Environmental Affairs releases 2016/17 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report

06 November 2017

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has released the 2016/17 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report (NECER) and also unveiled the new Green Scorpions logo during the 7th biennial Environment Compliance and Enforcement Lekgotla in White River, Mpumalanga today, 06 November 2017.

The Lekgotla, which started today, will run until Thursday, 9 November 201. It will provide a platform for the Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI), commonly known as the Green Scorpions, to reflect on the work done over the past two years, while also developing innovative and strategic tools to enhance environmental compliance and enforcement capacity.

The Green Scorpions are a network of environmental compliance and enforcement officials from national, provincial and municipal government, who all share the same legislative powers and duties in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and operate across the county. They have a broad legal mandate that covers environmental compliance and enforcement in the green (biodiversity/protected areas), brown (pollution, waste, impact assessment) and blue (integrated coastal management) sub-sectors. These EMIs are tasked with ensuring the implementation of, and adherence to, specific pieces of national environmental legislation.

As at 31 March 2017, the national EMI Register reflected a total of 2 880 EMIs, comprising 2 577 from national and provincial authorities and 303 from municipalities. Of the total 2 577 EMIs on the national register (national and provincial authorities), 1726 of them are Grade 5 EMI field rangers employed at national and provincial parks authorities.

The NECER provides an overview of the measures taken by the Green Scorpions in giving effect to section 24 of the Constitution during the 2016/17 financial year.

In relation to the most prevalent forms of environmental crimes, the 2016/17 financial year continued to display a similar pattern on environmental crimes being detected by the various EMI Institutions. For the brown sub-sector, the unlawful commencement of environmental impact assessment listed activities continues to be the most common non-compliance, while in the green sub-sector, illegal hunting and illegal entry into protected areas continue to be the predominant environmental crimes.

In the 2016/17 reporting period, biodiversity compliance and enforcement continued to focus on the high-risk species, such as rhinos, elephants, pangolins and cycads, while still ensuring that other species receive the protection from the Inspectorate. In relation to rhino cases, EMIs from across all the relevant institutions are actively involved in anti-poaching operations; crime scene management; ongoing support to the South African Police Service (SAPS) members (who take the lead in investigating these cases) as well as the National Prosecuting Authority.

In support of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy, the coordinated and integrated compliance and enforcement programme (Initiative 5) focuses on combatting all illegal and unregulated activities which have significant negative impact on marine and coastal resources, infrastructure, trade and food security that results in substantial economic and employment losses.

During Phakisa operations which are conducted in line with NATJOINTS instructions, the EMIs team up with other law enforcement agencies, national and provincial departments and municipalities to jointly tackle crime within priority areas. For the 2016/2017 reporting period a total of twenty two (22) joint Phakisa operations were planned and executed in all four (4) coastal provinces, seventy four (74) cases were registered and three hundred and thirty one (331) persons arrested. Cases registered were related to illegal harvesting of marine resources, driving in a coastal area, illegal immigrants, illegal possession of drugs, unlicensed vehicles, illegal sand mining, illegal developments, illegal firearms and the selling of alcohol without license.

An overview of the criminal environmental enforcement activities which occurred during the period under review shows a total of 1497 criminal dockets registered by the EMIs, with a total of 1092 arrests made by the Green Scorpions during the period under review.  The report also indicates an increase in the number of convictions obtained, from 52 in 2015/16 period, to 76 in the 2016/17.

In the case of State v Simon Ngomani (CAS 9/12/2011), the accused was sentenced to effective 28 years imprisonment for the illegal hunting of 2 rhinoceros as well as charges related to trespassing and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, while in the case of State v Heidinge Waste Removal CC, the accused was found guilty and sentenced to R1 000.000.00 suspended for five years, with a further R100 000.00 paid to the DEA for the training of EMIs as well as to fund remedial measures. 

The report also records a total of 119 fines in terms  of Section 24G of NEMA, which equated to a total sum of R 9 766 445.22 . A total of 998 admission of guilt fines were issued to the value of R393 291. Admission of guilt fines are issued to minor offenders who are given an option to pay a prescribed fine instead of being tried by a court for that offence. The amount of the fine is based on the nature of the offence as well as what a court would presumably have imposed.

A significant volume of environmental compliance  work was undertaken, a total of 1756 facilities were inspected by the Green Scorpions. Of these facilities, 1980 were in the green, 2058 in the brown, while 341 were in the blue sub-sector.

The compliance and enforcement work is also undertaken through the application of administrative enforcement tools such as the issuing of directives and compliance notices. It is in this regard that, for the period under review, a total of 1100 administrative enforcement notices were issued, many of which are related to restricted activities involving listed invasive species.

The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson has applauded the Green Scorpions, for their sterling work in tackling environmental contraventions in South Africa. “We are very proud of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to ensure all citizens and corporates operating in South Arica adhere to the requirements of our legislation. It is through the work of the Green Scorpions, amongst others, that government is working hard to protect the integrity of the environment for the benefit of current and future generations,” said Deputy Minister Thomson.

Deputy Minister Thomson will lead an awards ceremony where she will recognise excellent and outstanding performance of the Green Scorpions and other key role-players in tackling environmental contraventions on Thursday 9 November 2017.

Deputy Minister Thomson has thanked South Africans from all walks of life, who have taken it upon themselves to report environmental contraventions in the past year. She has also urged every individual to report environmental crimes and incidents to the DEA’s 24 hour hotline on 0800 205 205.

Access the NECER report » here

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Albi Modise
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