Department of Environmental Affairs hosts first traditional leaders’ Marine and Coastal Enforcement and Compliance workshop

21 February 2019


The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)  hosted traditional leaders and communities for the first Marine and Coastal Compliance and Enforcement Promotion workshop, in Mthatha, Eastern Cape  on the 18- 19 February 2019.

This is the first in a series of workshops aimed at raising awareness of environmental legislation, whilst at the same time acknowledging the leadership authority that is vested in various traditional houses. This initiative is a demonstration of the importance of integrating communities’ into the everyday challenges facing compliance and enforcement officials who operate primarily in the coastal spaces of the Eastern Cape.

The DEA and supporting environmental authorities have recognised that deterrence through a command- and-control-based philosophy only has not necessarily achieved the desired results. For this reason, there is now an increased focus on sensitising communities on the devastating impacts that will be caused to, inter alia, their health due to environmental degradation. This initiative precedes the more robust enforcement approaches that may be required if voluntary compliance is not achieved. Involvement of relevant stakeholders further seeks to promote integration, cooperation and coordination amongst the three spheres of government, whilst ensuring that each sphere’s mandate is maintained.

The presenters focused on all environmental legislation that relates to the management and protection of the coastal environment, including Coastal Zone management, Coastal Public Property,  Coastal Protection Zones, Coastal Access and general Coastal Management and Protection, including Marine Protected Areas, Marine Pollution and Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) control. The importance of the protection and the conservation of the coastal area, not only by the authorities, but by the communities as well, with practical examples provided of the strides that have been made so far in ensuring protection and conservation.

Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs, Chief Director,  Mr Albert Mfenyana opened the two day workshop and emphasised the importance of maintaining the aesthetic beauty and value of the Wild Coast in its natural state and also not forgetting the contribution of the universal heritage value of this area to humankind in general.

“The main focus of the two-day awareness session was to establish whether the Environmental Management Inspectorate (the Green Scorpions) are on the correct trajectory or whether adjustments need to be made in the compliance and enforcement approach. “The outcomes of this workshop will indeed be taken back to the various decision-makers in order to ensure that community integration into the compliance and enforcement strategy is assured,” said Mr Mfenyana.

Mr Mfenyana further stated that it is important to entrench a “one government approach” to compliance and enforcement and for this reason the number of various authorities represented at this workshop demonstrates a coordinated government approach to environmental compliance and enforcement that is needed”. 

Concerns raised by community members in attendance relate to the seemingly inconsistent experiences when dealing with local communities while other sectors of society seemingly have free reign to do as they please in their backyard. The impression that is created is that there is a fragmented government approach when it comes to dealing with the concerns of coastal communities.  What was further stressed is the role of the traditional leaders and the communities in decision-making and their integration through public-participation initiatives. These concerns stem from legacy development nodes that were created in the past, but a move towards integration of communities is high on the developmental agenda of the Eastern Cape Province. The candidates further encouraged a move by the authorities from the prioritising of punitive measures, especially when it comes to the removal of structures, versus the displaced communities right to housing, bearing in mind that the Constitution of South Africa mentions the right to housing as one of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

A total of 38 traditional and community leaders from abaThembu and amaMpondo attended the workshop and there was a general consensus that a collective effort is required in order to create development nodes while keeping the Wild Coast “wild”.

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