17 Feb 20211, Johannesburg — Air pollution in South Africa has reached dangerously unhealthy levels.  Twice in the last week residents across several communities in Johannesburg and Pretoria were exposed to high levels of Sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution. In response, Greenpeace Africa Climate and Energy Campaigner Thandile Chinyavanhu has said: 

“What we experienced across in Johannesburg and Pretoria this weekend is only a  a glimpse of the reality communities of Kriel and Secunda in Mpumalanga experience on a daily basis. In the past year Minister Barbra Creecy has ensured that incidents such as this will become more regular, through weakening the minimum emissions standards (MES) and approving Sasol’s application for postponement from compliance with the MES. 

“The current air conditions are not only dangerous to children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions but also the thousands of South Africans battling COVID-19 infection. The lack of transparency and accountability are concerning; neither Eskom nor Sasol have claimed responsibility for the emissions, in accordance with Section 30 of Nema. They remind us again that people are not their priority, and DEFF reminds us that they are inept at regulating these entities.”

Greenpeace Africa demands

  1. Minster Barbra Creecy revise the weakening of the minimum emission standards to avoid further incidents  such as this from reoccurring, 
  2. DEFF disclose the circumstances around this emission, the source of the emission, the length of this incident  and  what they are doing in the interest of public health, and
  3. DEFF act accordingly against the culprit of the emissions and halts activity in this regard.



[1] Pollution from Mpumalanga contributes significantly to air pollution levels in Tshwane and Johannesburg. See report here.

[2] Greenpeace Africa Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Pollution Hotspots in South Africa: 2019-2020 report of November 2020 outlines the following recommendations for Emissions Reduction 

  1. The South African Government to halt all investment in fossil fuels and shift to safer, more sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar, 
  2. Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy to strengthen SO2 emissions standards by reinstating South Africa’s 500 mg/Nm3 minimum emission standard and applying flue gas pollution control technology at power plants, smelters, and other industrial SO2 emitters, 
  3. South Africa’s National Air Quality Officer, Dr Thuli Khumalo, to enforce existing minimum emission standards, South African Government and that coal-fired power stations or units that cannot comply with existing standards be decommissioned,
  4. The South African Government to implement an air pollution action plan for Mpumalanga, Johannesburg, Pretoria and all high priority areas that: 
  •  aligns with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines for ambient air, 
  •  implements concrete measures and takes decisive action to improve the air quality in the regions and ensure compliance with South Africa’s Minimum emission standard within the next five years, and 
  •  installs independent continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) and receptor monitoring in the affected communities for different pollutants, making the data available to the public and informing decision making,
  1. Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe to revise the commitments made in the Integrated Energy Plan and, 
  •  abandon plans for installing new coal-fired power stations of 1500 MW capacity scheduled for 2023 and 2027, and 
  •  increase uptake and implementation of renewable energy generation capacity through radical and deliberate policies and programmes
  1. the South African Government to ensure the development of a comprehensive and inclusive Just Transition programme that moves the country away from the use of fossil fuels to cleaner and sustainable energy.

[3] Greenpeace Africa has responded to Eskom’s application for postponement from compliance with Minimum Emissions Standards previously. The Press Release can be found here

Contact Details
Chris Vlavianos, Greenpeace Africa Communications Officer, +2779 883 7036, [email protected]

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