Minister Edna Molewa engages Saldhana Bay Municipality to come clean on allegations of denial of access to and recreational use of coastal area
23 December 2016
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Edna Molewa has noted the allegations regarding the denial of access to and recreational use of the coastal area by the Saldana Bay Municipality as reported in the media on the 19 December and 20 December 2016.
“The Department is currently engaging with the municipality in resolving this matter. The ultimate resolution shall be that no-one is denied access to use any of our coastal areas for recreation," said Minister Molewa.
The National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (Act No. 24 of 2008) (ICM Act), gives everyone the right to equitable access to the South African beaches and its public amenities. This Act further mandates that Coastal Public Property (CPP), as defined in the ICM Act, belongs to all citizens of South Africa. The State, in its capacity as the public trustee of all coastal public property, has a duty to manage, protect and enhance it in the interests of the whole community, and for the benefit of present and future generations.
Access to natural resources including the beach is a constitutional right enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act No. 108 of 1996). This right provides for the utilisation of natural resources within the coastal zone in a socially, economically justifiable and ecologically sustainable manner.
In terms of the ICM Act, any natural person in the Republic has;
a) A right of reasonable access to coastal public property; and
b) Is entitled to use and enjoy coastal public property, provided such use-
- Does not adversely affect the rights of members of the of the public to use and enjoy the coastal public property;
- Does not hinder the State in the performance of its duty to protect the environment; and
- Does not cause an adverse effect to the environment.
In terms of the Act, no access fee may be charged without the approval of the Minister to the public to gain access to the Coastal Public Property. Any person or organ of the state intending to charge access fees must apply to the Minister for authorisation. The access fee does not apply to fees for the use of facilities or activities which are located on, or in, coastal public property.
The Minister would like to state categorically that “no such an application for charging fees has been received or processed by the Minister as per this Act. Thus no reason related to fees must be used to deny anyone access to this coastal area."
"It is thus unlawful in terms of the ICM Act to implement measures which prevent public access to the beach,” remarked Minister Molewa.
It is only under certain strict circumstances that the public’s access to the beach may be limited. Minister Molewa has emphasised that the Department is working tirelessly for the realisation of the Constitutional Principles of right to access to beaches across our coastline.
“Given our nation’s history, the rights of the public to access the beach in our Republic is seen as a fundamental constitutional right and principle upon which the ICM Act is based,” the Minister said.
The consultative process as undertaken by the Department, aims to ascertain the nature and purpose of such actions allegedly embarked upon by the municipality and ensure the immediate correction of any anomaly or illegality that may be found.
The Minister is aware of local government’s constitutional mandate under Part B of Schedule 5 of the Constitution of South Africa relating to the administration of beaches. While the municipality may take measures in terms of the Constitution to regulate beaches and amusement facilities, local amenities, traffic and parking, those measures may not undermine the lawful requirement of ensuring reasonable public access to the beach.
The Department will work with the Municipality and the Provincial Government to resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible and will not hesitate to take any urgent enforcement measures in the interests of securing the rights of our citizens’ to access the beach.
Given that we already find ourselves in the festive season and that beach-going has already increased significantly, the Minister has been left with no option but to request that the Municipality remove any barriers which are preventing the public from accessing the beach in question.
“I am not requesting that the Municipality should not regulate and control activities on the beach – my request relates strictly to the public’s ability to access the beach,” added Minister Molewa. “Such access must be hassle-free and not inconvenience some of the people who may be required to carry their recreational equipment and walk long distances to access our beach.”
The Saldana Bay municipality is urged to comply with these important transformation pieces of legislation of our country.
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