract due to how “unlawful” and “unconstitutional” the idea was.
What I found the most courageous about Makoma Lekalakala is how she managed go against high position people and managed to provide better solutions and alternatives to providing more electricity to the country than most politicians in the high court who only managed to see the easy and money route rather than the cleaner direction.