Minister Edna Molewa’s statement on the launch of the National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report 2013/14 and GEF Rhino Project

08 October 2014
South Africa’s environmental laws and regulations have the potential to advance a green economy by improving the health and safety of the workforce and communities, conserving natural resources and ecosystem services, promoting sustainability in the business community, expanding markets for environmental goods and services, creating sustainable jobs and driving technology innovation.
This opportunity is however being threatened by those that choose to contravene South Africa’s environmental laws by engaging in illegal activities that undermine these development objectives. It is now widely recognised that the consequences of environmental crimes stretch far beyond ecological impacts and have socio-economic and health effects that disrupt entire economies and ecosystems. Environmental crimes also undermine legal and environmentally sustainable activities and reduce future options for the use of natural resources.
It is important to note the consequences that arise from non-compliance with environmental laws. Amongst others, for instance, illegal logging contributes to deforestation, deprives forest communities of vital livelihoods, causes ecological problems such as flooding and is a major contributor to climate change. Illicit trade in ozone depleting substances contributes to a thinning ozone layer, which causes human health problems such as skin cancer and cataracts. Soil and water contamination from illegal hazardous waste dumping can damage ecosystems and pose significant risks to human health.

The seventh National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report represents the efforts of DEA through the Green Scorpions (also known as the Environmental Management Inspectorate) in responding to these threats. The report provides a national overview of environmental compliance and enforcement activities undertaken by relevant institutions across the country in the period 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2014.

The Report represents the work of 9 provincial environmental and 4 provincial parks authorities, DEA, Sanparks and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and it is the main communication mechanism that tells the public about the work of the Inspectorate in the preceding  financial year.

The Green Scorpions comprise 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). They are tasked with ensuring the implementation of, and adherence to, specific pieces of national environmental legislation.

A presentation will now be given that highlights the content overview and statistics that are set out in the report.

An overview of the criminal enforcement activities for the 2013/14 period shows an increase in the number of criminal dockets registered, from 1 488 in 2012/13 to 1 862 in 2013/14. The number of finalised criminal dockets handed to the National Prosecuting Authority also increased – from 268 in 2012/13 to 379 in 2013/14.

The report shows a slight increase in the number of convictions obtained nationally (from 70 in 2012/13 to 78 convictions in 2013/14), while the number of acquittals remained stable at 8 over the two financial years. A total of 854 admission of guilt fines were paid to the value of R498 230.00, which is a drop compared to the previous financial year when 993 fines amounting to a total of R654 250 were paid. 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.

A significant volume of environmental enforcement work is also undertaken through the application of administrative enforcement tools such as the issuing of directives and compliance notices. Pre-directives and pre-compliance notices issued increased from 417 in 2012/13 to 495 in 2013/14. The number of final directives and final compliance notices also displayed a corresponding increase from 160 to 214 over the same reporting periods.

The number of facilities inspected for compliance with environmental legislation was reported to be 2018 in the pollution, waste and environmental impact assessment sub-sector, and 830 in the biodiversity/protected areas subsector. In total 1 539 non-compliances were noted in the 2013/14 period.

The 2013/14 financial year has seen a continued focus in compliance and enforcement activities in relation to strategic sectors.  As a result of follow up inspections and ongoing enforcement in these sectors, there has been a noticeable improvement in environmental performance in both the cement and refinery sectors. However, it was necessary to step up enforcement efforts in the ferro-alloy, iron and steel industry which has the potential to impact significantly on the environment and a number of long term criminal investigations related to this sector have been finalised and dockets handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority to consider prosecution.

The Department of Environmental Affairs operates a 24 hour Environmental Crimes and Incidents Hotline. The hotline registered 536 complaints and incidents in the 2013/14 financial year, compared to 467 in the previous reporting period. A total of 260 emergency incidents were reported in terms of section 30 of NEMA, with most of the reports emanating from the petroleum and road transport sectors. Some of the most prevalent crimes reported through the hotline include illegal development without an environmental authorisation, illegal hunting, air and water pollution as well as the dumping of waste.  These categories of alleged non-compliances make up almost 80% of the total number of complaints received.

As you are no doubt aware 1004 rhino were illegally killed for their horns in South Africa during 2013. We continue to work in an integrated manner with all our security forces and members of our criminal justice system. Hence a total of 133 alleged poachers were arrested in the KNP, 63 in KwaZulu-Natal, 34 in Mpumalanga and Limpopo and 26 in North West. Between April 2013 and April 2014, 70 rhino poaching court cases were finalised, with 85 accused convicted and 13 acquitted.  A total of 50 accused were sentenced to direct imprisonment without the option of a fine, while cases were withdrawn in relation to 25 of the suspects. Nine people were convicted for the possession of rhino horn, seven for the illegal dealing in rhino horn and 24 for the illegal hunting of rhino. Thirty-two people were convicted for illegal possession of firearms/ammunition, while 44 were convicted for trespassing.

The highest sentence during that period was handed down in the State v W Mawala where the accused was convicted of murder, illegal hunting and trespassing with an effective sentence of 21 years imprisonment.

Court cases during this reporting period indicate that environmental crime syndicates are expanding the scope of their illegal activities to other protected species. In three cases involving the illegal possession of elephant ivory in the Western Cape and Gauteng, approximately 864 kg of ivory items was found in the hands of offenders. In KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, four people were found guilty of the illegal harvesting of over 150 cycad plants. Other convictions obtained involve the illegal hunting of brown hyena and cheetah; as well as the smuggling of several reptile species from Namibia to South Africa.

