The City of Cape Town on 20 July made the pledge to disinvest from fossil fuels. If a group of students get their way, Stellenbosch will be divesting from fossil fuels in the near future.
The Stellenbosch chapter of Fossil Free for Africa has been trying to rally student support in order to push the university onto a more environmentally friendly investment path.
Divestment, according to 350Africa, simply means “getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous”. This type of movement has been seen in the past with sanctions against the apartheid government and in pressures on the tobacco industry.
At a poorly attended event on the Rooiplein in Stellenbosch, Christiaan Meyer from Fossil Free Stellenbosch said that “a tertiary education institution should be at the forefront of social change because the students are the future leaders of the country.”
He explained that supporting fossil fuel industries meant that the institution was supporting a “future of climate catastrophe that directly affects our communities and livelihoods”.
The Stellenbosch group said that at this point the University is not willing to directly influence the investment mandate of their portfolio managers but they are willing to continue the discussion.
“Their concerns lie with the possible effects of interference with an independent investment mandate, and financial viability of divestment,” according to the Fossil Free Stellenbosch group.
Elizabeth Espach, one student who attended the meeting, said that she believed the event was poorly attended because few students in Stellenbosch care enough to show up when called upon.
“I think it’s such an important movement. It needs some enthusiasm and maybe more marketing, perhaps an explanation that will get more people on board. But on the whole i do fear that us Stellies kids care far less for the bigger picture,” she said.
Patricia de Lille, the mayor of the city of Cape Town, announced in a statement released on the City’s website in June that the city will divest from fossil fuel assets and companies in favour of greener and cleaner investments which are in line with our vision of a sustainable future.
350Africa believes that it is possible for South Africa to achieve its development goals while reducing energy emissions. However, they believe that “without commitment from, or massive challenge to, the vested interests (including government) that still control resource and investment decisions today, policy will not translate into action.” – Dalaine Krige