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'Green' Extractivism and its Discontents

Green Masquerade: Neo-liberalism, Extractive Renewable Energy Transitions, and the ‘Good’ Anthropocene in South Africa

Mascarade verte : néolibéralisme, transition vers les énergies renouvelables extractives et le ‘bon’ Anthropocène en Afrique du Sud
Parodia verde: neoliberalismo, energías renovables extractivas y antropoceno ‘benévolo’ en Sudáfrica
Michelle Pressend


This chapter examines the ‘green’ energy developments apparent in the South African government’s energy policy and renewable energy programme. In 2011, the South African government introduced the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme as a new policy imperative for electricity generation from renewable energy sources through publicprivate partnerships. The Programme has been hailed for attracting a huge amount of direct foreign investment in climate mitigation in South Africa. This chapter analyses the material nature of the Programme and the publicprivate partnership investment conditions, based on a case study of the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, an electricity generation project initiated prior to the introduction of the Independent Power Producer renewable energy programme on community reclaimed land. This community was a willing partner in the wind energy investment partnership. Despite their inclusion in this techno-capitalist development project, however, the material well-being of members of this community remains unchanged, as does the degraded state of the commercial agricultural land involved. The chapter argues that the capitalist neo-liberal logic of alternative ‘green’ energy interventions in investment models such as this renewable energy programme is embedded in the machinations of the extractivist productivist model through ‘new’ forms of financialisaton for capital accumulation.

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Authors' notes

This chapter is based on my PhD research.

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Coal and the steam engine did not determine the story, and besides the dates are all wrong […] One must surely tell of the networks of sugar, precious metals, [] indigenous genocides, and slavery, with their labour innovations and relocations and recompositions of critters and things sweeping up both human and nonhuman worker of all kinds. The infectious industrial revolution of England mattered hugely, but it is only one player in planet-transforming, historically situated, new enough, worlding relations. The relocation of peoples, microbes, plants, and animals; the leveling of vast forests; and the violent mining of metals preceded the steam engine []. (Haraway, 2016, 5152)

1. Introduction

  • 1 The term Anthropocene was popularized by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer and expresses the capacit (...)

1The term Anthropocene1 suggests that all humans are geological agents insofar as their use of fossil fuels causes climate change, and that they have made indelible impacts on the planet’s stratigraphic record. The dominant scientific narratives suggest the onset of this period coincides with the invention of the steam engine in 1784. But as Donna Haraway (2016, 51) implies, ‘The relocation of peoples, microbes, plants, and animals; the levelling of vast forests; and the violent mining of metals preceded the steam engine […]’ and were underway long before the extraction of coal began. According to Merchant (1980), in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe the understanding of humans’ relationship with the Earth changed in nature from one of a holistic, organic cosmos to a mechanistic and exploitative approach driven by ideals motivated by ideas of human ‘progress’. Structural violence and an extractive relationship disentangled humans and the non-human worlds. The thinking and power of scientific and Cartesian revolutions separated the domain of human relationships in the web of life into dualisms embedded in concepts such as ‘Civilisation and Savage’ and ‘Society and Nature’ (Moore, 2014; 2015b; 2016; 2017; Patel and Moore, 2020). Within this Cartesian dualistic thinking, elements of Western European civilisation assumed the position of ‘masters and processers of nature’ (Descartes in Moore, 2014, 288). Conquest, productivity, and plunder became common sense and commonplace (Patel and Moore, 2020). Cartesian dualism shaped emergent knowledge regimes and ‘the modern logics of power as well as thought’ (Patel and Moore, 2020, 63).

2Tracing backwards in time beyond the invention of the steam engine traces older roots of human-mediated geological impacts. Caroline Merchant (1980) and Jason Moore (2002) show how agrarian land use strategies in medieval Europe can be linked to the planetary transformation that led to the ‘little ice age’, a global climatic cooling. Koch et al. assert that the massive extent of indigenous genocide that took place upon the arrival of Europeans in the Americas led to a decline in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and estimate that ‘55 million indigenous people died following the European conquest of the Americas beginning in 1492’, leading to ‘the abandonment and secondary succession of 56 million hectares of land’ (Koch et al., 2019, 24). The genocide of indigenous people had far-reaching ecological consequences for diversity, abundance, and stability and for their way of life (Cronon 1983).

  • 2 Koch et al. (2019) state that ‘The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas resulted i (...)

3Koch et al. (2019) suggest that land use changes in the sixteenth century significantly increased carbon stored in the land, resulting in cooling phenomena. Their research concludes that the Columbian exchange 2contributed to earth system change before the industrial revolution did so (Koch et al., 2019, 30).

4Moore (2015b) states that the Anthropocene discourse is embedded in the well-worn dualism that has separated human relations from the web of life in binary conceptions such as ‘Civilisation and Savage’ and ‘Society and Nature’. Patel and Moore (2020) capitalise the S and the N of society and nature to reflect the abstractions that both describe the world and make it. Moore (2015b, 3) describes how ontologically, a dualist frame organises ‘Nature’ as something to be ‘coded [and] quantified […] to serve economic growth, social development, or some other higher good’. Patel and Moore (2020) refer to these abstractions or generalisations as statements of ontology and epistemology. They are invisible, and their violence is hidden in the dualisms embedded in an ontology of separation, extraction, and domination (Mignolo, 2013; 2017; Haraway, 2016; French et al., 2020).

5Moving beyond the sources of the pollutants of the Anthropocene, Moore (2015a, 2) states, ‘[f]rom this perspective, the problem is not the “Age of Humans” but the “Age of Capital”. Not Anthropocene, but Capitalocene’. Further declaring that Anthropocene describes ‘what’ is the cause of global warming but does not describe ‘how’ it came about: capitalism as world-ecology entwined with power, profit and life as a way of ‘putting the whole of nature to work for capital’ (Moore, 2015a, 3), and this applies to both human and non-human nature. This required the mastery of both nature and human nature, whereby women and indigenous and ‘black’ people and ‘people of colour’ were excluded from humanity and society, ‘designated only partly Human’ (Moore, 2016, 91). Thus, appropriating the unpaid work of uncommodified human and non-human natures territorially and in symbolic forms into labour productivity and commodity production is underpinned by ‘cheapness’ and profit accumulation (Moore 2014; 2015a; 2015b; 2016; Patel and Moore, 2020).

  • 3 Stengers (2015) problematises the Anthropocene discourse that makes humans the responsible agent an (...)

6In the Anthropocene discourse, ‘man’ as the ‘good Anthropocene’ 3may bebased on post-nature, utilitarian, and eco-modernist ideas of high-technology advancementsconsidered to have ‘good’ intentions in terms of the human mastery necessary to address the climate crisis. Some of the chief ideas of the ‘good’ Anthropocene discourse relevant to the present chapter are 1) economic growth and the expansion of consumer culture are important so that everyone can be affluent, 2) major scientific and technological fixes and inventions, including engineering climate and life, will be needed, and 3) the need to embrace a scientific planetary managerial mindset with regard to the climate crisis through mitigation and adaptation approaches (Crist, 2016, 15). As Crist puts it (2016, 16), ‘And while history might just see the human enterprise prevail after overcoming or containing its self-imperiling effects, the course toward world domination should not (or cannot) be stopped: history will keep moving in that direction, with the human enterprise eventually journeying into outer space, mining other planets []’. Furthermore, she stresses, ‘Anthropocene supporters expect (or hope) that this forward movement will keep materialising variants of progress such as green energy [and] economic development for all []’ (Crist, 2016, 17). All other relationships and values, including ecological, spiritual, cultural, or aesthetic, are disregarded (Crist, 2016; Szeman and Wentzel, 2021). This notion of the Anthropocene discourse, as Crist (2016, 25) notes, offers ‘a techno-scientific pitch for its rationalization []’. It fails to make space for alternative framings of humanity and the place of humans and their actions in the web of life (Crist, 2016). This discourse overlooks modernity’s social relations and ‘how new connections between human nature, global power and production, and the web of life’ work (Moore, 2015b, 25).