Two judgments handed down during the 2013/14 reporting period embody the key ‘polluter pays’ principle in which offenders are ordered to pay for their environmental contraventions.

Firstly, in the case of State v Blue Platinum Ventures (Pty) Ltd and Matome Samuel Maponya, the Limpopo Regional Court convicted the managing director, in his personal capacity, of failing to take all reasonable steps that were necessary in the circumstances to prevent the commission of the offence by his company (i.e. for failing to ensure that the company obtained the necessary environmental authorisation prior to commencing with the listed activity in question). Knowing that authorisation was required prior to commencing with the listed activity, he nevertheless allowed, or caused, the company to act in contravention of the relevant laws.

In the second matter of State v Nkomati Anthracite (Pty) Limited, the offending company entered into a plea and sentence agreement, admitting its guilt to eight counts of contravening water and environmental impact assessment legislation. In addition to the main sentence of one million Rand (R1 000 000), suspended for a period of five years, the court also referred to section 34 of NEMA in ordering Nkomati Anthracite to pay an additional amount of four million Rand (R4 000 000) to the Environmental Management Inspectorate to be used to further the execution of the Inspectorate’s enforcement mandate; including environmental rehabilitation and enforcement training.

There has been a 12.26% increase in the total number of Green Scorpions (or EMI’s) on the national register -- from 1 705 in 2012/13 to 1 915 in 2013/2014. Of the 1 915 EMIs, 1 252 (65%) are field rangers employed by SANParks, the Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. There has been an 18.7% (197) increase in the number of Grade 5 EMI field rangers from 1 055 in 2012/13 to 1 252 in 2013/14.

The EMI basic training programme saw 107 officials being put through their paces in two 3-week courses presented in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. In addition to the basic training, this Department also facilitated a series of specialised or advanced EMI training courses for  a further 106 officials on topics including conflict management, alien and invasive species inspections, biodiversity crime scene management as well as the Barcode of Wild Project.

In addition to building capacity within the ranks of the Inspectorate there were also initiatives that sought to raise the capability of key partners in environmental compliance and enforcement.  Firstly, DEA trained officials from the Dog Detector Unit of the South African Revenue Service in three courses in Musina, Zeerust and Kempton Park. This course focused on the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as well as commonly smuggled species and techniques. This training will be rolled out to the various ports of entry and exit over the next year.  In addition, prosecutors employed by the National Prosecuting Authority underwent a week-long course to raise their awareness of the nature, scope, impact and legislation related to environmental crime.

Finally, there were two events that highlighted the need for the Green Scorpions to think ‘outside the box’ about measures and strategies instead of following traditional compliance and enforcement approaches.

Firstly, the fifth National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Lekgotla saw the Inspectorate and  its key stakeholders gather in the Western Cape in November 2013 under the theme  “The EMI Evolution: Unlocking the Potential”.

In addition, the development of a National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Strategy gave the Green Scorpions an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of the past eight years and develop proposals for strengthening the ability of the Inspectorate to meet its constitutional imperative. 

The results of the 2013/14 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report show a general increase in the volume of compliance and enforcement activities being undertaken by the sector. This was accompanied by significant sentences being handed down to those convicted of environmental crimes. It has also led to an improvement in environmental performance in certain industry sectors. Despite the great strides made by the Green Scorpions, the ongoing threats to the environment will require a continued, sustained and coordinated effort to ensure that our citizens are able to live in an environment that is not detrimental to their health and well-being.

It is important for me to highlight another effort which has recently been initiated.  The UNEP- GEF Rhino Project is aimed at strengthening law enforcement capabilities to combat wildlife crime with a specific focus on rhino.  The Cooperation Agreement between the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Department of Environmental Affairs was signed on 8 May 2014, formalising the start of this important program which brings together key partners, including the South African Police Service (SAPS), the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL), SANParks, CITES, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The UNEP-GEF Rhino Project seeks to strengthen our law enforcement capabilities through improved forensic capacity; strengthened data gathering systems and enhanced cooperation mechanisms at an international level. 

The primary outcomes therefore focus on:

  • Use of forensic technology to combat rhino poaching and the illegal rhino horn trade;
  • Information sharing and analysis for more effective law enforcement among national actors to tackle rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn; and
  • Cooperation and exchange at the international level to tackle poaching and the illegal trade along the whole trafficking chain. 

Work that has already been done since the initiation of the project includes the appointment of a program manager, acquisition of forensic trailers and equipment and the roll-out of advanced crime scene management training which will take place early November 2014. GEF has allocated approximately $2.7 million USD to this project over a period of 4 years and I am confident that the important interventions planned as part of this project will strengthen the country’s fight to protect our rhino.

I would like express my appreciation important contributions that are being made by our partners on this project and would specifically like to thank the UNEP, ICCWC (consortium of comprising Interpol, CITES, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organisation), the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the SAPS for their continued support on this project.

** Members of the public are urged to report environmental incidents and crimes to the 24 hour hotline 0800 205 005.

To access the 2013/14 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report, follow the link below:

>>National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report 2013/14.

To access the 2013/14 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report presentation delivered during the media briefing, follow the link below:

>>The National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report 2013/14.

For media inquiries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871