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Lorraine Kakaza

Lorraine Kakaza


I can’t run away. If someone is threatening me, it means that what I do is powerful and has an impact, and this keeps me going every day

Lorraine Kakaza is an environmental rights defender from Carolina, a small town in South Africa’s Mpumalange province, near the border with Swaziland. Lorraine has been raising awareness about the detrimental effects of coal mining in her region.

Despite strict regulations on paper that the coal mining industry in the country is subject to,  environmental protection laws are largely ignored. In Lorraine’s region, there are 12 coal-fired power stations and 22 coal mines. This has resulted in high carbon dioxide emissions and heavy metals in the soil and in the water underground. Lorraine says that water in her community is so polluted that it can’t even be used to irrigate the gardens, and provokes skin rashes when used to wash clothes.

In 2013, Lorraine launched a series of podcasts to speak about the problems caused by coal mining and the impact on the everyday live day of local people. She has been repeatedly threatened and harassed because of her efforts to mobilise her community. As part of these efforts to raise awareness, the defender also travels to other communities affected by coal mining, in South Africa and abroad.

South Africa

The Republic of South Africa voted for the adoption of the resolution on the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs) by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18th 2015. Nevertheless, HRDs face threats, intimidation, harassment, and physical attacks, sometimes resulting in death, by private individuals and members of the police force. This is especially true for those human rights defenders working on corporate accountability and the impact of extractive industries on local people and the environment. Moreover, suspected perpetrators often go unpunished. There is overwhelming impunity for those who violate the rights of human rights defenders.