7In South Africa, the domestic manifestation of the ‘good’ Anthropocene discourse in ‘green’ energy developments is apparent in the South African government’s energy policy and renewable energy programme. In 2011, the government released the country’s electricity plan, the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) 2010–30 (Department of Energy, 2011), which announced the introduction of renewable energy into the country’s energy mix with the goal of increasing renewable energy capacity to 17,800 gigawatts by 2030. The policy also announced the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P), a new policy imperative for electricity generation from renewable energy sources. This was a significant undertaking and political decision given that the country’s reliance on cheap and abundant supplies of coal-derived electric power is at the heart of South Africa’s political, social and economic history (McDonald, 2009). Implementing the REI4P was also a demonstration of the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation. According to the government the REI4P is intended to contribute to job creation, social upliftment and a broadening of economic ownership (Department of Energy et al., 2016). The introduction of independent power producers (IPPs) would expand electricity markets through the introduction of a competitive bidding process whereby such producers would obtain 20-year contracts to sell electricity to Eskom (South Africa’s electricity utility) as the single buyer. The high-technology, large-scale wind and solar infrastructure of the REI4P is organised as a publicprivate partnership (PPP).

  • 4 Capital accumulation in late-stage capitalism predominately occurs through neo-liberal strategies o (...)

8This chapter analyses the material nature of the REI4P and the publicprivate partnership investment conditions based on a case study of the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm (TCWF) in the Eastern Cape. It argues that the capitalist neo-liberal 4logic of alternative ‘green’ energy interventions in investment models such as the REI4P is embedded in the machinations of the extractivist productivist model through ‘new’ forms financialisaton for capital accumulation. The first section provides a literature review and theoretical underpinnings critical of the Anthropocene discourse. The purpose of this literature review is to show scholarly work on the emerging tensions of the capitalist neo-liberal logic in renewable energy projects, particularly wind energy developments in Mexico, where several large-scale wind farms have been implemented. The second section provides the background and context of the TCWF. It situates the location of the TCWF and focuses on the financing of this capital-intensive project. The third section discusses controversies regarding the strategy of favouring investment and the de-risking of the REI4P model. The chapter demonstrates several contradictions and paradoxes with regard to those institutional and financial energy-sector actors that claim to be fostering economic growth and development and propose technoscientific fixes to address the climate crisis and improve community well-being.

2. Conceptual Inspirations and Literature Review

9Over the last decade, the concept of the Anthropocene has become ubiquitous across academic disciplines, civil society organisations, multilateral institutions, and policymaking, with wide-ranging global acceptance that ‘we’ are living in the ‘Age of Man’ (Moore, 2015a). Crist (2016, 15) suggests that the ‘advocacy and elaboration of rationales favoring the term in scientific, environmental, popular writings, and other media […] communicate a cohesive though not entirely homogeneous set of ideas’. Baskin (2015, 20) argues these ideas and way of thinking about global warming are heavily reliant on ‘planetary management and technophilia’ and the favouring of geoengineering and other forms of ‘green’ technology. The Anthropocene discourse places fossil fuel energy at the heart of global warming (Steffen et al., 2007; Chakrabarty, 2009; Morton, 2013; Bonneuil and Fressoz, 2016). But as Patel and Moore (2020, 46 ) put it,

We are living with the consequences of a civilization built on cheap energy, a reality verified by climate change. The global political economy of cheap fuel has not only wrought immense human suffering in its extraction but also, of course, remade planetary ecology.

10Patel and Moore (2020, 22) refer to ‘cheapness’ as a strategy that is not only about price, but is also ‘a practice, a violence that exploits human and animal, botanical and geological work with little or no compensation’.

11The present chapter is inspired by Moore’s conceptual framing of world-ecology. World-ecology pays attention to ‘how relations of power, production, and reproduction work through the web of life’ (Patel and Moore, 2020, 38). This framing is not a theory but rather a perspective and method. As Moore explains:

World-ecology is a method of bounding and bundling the human/extra-human/web of life relations – a manifold and multi-layered relation that encompasses everything from the micro-biome to the biosphere. And it is a framework for theorizing manifold forms of the human experience past, present, and future. (Moore, 2015b, 28).

12The basis of capital accumulation by appropriation is unpaid work that arises out of the rate of exploitation, but it ‘depends upon the fruits of appropriation derived from Cheap Natures, understood primarily as the “Four Cheaps” of labour-power, food, energy, and raw materials’ (Moore, 2015a, 10). Moore’s use of appropriation offers a useful context for the study that differs slightly from that of Marx (1818–83) that deployed appropriation with the exploitation of wage-labour. Moore (2015a, 10) explains that appropriation and accumulation is based on ‘those extra-economic processes that identify, secure, and channel unpaid work outside the commodity system into the circuit of capital’. Patel and Moore (2017) expand this to ‘seven cheap things’: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. Capitalism as world-ecology entwined with power, profit, and life relates to values of domination and appropriation both of humansincluding women, slaves, and indigenous and black/brown peoplesand of extra-human nature such as forests, soils or rivers for capital accumulation (Moore, 2014; 2015a; 2015b; 2016). Thus, appropriating the unpaid work of uncommodified human and non-human natures territorially and in symbolic forms into labour productivity and commodity production is underpinned by ‘cheapness’ and profit accumulation (Moore, 2014; 2015a; 2015b; 2016; Patel and Moore, 2020).

13Globally, the fixation on ‘green’ economic growth and notions of the ‘good’ Anthropocene regard renewable energy technologies as a lucrative investment opportunity that will stimulate job creation and improve the well-being of people and the planet, particularly in ‘developing’ countries (International Energy Agency, 2017; UNEP, 2017; UNDP, 2016). I couch the term ‘good’ Anthropocene as synonymous with green growth (a.k.a. green capitalism) and draw attention to the burgeoning ‘green’ neo-liberal agenda in renewable energy transitions through a world-ecology approach. A closer interrogation of the renewable energy policies and processes that insert a neo-liberal agenda under the mantle of climate mitigation is critical to illuminating novel forms of capital accumulation in the present-day world order (Vargas ,2020; Dunlap, 2017; 2021; Howe, 2011; 2015; 2019; Gabor, 2021).

14A considerable literature exists on the neo-colonialism and neo-liberal consequences of renewable energy transitions in Mexico, where the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca has become valued for its wind (Howe, 2011; 2015; Howe and Boyer, 2016; Vargas, 2020; Dunlap, 2017; 2021; Ramirez and Böhm, 2021). Howe’s (2011) study of renewable energy transitions shows that local communities have been alienated in a process that echoes economic coloniality, particularly because of investments by Spanish corporations reminiscent of the actions of earlier Spanish colonisers.

