YOU know when your heart is really set on something and then someone or something pulls the rug out from under your feet leaving you on your backside with an embarrassing face?
That’s now it is with this optimist, perhaps naive optimist, when I thought that LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) could be our saviour in the energy crisis.
I waxed lyrical, quoting US examples about transforming Eskom’s coal burning dinosaurs to clean burning LNG supplied from our cousins in Mozambique via the jointly developed Sasol pipeline – simply tee off to supply the aging coal fired power stations in Mpumalanga – job done! Modernize the power grid and drastically reduce environmental pollution at a stroke!
And LNG supplies to the now non-existent depot in Saldanha by ship could supply the greedy overpriced diesel powered standby Eskom generators in Atlantis. LNG I’d read, could supply new generation capacity in Cape Town via a viable pipeline running down the West Coast, supplying businesses along the way – Oh the vision!
Now the reality.
LNG is front and center of issues which are not concerned with abundant and cheap, non-polluting supplies from the northern Mozambique gas fields.
Yes, the gas finds in that region are amongst if not the biggest reserves yet discovered but and there’s that three letter word that haunts every project feasibility – BUT.
Amongst much hand wringing by the African Energy Chamber, Total has pulled out of the development of the Cabo Delgado gas fields, claiming “force majeure” as their interests and personnel couldn’t be protected by the Mozambique military from radical Islamic insurgents terrorizing and overrunning the area. It seems that even with the help of South African and Russian mercenaries, Mozambique couldn’t contain the insurgents who have gained a vital foothold in this energy rich region.
SADC, European and the US offered help – military assistance – to reclaim this important area, but were rebuffed by the Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi. With such massive resources this development project could have transformed this poor country and its people and the whole SADC region into an industrial powerhouse.
It’s the naïve dreamer talking again.
Well, this is where that ugly word, corruption and the equally repugnant word, drugs enter the narrative.
Inviting international agencies into Mozambique to counter and eradicate the Islamic insurgents would draw unwelcomed attention to the very lucrative drugs trade that uses deep water harbours and dhows to tranship heroin.
As journalist RW Johnson writes in an opinion piece in Politicsweb;
“The major point to grasp is that heroin has been Mozambique’s biggest single export for two decades and that the trade is increasing. The heroin comes from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, arrives off the northern Mozambique coast by dhow, where it is off-loaded onto smaller boats, warehoused in Cabo Delgado and then transported to Johannesburg by road.
“If it is in a container it goes to City Deep Container Terminal, if not, it goes through O.R. Tambo airport – both destinations being notoriously corrupt – and is then trans-shipped to Europe (a certain amount of dagga and mandrax (methaqualone) also finds its way into the South African market).”
These drugs also find their way to Australia and New Zealand where authorities are dealing with a substantial, seldom reported drug problem. In fact anywhere where there is an affluent population is a target for drug cartels and tightening enforcement in the US and elsewhere has made Mozambique’s largely un-policed northern regions a perfect spot to distribute their filthy wares, with of course, the collaboration of a corrupt government.
Despite Sasol’s huge but now under controlled debt problem, its sell off of its interest in the gas pipeline were no doubt influenced in part by the instability in the region and the overlying drug transit operation.
Oh, what could have been.