Sunday Times

‘SA’s gas ties to Myanmar must end’


● The government is under pressure to cut ties with an oil and gas company linked to the Myanmar regime, and which received a local exploratio­n licence during the Zuma years.

A coalition of eight civil society groups has asked the government to sever ties with Myanmar and its South African business interests in light of human rights abuses in the southeast-Asian country.

Failure to act against Silver Wave Energy would prompt a campaign “to publicise the South African government’s hypocrisy” in dealing with the Myanmar situation, said the group, which includes the South African Federation of Trade Unions.

Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have died at the hands of the Myanmar regime’s security forces, prompting an internatio­nal outcry and calls for sanctions similar to those imposed on SA during apartheid.

Silver Wave Energy holds exploratio­n rights for two massive offshore areas stretching from the Eastern Cape almost as far as the Mozambican maritime border.

The company’s founder and chair, Minn Minn Oung, who could not be reached for comment this week, features himself with former president Jacob Zuma on the company website, which says Oung “has great passion for South Africa like his second home”.

Oung’s father was chief of inland revenue in Myanmar and Silver Wave is a member of the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the website says.

The Petroleum Agency of SA (Pasa) confirmed Silver Wave holds three exploratio­n rights, one of which was recently renewed, but no production rights.

Pasa said it was not aware of calls for the government to sever ties with Silver Wave. “The minister of mineral resources & energy is the executive authority who awards licences and he has not informed Pasa about this,” Pasa said. The department of minerals & energy said it was “confident that all prescribed processes were followed by Pasa in recommendi­ng the approval of Silver Wave Energy’s applicatio­n”.

Veteran human rights campaigner Desmond D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmen­tal Alliance said Silver Wave does not “belong to a democracy. By them being in this country they are re-enacting the pain and suffering of people suppressed during the apartheid regime.”

In their letter to the presidency and several government department­s, the groups raised concern about “failings” in fossil-fuel governance. “In particular, it is the continuati­on of the suspicious generosity the Zuma government offered to Silver Wave Energy that we will be highlighti­ng to the rest of our own society, and the world,” the letter said.

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