15Howe’s (2015, 232) analysis of Latin American energy transitions and climate change mitigation raises a fundamental and critical question: ‘If energy production continues to prioritize destructive and displacing megaprojects, can governments, energy developers, and communities balance the needs of local populations against the development desires of neo-liberalismo verde?’ Similar approaches are seen in other parts of the world. For example, wind energy development in Norway affects the indigenous Saami community (Normann, 2020). While ancestral reindeer herding is protected by international law, large-scale wind turbines are dispossessing herders of their pastural lands, a practice the Saami peoples have termed ‘green colonialism’ (Normann, 2020). Howe (2015, 234) emphasises critical concerns about "international economic investments that purport to enhance ‘sustainable livelihoods’ may be beneficial, both locally and globally but they must also be understood against a backdrop of enduring economic and political interventions. She stresses that these renewable energy initiatives could have the same impact as colonial and corporate extractivism, which have benefitted ‘affluent patrons and regions’ under the guise of ‘clean development’ (Howe 2015, 234).

16Existing and planned wind farms in South Africa are not on the scale of wind farms on the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, where one wind park alone contains hundreds of turbines. However, these wind farms have in common that ‘their value has been carefully metered in terms of both their profits and their greater ethical possibilities in the global reduction of greenhouse gases’ (Howe, 2014, 382). Increasingly, alongside growing interest in renewable wind energy, the use-value of wind and its powers has become a desire for technological management (Howe, 2019). As put by (Howe, 2019, 25) ‘while the wind may have always mattered, it has now come to matter in different ways’.

17Land and spatial concerns are emerging as one of the key political ambiguities of renewable energy (Burke and Stephens, 2018). Large tracts of land are required to host renewable energy infrastructure and harvest wind and solar energy. But the implications of how renewable energy transitions will affect spatial reconfigurations of social, political and economic processes that co-produce patterns of relations to power and production within nature remain under-considered. Huber and McCarthy (2017) highlight that the spatial and material conditions for the maintenance of fossil capitalism are immense. The shift to renewables ‘would involve massive production of space around the globe, at almost every conceivable scale – that is, not just using given static areas of land (and sea) in new ways, but fundamentally remaking economic, geopolitical, and material relationships and configurations in myriad ways’ (Huber and McCarthy, 2017, 663). These authors stress that the spatially intensive nature of solar and wind technology ‘beyond the subterranean energy regime toward renewables might elevate land as the centre of energy struggles’ (Huber and McCarthy, 2017, 666).

18Most REI4P projects are situated in rural areas of South Africa where there is high solar and/or wind intensity, on farmland appropriated under colonialism and apartheid. McEwan (2017, 3) notes that the REI4P has largely overlooked historical land occupation and land appropriation, writing that ‘the discursive erasure of land within public debate about renewable energy is particularly notable given that the South African land question is of great political sensitivity […]’. The most capital-intensive commercial agricultural land is optimally located for both wind and solar energy generation, making it financially viable for commercial farmers to lease their land out for renewable energy infrastructure. Parenti (2016, 170) reminds us that ‘the modern state makes and delivers “nature” through place-based property regimes, its production of infrastructure, and its geographical forms of biopower’. The subset of biopower that Parenti (2016, 171) calls ‘geopower’ is the ‘statecraft and technologies of power that make territory and the biosphere accessible, legible, knowable, and utilizable’.

19McEwan (2017, 5) explains that ‘IPPs thus need to secure agreements with landowners on transfer of ownership or lease rights for REI4P projects; as a consequence of prevailing land ownership patterns, these agreements serve the interests of commercial (mainly white) landowners’. These renewable energy PPPs create new income generating opportunities on commercial agricultural land.

20Baker (2015a, 256) raises concerns that while these PPPs contribute to the diversification of the energy mix, ‘their introduction still contributes to an electricity-intensive model [predicted in increased demand], with issues of affordability for low-income households unresolved’. Under the REI4P, all renewable energy is transmitted directly to the central grid and thus does not reach the 30 per cent of people not connected to the grid (Baker, 2015a, 257). Access to and affordability of electricity for marginalised communities are not addressed. This is true in both South Africa and Mexico, renewable energy transition projects generally bypassing access to power for communities situated where these very same renewable energy infrastructures are located. In the case of Mexico, mining companies and other commercial operations are the real beneficiaries of the expansion of energy production, not the people living in those territories where the energy is produced (Howe and Boyer, 2016; Dunlap, 2021). In relation to such renewable energy projects, Boyer (2011, 5) warns that in addition to the carbon statecraft crisis, attention should be paid to the role that states, corporations and communities play in so-called ‘sustainable’ solutions.

3. Background and Context of the TCWF

3.1 Situating the Case Study

  • 5 Many community members refer to ‘Wittekleibosch’, so I use ‘Witkleibos’ to refer to the area but re (...)

21The TCWF is situated in a small area called Witkleibos 5in South Africa’s Eastern Cape (figures 1 and 2 ). The Tsitsikamma Mfengu’s land claim, which was settled in 1994, is often referred to as a successful land restitution and RE4IP project because it involves reclaimed land (Jannecke, 2006; 2008; McEwan, 2017, 5). Six thousand hectares were reclaimed altogether, including Witkleibos, and three more Tsitsikamma Mfengu community areas, called Snyklip, Doriskraal and Nuweplaas. Some Mfengu community members also live in a settlement called Clarkson, which was historically a Moravian mission station. People that previously lived in Doriskraal presently live in a location called Ekuphumleni (popularly called Guava Juice).

Figure 1 Map locating the Tsitsikamma geographical area in South Africa

Figure 1 Map locating the Tsitsikamma geographical area in South Africa

Source: Author, adapted from Tsitsikamma Travel,​gallery (accessed on 3 April 2023).

Figure 2 Physical map of part of the south-eastern Cape.

Figure 2 Physical map of part of the south-eastern Cape.

Source: Author, adapted from

  • 6 I am learning basic Xhosa but have no command of the Xhosa language. Peires (2011) explains that th (...)

22The TCWF is particularly interesting and differs from other renewable energy projects in South Africa in noteworthy ways. The initiator of the wind farm, the late Michael Mcebisi ‘Mike’ Msizi was born in Witkleibos and lived in exile in Denmark during apartheid. There he became inspired by wind turbines and captivated by the idea that wind power could bring affordable electricity to the Tsitsikamma community and enable it to sell surplus electricity to the central grid. When he returned to South Africa in the mid-1990s, he shared his vision with the Tsitsikamma Mfengu6 community who had resettled on the land. The first distinction of this wind farm is that the idea for it occurred before the South African government had a formal renewable energy policy in place and was initiated in anticipation that in future it would be possible to sell electricity generated there back to the grid. Secondly, under the Tsitsikamma Development Trust (TDT), the TCWF involved an organised community partnership from the outset, unlike similar projects where arbitrary communities within a 50 km radius might have to forge such a relationship in order to ‘benefit’ from renewable energy investment projects. Thirdly, the land on which the wind farm was built and operates is communally owned reclaimed land whereas most other projects are built on private commercial farms, which are predominantly white-owned in South Africa.

23Mike Msizi was very influential in the community; he was a political exile and worked for the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SATCU) and African National Congress (ANC) office in Copenhagen. When he returned to South Africa, he continued to work in politics and became a local government councillor. In 2008 he became the general secretary of the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). With Mark Scheepers, Mike started the company Watt Energy, holding 70 per cent of the shares with Mark as the 30 per cent minority shareholder (Young, 2017). When Mike returned from Denmark in the mid-1990s, he pursued the idea and shared his vision of a wind farm with the Tsitsikamma Mfengu, and the community agreed to offer some reclaimed land to host the farm.

24Most importantly, Msizi needed to finance the wind farm. Initially it was hoped that the financing could be obtained from Denmark. The Danish Embassy’s Development Counsellor paid for a feasibility study (Young, 2016). Young, pointed, out ‘in Denmark many wind farms are wholly owned by farmers or co-operatives’ (2016, 171). As the Embassy was interested in ‘community upliftment’ and the land on which the TCWF would be built was community owned, the Danish Embassy’s Development Counsellor in 2009 considered funding the project (Young 2016). While the Danes were supportive, uncertainty reigned over the future of renewable energy in South Africa, and there were no guarantees that Eskom would deploy an optimal buy-back policy for the electricity that could be generated by the wind farm. Exxaro, South Africa’s second largest coal company, through their ‘clean energy’ initiative obtained carbon credits. These credits were sold to the Danish oil and gas parastatal Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG). Through this transaction with DONG and Exxaro, the Danish Embassy introduced to Mike Msizi the Exxaro representative (Young 2016). Exxaro had an interest in pursuing renewable energy in the future, and the partnership with Mike Msizi and the Tsitsikamma Mfengu community provided it with an opportunity to invest in the wind farm project through its ‘clean energy’ offshoot Cennergi (discussed in detail below). In addition, Exarro saw the project as a way of assisting the struggling community, including by setting up a school bus service, building a creche and cattle kraal, and employing a range of other initiatives, all as part of its corporate philanthropy measures. Moreover, the REI4P provided the institutional framework and investment parameters necessary to implement renewable energy projects in South Africa. Sadly, ‘Mike’ Msizi passed away following a car accident in 2012. His 70 per cent share in Watt Energy passed to his wife and son.

25My fieldwork in 2016 and 2017 immersed me in the materiality (configuration of the material matter) of relations in the making of the TCWF. I focused on the patterns of material nature of the land (the soil, typography, vegetation among other material elements and relationships to the land) on the wind farm, the stories and narratives gathered in conversations with community members and interviews with the key energy actors involved, including the government and the corporation, and on the material nature of the REI4P as an energy policy. Particular attention is paid in this study to ‘silent’ actors and voices—those rendered invisible and/or non-credible and subjects of capitalist machinations (de Sousa Santos, 2006); that is, community members and the land. I employed mixed methodologies, using archival research, oral narratives, interviews, photo stories, embedded ethnography (immersive fieldwork and participant observation) and workshops. Consent forms were signed by all interviewees. Government officials preferred to remain anonymous.

26When the Tsitskamma Mfengu reclaimed the land in 1994, many people moved back in anticipation of returning to their small holdings, four-and-a-half-morgen (3.87 hectare) plots.

27One of the community members, who was born and raised in Witkleibos, explained:

Wittekleibosch Tsitsikamma didn’t look like it is now. Then we used to plough our fields, we depended on working the land, cutting crops and all that stuff; people didn’t have to work that time, we worked for ourselves. The land was beautiful and rich at that time, so whatever you planted grew up nicely. So we were, each and every one, all had their four-and-a-half-morgen piece of land. We had livestock, cattle, goats and, you know, chickens, pigs… whatever.  (Witkleibos, 8 June 2016)

28Another community member, born in Snyklip in 1932, recalled:

We had cattle, we had everything… we had a four-and-a-half-morgen piece of land. The water was different then, it was clean straight from the ground. Now the water we get in Wittekleibosch is not clean. The ground was fertile and we used cow manure, and the land was very rich, so it was easy to grow vegetables. (Witkleibos, 15 June 2016)

29But because the land of the amaMfengu claim incorporated 15 forestry farms and 19 privately owned dairy farms (Jordan, 2014), the beneficiaries of the land had rights but no decision-making power over the land (Jannecke, 2008). The only option for this community was to enter into a capitalist productivist relationship through a joint venture with the commercial farmers who had purchased the land from the apartheid-era government and had chosen to remain. This partnership was initially meant to last ten years but has been renewed on a continual basis.

30The people that chose to return were allocated space in the vacant lands of the dairy farms. They received a government housing grant to build RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) houses. These tiny, poorly constructed brick houses were initially intended to be built on 50-meter square plots of land. The community members were unhappy with this proposal and the TDT negotiated with the government to extend the portion of land available for individual houses. The idea of creating an agricultural village was put forward, but this was rejected by the government. The compromise was that beneficiaries were offered RDP houses on slightly larger plots of land (figure 3). But these were still only a fraction of the size of the plots—of almost four hectares per family—that people had lived on before they were displaced.

31The beneficiaries were promised an income from the dairy farms’ land rentals and a portion of the 50 per cent dividend from the farms’ profits. But those who returned live in grim conditions. The houses consist of a lounge and kitchenette and two other rooms, many had no electricity, and some have asbestos roofs without a ceiling lining. By the time the claim was settled, the land was largely deforested and had become monoculture pine forest and pasture for the dairy farms. The soil is degraded, making it challenging for people to cultivate their own food crops. They are far from schools, children walked a long distance, and no public transport is available. Many people hitch a ride to town and the hospital, and private transport is arranged when the elderly need to go into town at month end. In the narrative conversations with community members, people explained that they did not expect that the land they once lived on would turn out to be a location/settlement. Access to these locations is challenging, with poor quality gravel roads littered with huge potholes (see figure 4).

Figure 3 RDP houses in Witkleibos

Figure 3 RDP houses in Witkleibos

Source: Author, 2016.

Figure 4 Entrance to Witkleibos following rainfall

Figure 4 Entrance to Witkleibos following rainfall

Source: Author, 2016.

32The houses that do have electricity were only connected in 2008, 14 years after South Africa became a democratic state. This community’s connection to the grid was brought about mostly through intense lobbying of Eskom by the late Mike Msizi. Because the community was categorised as low-consumption it is charged a flat rate with no service charge and in addition receives its first 50 kWh/month free of charge. Although low-income households receive this free initial electricity and pay no service charge, tariffs are higher than those paid by wealthy suburbanites (see McDonald, 2009, 24). Low-income households are forced to use proportionally more of their income for electricity, which means they often have to under consume or are unable to pay their electricity bills.

33Energy policy in South Africa followed neo-liberal prescriptions, and energy liberalisation and various forms of electricity privatisation strategies were adopted (McDonald, 2009). The neo-liberal policy shift in the 1990s—when ‘user pays’ cost recovery and cost-reflective tariff policies were introduced—had huge implications with regard to access and affordability for many low-income households (McDonald, 2002; 2009; Greenberg, 2009). Furthermore, as McDonald (2009, 16) highlights, because millions of people in low-income households simply did not have a regular income with which to ‘buy (enough of) the electricity’ even when they did have access, people were forced into making ‘tragic choices between buying electricity, water, food or clothing’.

34Prepaid electricity meters were introduced in 2007. These became very popular with utility managers because they can be used to preclude non-payment problems altogether by forcing households to pay for their electricity in advance. As McDonald (2009, 26) argues, ‘This system avoids the costly (political and financial) procedures of cut-offs while effectively downloading the act of cut-offs to households themselves, with people discontinuing their electricity consumption at the point that they no longer have the money to consume’. The installation of electricity meters, McDonald (2009) claims, instituted a self-imposed ‘cut-off’ for households unable to pay for electricity. The houses on the Tsitsikamma Mfengu’s reclaimed land have an electricity meter in the front room, with a plug and many leads and wires webbed around the meter (see figure 5).

Figure 5 An electricity meter in a house in Snyklip

Figure 5 An electricity meter in a house in Snyklip

Source: Author, 2016.

35A Snyklip resident said she finds it difficult to access electricity because it is too expensive. Though electricity has been provided by the government, the resident said:

You can switch it on even if it is with R10 [10 rand], and it finishes, there is not much to it, because the stove and things like that use a lot of electricity. You see, we have these small boxes, and you cannot use the four-plate stove, it uses a lot of electricity, and it also makes the electricity trip, so we use the small ones – well I do, I have the small one and most of the time I can use the gas.

36A community member from Witkleibos added, ‘Electricity is from the wind farms, but no light in our houses, still in darkness’.

3.2 Establishing the Wind Farm under the REI4P

37In 2009, Msizi’s dream of a community wind farm almost came true, as representatives of the Danish government met with several other partners at a project launch ceremony in Witkleibos. The signatories were Exxaro, Watt Energy, DONG, European Energy, Vestas, the Danish Embassy, and two financial institutions—Export Credit Agency, which is Danish, and the Investment Fund for Developing Countries (Young, 2016, 175). Exarro agreed to finance the entire project in anticipation that the government would implement a viable renewables policy. With the publication of the Department of Energy’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP, 2010) on 22 October 2010, the key element of which was that South Africa’s energy future would include renewable energy, the TCWF had a guaranteed buyer for its electricity.

  • 7 South African state policies promote redistribution through the economic inclusion of the historica (...)

38Two of the major developmental components of the REI4P are ‘community upliftment’ and black economic empowerment (BEE).7 The bidding process criteria for REI4P institute measures to improve the lives of communities situated within a 50 km radius of a project, including job creation, enterprise development and socio-economic development. They outline that ‘Bidders must assess the needs of communities within a 50 km radius of project sites and prepare strategies covering how these needs will be met with contributions from the project’s revenues. Socio-economic development plans must be prepared by bidders and submitted with proposals’ (Eberhard, Kolker and Leigland, 2014, 30). The economic development criteria in particular contain several components that the bidder must deliver, each category having a certain weighting (see table 1).

Table 1 Economic development scorecard weightings

Economic development category


Job creation


Local content




Management control


Preferential control


Enterprise development


Socio-economic development


Source: Author, adapted from WWF–SA (2015).

  • 8 Interview with a Treasury official, 9 November 2016.

39The REI4P has mandatory provisions for communities to hold equity of or exercise a degree of ownership over wind and solar farms, the required figure being between 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent (McDaid, 2014). The government and multinational energy corporations facilitate the loan process working with banks and other financial institutions to ensure this degree of community ownership. This credit arrangement is also necessary if corporate investors are to fulfil their BEE obligations. A South African Treasury official stated that ‘The big thing is compliance with BEE regulation […] So IPPs must comply with laws and regulations passed by departments that are applicable. It has to show black economic empowerment’.8 The REI4P requires that projects involve at least 40 per cent participation from South African entities and a minimum of 12 per cent black ownership (with a target of 20 per cent), and that at least 2.5 per cent of the project be owned by communities living within the 50 km radius (Baker, 2015b, 150).

40Through its economic inclusion policy, the government has encouraged communities that were designated subaltern to enter into a system of capital accumulation on the premise of economic wealth creation for black people. In the case of the TWCF, the TDT holds a 9 per cent share on behalf of the community. These shares were purchased using a USD 3.87 million (ZAR 45 million) bank loan taken out by Cennergi/Exxaro. A larger shareholding would mean a larger dividend would be paid out to the TDT and thus, theoretically, to the beneficiaries of the land. The investor emphasised that the best part of the TCWF story is that

The Tsitsikamma Development Trust or the landowner has a 9 per cent shareholding [... ] 2.5 per cent of that 9 per cent is interest free, and the rest is repayable carried interest. So, we gave all the money, and we acted like a bank, and they must give it back to us over time.

41He also indicated that the project would offer much more in the long run, especially in terms of the financial arrangement and returns to the community:

In our bid, we promised to spend 2.1 per cent of the money on socio-economic development [SED] and enterprise development. So, 1.5 per cent is SED and 0.6 per cent is enterprise development. So, to give you an idea of that, it’s 20 000 rand [approximately USD 1,700] per day for 20 years’.

42The assumption behind the REI4P is that by including criteria for local economic development and social economic development, enterprise development, and local ownership, which should be met from contributions from the project’s revenues, local well-being will be improved as will climate mitigation. However, reviews carried out by Bode (2014) and McDaid (2014) of current REI4P projects highlight several concerns in the socio-economic development dimension.

43At the beginning of the investment, Exarro’s clean energy subsidiary Cennergi was in an equal partnership with Tata, an Indian corporation that has significant experience in wind energy, and the two constituted the major investors in TCWF, owning 75 per cent of shares. The TDT as the community trust held 9 per cent, and the remaining partner was Watt Energy, which owned 16 per cent (see figures 6 and 7). Watt Energy was acrimoniously liquidated following Mike Msizi’s death in 2012 (Carlisle, 2015), and at the time of my fieldwork the purchase of this 16 per cent of shares was unresolved.

Figure 6 Initial structure of the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm

Figure 6 Initial structure of the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm

Source: Author.

Figure 7 Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm signage

Figure 7 Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm signage

Source: Author, 2016.

44This shareholding arrangement has gone through several changes since its inception, and these are discussed further in section 4 of this chapter.

45During conversations with community members, most expressed that the wind farm was a positive initiative. The community was especially enthusiastic when Mike Msizi was still alive. Community members felt that they were part of the discussions on establishing the wind farm and that they were always kept informed. Some individuals even went on site visits to the Darling wind farm in the Western Cape to get a sense of how these turbines work. The community members I spoke with expressed that lots of promises were made with regard to community upliftment. Mike conveyed, ‘we will bring solar geysers, build libraries, play fields for children’ (personal communication, 2016). For many people education is important, and they perceived the wind farm as an opportunity to improve their skills and to secure jobs. Cennergi contributed certain improvements before the wind turbines were connected to the grid. These included building a crèche, arranging transport to schools, upgrading the Trust office, and building a cattle kraal. On the surface, Exxaro’s clean energy offshoot appears to be an exemplary investor working towards what Burke and Stephens (2018) describe as inclusivity, equity and influence among communities involved with renewable projects.

  • 9 It is a term used to counter and surpass the dominance of the colonial modernist humancentric world (...)

46What is, however, overlooked amid just energy transitions, energy democracy, and ‘green’ energy growth prospects is the trajectory of techno-capitalist development that instead works to facilitate the inclusion of people in capitalist developments (Dunlap, 2021). These local economic development projects do not allow for ‘perspectives outside the dominant culture of modernity, industrial development and universal ideas of human rights’ (Dunlap, 2021). The politics of ‘inclusion’ largely ignores a politics that recognises the agency of the ‘the other’—invisibilised, marginalised, depoliticised—and engagement with the more-than-human world9 (de Sousa Santos, 2006; Gibson-Graham, 2007; Gibson-Graham, Hill and Law, 2016). Modernity’s dualisms, as stressed by Patel and Moore (2020, 202), not only ‘describe and categorize the world but [have] served practically to dominate and cheapen the lives of nearly all humans and the rest of nature’. Understanding capitalism as a world-ecology of power, capital, and nature helps us see how deeply each half of the society and nature dualism is embedded in the other, and how mightily the powerful have worked to police and sharpen the boundaries between them (Patel and Moore, 2020, 202).

47As stressed by Patel and Moore (2020, 202), what remains intact is ‘cheapness’ as a ‘set of strategies to manage relations between capitalism and the web of life by temporarily fixing capitalism’s crises’. ‘Cheapness’—from a geo-cultural perspective related to the ethical-political devaluation of cheap lives and the labour of woman, nature and colonies—is central to thriving capital accumulation (Moore 2021). Moore (2021) also stresses that sexism and racism are used as geo-cultural strategies of devaluation in the interests of driving down labour costs. What becomes visible is the race and class divide historically constructed in nature and society abstractions, where the work of the black peoples is laborious and exploitative. Salleh (1996, 156), a Marxian eco-feminist, notes that the worker is not fully reimbursed for his or her time and energy because the energy of labour is undervalued in relation to surplus and use values based on exchange value or labour costs. The low-skilled worker is usually underpaid in the labourwage exchange. In the neo-liberal regime, cheap labour was made possible through a new regime of ‘forced underconsumption’ (Araghi in Moore 2014, 300). People’s dispossession via ‘global enclosures’ “were realised through structural adjustment programmes and market liberalization, restructured agrarian class relations worldwide, dispossessing hundreds of millions of peasants worldwide” (Araghi in Moore 2014, 300). This neoliberal strategy not only expanded the proletariat but people simply did have enough money live dignified lives Another register of ‘cheap nature’ is as a political project for the creation of markets under capitalism, one that is secured by the political forces of the political mechanisms of imperialism, during which cheapness is secured and periodically restructured into ‘new’ forms of capital accumulation (Moore, 2021).

4. Illuminating the Neo-liberal Nature of the REI4P

4.1 Creating Favourable Conditions for Investors: Strategies for Addressing Surplus Capital Accumulation in ‘Development’ Financing?

48During the 2008 Copenhagen climate change negotiations, South Africa pledged a 34 per cent reduction in its carbon emissions by 2020 and a 42 per cent reduction by 2025 (Baker, 2015a). Since 2007 South Africa has experienced a worsening power crisis resulting in extensive power cuts. This is the result of ageing coal power stations and delays in completing the two key large-scale coal power stations of Medupi and Kusile, and of a crisis at Eskom. In this context, the government requires immense financing levels for South Africa’s energy transition and infrastructure.

49The introduction of IPPs into the renewable energy systems is widely celebrated in terms of climate change mitigation, the generation of additional electricity, and attracting private sector involvement to address energy market ‘inefficiencies’ (Rennkamp et al., 2017, 216; WWF-SA, 2015, 12). The government, investors, some non-governmental organisations and some academics consider the REI4P a watertight vehicle for capital investment in renewable energy technologies that guarantees return on investment and eliminates the risks of corruption (Eberhard in McEwan, 2017). The REI4P has been hailed for attracting a huge amount of direct foreign investment and is considered a success by the government, with 5,243 megawatts of renewable energy provided by USD 16 billion of private investment, which the South African government regards as a ‘significant investment in mitigations’ (Rennkamp et al., 2017).

50But as stressed by Jessop (2013), Parenti (2016) and Le Billon and Sommerville (2016), the state must create favourable conditions to attract increased investment in renewable energy projects. Treasury officials interviewed also emphasised that South Africa must provide quite attractive terms for investors and put a price cap in place in the electricity purchase agreement.

The price has come down dramatically from bid window 1 to bid window 4; [t]he price is now 69 c[ents] per kWh [kilowatt-hour], [which is a] 67% [fall]. It was R2 [2 rand] something and coal is ranged at 82 c[ents] per kWh so it is cheaper than coal. And we would not have had this if we didn’t take the risk and offer those terms to attract the investor. The thing is, because of the policy uncertainty in the country we are not really a prime destination for foreign investment. (Personal communication, 2016)

  • 10 ‘Quant’ is shorthand for quantitative analyst, so, someone expert in the analysis and management of (...)

51South Africa has become a prime investment opportunity for renewable energy operators (Baker, 2015b). Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has signed contracts with 27 new renewable energy IPPs. He considered these new contracts to be the biggest IPP procurement by the department between 2016 and 2018, representing a total of almost USD 4.5 billion (ZAR 56 billion) in investment (Khumalo, 2018). Favourable conditions created to attract investment range from access to land to guaranteed payments to fiscal measures to reduce investment costs, amongst others. Thus, as pointed out by Le Billon and Sommerville (2016), governments would have to marshal narratives about both attractive returns for financiers and supposed social benefits. These authors also point out that one of the key contradictions is that the government often misrepresents investments as public revenues and compensation for disruption in local communities (Le Billon and Sommerville, 2016). Making investable projects attractive also requires reforms at the institutional level in the form of changes to regulatory regimes and corporate governance that contribute to securing investor access (Le Billon and Sommerville, 2016, 220). As pointed out by Gabor (2021), the development of ‘investable’ projects requires a two-pronged strategy: first, the reorienting of the fiscal and monetary arm of the state in order to de-risk development asset classes so that there are steady cash flows for investors, and second, the re-engineering of local financial systems in the image of US market-based finance to allow portfolio investors easy entry into, and exit from, new asset classes (2021, 431). In an era in which ‘cheap natures’ are being depleted and becoming more expensive, capitalism finds new financial engineering capital accumulation strategies. As Patel and Moore (2020, 88) put it, ‘The ever-increasing sophistication of financial engineering emerges not as “the rise of the quants”10 but as the outcome of centuries of accumulation[s], each with its distinctive ways of organizing capital, power, and nature’.

52Baker (2015b) raised concerns that South Africa’s renewable energy sector is likely to ‘rest increasingly with financial investors as shareholdings become tradable financial assets’ (2015b, 148) because of the structure and finance mechanisms of the REI4P. She also notes the complex ownership structures ‘involving international, national, private and public players, black and local community shareholders’ (Baker, 2015b, 150) (see figure 8).

Figure 8 The structure of project finance under the REI4P

Figure 8 The structure of project finance under the REI4P

Source: Author, adapted from Baker (2015b, 151).

53Baker (2015b, 147) is particularly concerned about the implications of ‘on-selling’ shares given the trend of financialisaton in the South African economy. She questions whether on-selling—including to pension funds, insurers and other institutional investors—will potentially contribute to a trend of capital flight through financial institutions listed in South Africa but with their headquarters situated abroad (Baker, 2015b, 155). She also clearly suspects the crisis of accumulation will lead to the circulation of excess money in the system and result in on-selling that will result in a and in the as a consequence of speculation and the expansion of credit for profit. The wave of investment in renewable energy, particularly in the Global South, is making installations energy technology less and less expensive (because there is an over-accumulation of capital that wants to invest in climate mitigation); thus, projects that are funded with private money must be larger (to lower costs) or the investment conditions need be favourable in higher risks context to generate higher returns. A review of renewable energy in the BRICS (the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) by Zeng et al. (2017) shows that the dominant financing models for current renewable energy transitions include bank loans and other institutional financing, industry funds, and international financing. The authors of the review also point out (p. 870) that all five BRICS countries have adopted ‘the international financial model, with funds coming from foreign governments, international banks and foreign private investors.

54Gabor stresses (2021, 434) that ‘the inclusion of institutional investors, from hedge and pension funds to insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds, and asset managers as critical stakeholders, upgraded the de-risking renewables strategy into a full-blown, ambitious “development as de-risking” paradigm’. In this way, risk is transferred to the balance sheet of the state (Gabor, 2021). According to Gabor (2021) the development as de-risking paradigm puts states ‘under pressure to institutionally codify risk-proofing arrangements, guaranteeing private financial profits in the name of aligning sustainable projects with the preferred risk/return profile of institutional investors’ (Gabor, 2021, 453).

55A Treasury official, during an interview regarding the introduction of independent power producers, told me, ‘[…] Bringing in private providers, it has shown that everything is better—the rate of return and all the risk has been passed on to the private partner, and they are still doing it cheaper than Eskom’. The same official went on to explain how ‘an advantage of the shift to the IPPs is that you are purchasing the product, which is electricity. While Eskom owns that asset, it is not about ownership of the asset anymore’. This shift from state capitalism to neo-liberal capitalism ostensibly reduces the state’s financial responsibility for infrastructure development, which is now borne by the private sector via PPPs. The official also pointed out that ‘delays in Eskom generation are huge compared to the IPPs—they [the IPPs] deliver [and] reduce cost’. So, for the Treasury, ‘It is about passing the risk; with Eskom, the risk unfortunately is on us as the fiscus and the taxpayer at the end of the day. If you contract a private provider, the risk is on them’.

56The REI4P, constructed as a PPP, was introduced in South Africa in 1998. Gabor (2021, 430) explains that in PPPs ‘the private sector commits to finance, construct and manage public services as long as the state, with multilateral development bank (MDB) support via blended finance, shares the risk by guaranteeing payment flows to PPP operators and investors. In PPPs, this financial strategy of a ‘de-risking state can be understood as a project that seeks to extend the infrastructural dependence of the state on private finance […]’ and transforms a range of infrastructure sectors into asset classes, including water, housing, energy, health, education, transport, and even nature, ‘which is code for creating de-risking partnerships’ (Gabor, 2021, 436). Gabor (2021, 431) also points out that this is not simply an agenda to privatise (social) infrastructure. It is much more. The development of ‘investable’ projects requires changes in financial regulation and corporate governance that secure the investment. The ‘Wall Street Consensus [WSC] re-imagines international development interventions as opportunities’ and is a state-building project that puts in place the institutional basis for a new regime of de-risking as accumulation (Gabor, 2021, 453). In contemporary forms of capital accumulation, Gabor (2021, 432) explains, the de-risking development paradigm of the WSC protects bondholders from having to participate in the debt renegotiations that may be required by poor and emerging countries. This investment arrangement also further threatens the developmental policy space by narrowing the state’s scope for achieving just energy transitions and for putting in place mechanisms whereby ‘the burden of structural change does not disproportionately fall on the poor’ (Gabor, 2021, 432).

4.2 Questions Concerning the On-selling of Shares in the TWCF

57Baker (2015b) has raised concerns over the on-selling of debt purchased through loans. Investors consider on-selling as a mechanism by which returns can be redistributed, creating a secondary market in debt and equity that in turn generates further investment in renewable energy in order to reduce capital costs (Baker, 2015b). With this in mind, we now return to the unresolved matter of Watt Energy’s 16 per cent share in the TCWF. These shares were bought in October 2020 by Kruger International, an asset management company in partnership with GAIA Fund Managers (GFM), an investment manager specialising in agriculture and infrastructure11 (Cairns, 2020). These shares were incorporated into the investment holding company GAIA Fund 1 (GF1), a parent entity that conducts no business operations. The purpose of this holding company is to hold stock or membership interest in other companies. On 12 October 2020, Kruger International, a unit trust company, stated in a press release that preference shares would be bought from its various funds and that proceeds of the listing would be ‘used by the Fund to buy a 16% indirect shareholding in the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm’ (Kruger International online).12 The funding structures of GFM and Kruger International allow for direct investment in the renewables project within a collective investment scheme structure. Kruger International bought the preference shares issued by GAIA Fund (GF1).

58A 2020 Citywire article praises unit trust access to infrastructure projects, saying that ‘one of South Africa’s economic imperatives is to encourage more private investment into infrastructure projects. As the government has run out of money to finance this kind of development, capital has to be sourced from elsewhere (Cairns, 2020). Keen to understand this purchase of shares in the TCWF, I consulted a finance expert, who was able to explain the complex financial engineering involved in the new structure of the TWCF (see figure 9). While it would be possible to further elaborate on this matter, for example by examining more closely the vehicles used for selling and buying the shares on the stock exchange, such elaboration is beyond the scope of this chapter.

Figure 9 The current structure of the TCWF

Figure 9 The current structure of the TCWF

Source: Author, based on the consultation of a finance expert.

59In summary, RE Times, which is essentially a shell company, acquired 16 per cent of the TCWF. Msizi’s widow and son own 70 per cent of RE Times and the other 30 per cent, which was previously owned by the minority shareholder, Watt Energy, has been put into the TCWF Investment Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). So, there is 11.2 per cent BEE ownership and community ownership is 9 per cent, meeting the BEE ownership criteria. It was also critical for Cennergi, as the main investor in the TCWF, to fulfil the BEE criteria of the REI4P following Mike’s death to meet legal requirements. Despite all these arrangements, meanwhile, for the Mfengu communities living in poverty-stricken conditions improved well-being and the benefits of the monetisation of their reclaimed land are both yet to be realised. This situation raises concerns about the illusion of BEE, and Baker (2015b, 254) notes that the ‘BEE has primarily resulted in the enrichment of an unproductive black elite with limited trickle-down potential, rather than a tool for genuine socio-economic transformation’.

60The REI4P is considered a success in that it attracts investment for renewable energy transitions. But it is essentially an investment frontier for surplus private finance (cheap money) underpinned by productivity and practice that put nature (both human and non-human) to work as cheaply as possible. Since accumulation through ‘cheap natures’ is diminishing and becoming expensive, surplus capital requires new vehicles, and new places for new investments to land. ‘Green’ energy solutions and PPP investment models such as the REI4P are embedded in the machinations of the productivist model through ‘new’ forms of financialization. Gabor (2021) has pointed out that this investment strategy is a state-building project that puts in place the institutional basis for a new regime of de-risking as accumulation. By opening new frontiers for accumulation, capitalism thus expands, and this is how it ‘controls a wider set of life-making relations’ that ‘do not appear on a balance sheet or profit and loss statement’ (Patel and Moore, 2020, 19).

61By expanding across new frontiers, capitalism controls a wider set of life-making relations. These frontiers are sites where power is exercised, and not just economic power. But capitalism’s strategies of cheapness and profit constitute ‘a practice, a violence that mobilises all kinds of work human and animal, botanical and geological with as little compensation as possible’ (Patel and Moore, 2020, 22). The vision of providing electricity for the Mfengu communities and selling the excess to the grid was deferred because the wind farm could only be implemented within the framework and the investment conditions of the REI4P.

5. Conclusion

62The Anthropocene discourse situates the birth of this new planetary epoch during the Industrial Revolution and is primarily interested in replacing fossil fuel energy generation ‘resources’ with renewable energy. But as Moore (2014, 596) observes, ‘the erasure of capitalism’s early-modern origins, and its extraordinary reshaping of global natures long before the steam engine’ is largely overlooked in the Anthropocene discourse. Patel and Moore (2017) are clear—at the heart of this crisis lies modernity’s dualism, which has not only organised the world but has served to dominate and cheapen the lives of nearly all humans and the rest of nature. Using a world-ecology framing to analyse the material nature of the REI4P has exposed the ongoing structural violence of capital, despite the ‘noble’ intentions of addressing climate change and improving community well-being. The material nature of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme reveals the invasiveness of modernity’s alienating of social relations, an invasiveness apparent in patterns of accumulation, ways of the thinking, and the strategies that foster ‘cheapness’ and profit. The Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm—although conceived of prior to the launch of the REI4P, and raising the prospect of donor funding from Denmark and eventually being funded by Exxaro—became enmeshed in the de-risking parameters of the REI4P. As this chapter has shown, the REI4P, organised in the form of a paradigm of de-risking, can be characterised as a frontier, but not only in the sense of a settlercolonial frontier with regard to land appropriation. As Patel and Moore (2017, 30) explain, it also constitutes a ‘place [that] encounters all kind[s] of nature – humans included’ and is ‘about reducing the cost of doing business. These same authors also stress that ‘a frontier is a site where crisis encourages new strategies for profit’ (Patel and Moore, 2020, 18–19). Frontiers are important in these processes because they offer new sites where ‘cheap things can be seized – and the cheap work of humans and other natures can be coerced’ (Patel and Moore, 2020, 22). In essence, renewable energy technology ‘fixes’, with their planetary management aspirations, become a ‘fix’ for ensuring ‘cheap’ money a place to land. The sophisticated strategies of financial engineering revealed in this chapter point, in the words of Patel and Moore (2020, 88), to an ‘outcome of centuries of accumulation[s], each with its distinctive ways of organizing capital, power, and nature’.

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1 The term Anthropocene was popularized by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer and expresses the capacity of the human species to transform planetary elements and how this has reached an unprecedented scale, to the extent that human beings ‘have collectively become the “geological agent” capable of changing the global climate through our emissions’ (Jonsson, 2015, 55).

2 Koch et al. (2019) state that ‘The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth System in the two centuries prior to the industrial revolution’ (p. 13), and that ecocide, genocide and diseases ‘led to the abandonment of enough cleared land in the Americas that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO2 and global surface air temperatures in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution’ (p. 30).

3 Stengers (2015) problematises the Anthropocene discourse that makes humans the responsible agent and geological force the cause of climate disorder. She questions current responses to climate change, particularly those in which humanity considers how it might use its powers to master a ‘good’ Anthropocene. Bonneuil and Fressoz (2016, 87) raise similar concerns that human mastery might be articulated as the ‘good’ Anthropocene to address climate change.

4 Capital accumulation in late-stage capitalism predominately occurs through neo-liberal strategies of capitalisation, financialisaton and trade liberalisation, facilitated by the mechanism of international investment rules (Harvey, 2004; Moore, 2015b).

5 Many community members refer to ‘Wittekleibosch’, so I use ‘Witkleibos’ to refer to the area but repeat the ‘Wittekleibosch’ used by interviewees.

6 I am learning basic Xhosa but have no command of the Xhosa language. Peires (2011) explains that the ‘word “Mfengu” derives from a verb, ukumfenguza, which means “wandering around homelessly looking for work”’. Peires uses ‘amaMfengu’ to describe the people and ‘Mfengu’, without the prefix, as an adjective. Peires points out that ‘revisionists tend to prefer “Fingo” to demonstrate their conviction that the term was coined by the British colonist’. In this study, I use the English construction of the terms ‘Mfengu’ and ‘Xhosa’. I use ‘Tsitsikamma Mfengu’ to refer to the community.

7 South African state policies promote redistribution through the economic inclusion of the historically marginalised under the auspices of ‘inclusive growth’ to ensure greater market ownership by the black population. In the postcolonial and post-apartheid era, government-facilitated capital accumulation encompasses ways of incorporating the previously marginalised through market shareholding and ownership, procuring services from black-owned businesses and practicing other forms of black economic empowerment (BEE) as forms of active participation in the economic matrix and redistribution. The South African government favours economic growth and ‘inclusive economic development’ as a means of redistributing the ‘wealth’ of the country, considered to be largely in the hands of the white minority (National Development Plan, 2012).

8 Interview with a Treasury official, 9 November 2016.

9 It is a term used to counter and surpass the dominance of the colonial modernist humancentric worldview underpinned Society and Nature dualisms, which separate humans from nature. David Abram coined the phrase “more-than-human world” as way of referring to earthly nature.

10 ‘Quant’ is shorthand for quantitative analyst, so, someone expert in the analysis and management of quantitative data, particularly that of a financial nature (See Read, 2012).

11 I consulted a finance specialist to help me understand and explain changes in the shareholding arrangement of the TWCF. Kruger International is a unit trust fund and bought the shares in October 2020. While Kruger International bought the issued preference shares in GAIA Fund 1, those shares (along with GAIA ordinary shares) trade on the stock exchange, and so may have changed hands.

12 Kruger International online, (accessed on 9 September 2022).

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1 Map locating the Tsitsikamma geographical area in South Africa
Credits Source: Author, adapted from Tsitsikamma Travel,​gallery (accessed on 3 April 2023).
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Title Figure 2 Physical map of part of the south-eastern Cape.
Credits Source: Author, adapted from
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Title Figure 3 RDP houses in Witkleibos
Credits Source: Author, 2016.
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Title Figure 4 Entrance to Witkleibos following rainfall
Credits Source: Author, 2016.
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Title Figure 5 An electricity meter in a house in Snyklip
Credits Source: Author, 2016.
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Title Figure 6 Initial structure of the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm
Credits Source: Author.
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Title Figure 7 Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm signage
Credits Source: Author, 2016.
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Title Figure 8 The structure of project finance under the REI4P
Credits Source: Author, adapted from Baker (2015b, 151).
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Title Figure 9 The current structure of the TCWF
Credits Source: Author, based on the consultation of a finance expert.
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Cite this article

Electronic reference

Michelle Pressend, Green Masquerade: Neo-liberalism, Extractive Renewable Energy Transitions, and the ‘Good’ Anthropocene in South AfricaInternational Development Policy | Revue internationale de politique de développement [Online], 16 | 2023, Online since 12 June 2023, connection on 29 September 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Michelle Pressend

Michelle Pressend is Academic Coordinator of the African regional hub of TRAJECTS, the Transnational Centre for Just Transitions in Energy, Climate and Sustainability, and a lecturer in Political Ecology at the University of Cape Town. She is also a PhD candidate in Anthropology in association with Environmental Humanities South at the same university.

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The text only may be used under licence CC-BY-NC-4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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