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Department of Environmental Affairs launches the National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report 2012/13

10 November 2013

 

The Department of Environmental affairs today officially launched the National Compliance and Enforcement Report (NECER) 2012/13 in Pretoria. The report provides a national overview of environmental compliance and enforcement activities undertaken by relevant institutions across the country during the period 01 April 2012 – 31 March 2013.

The NECER includes the work of the Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI) commonly known as the Green Scorpions. 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). EMIs are tasked with ensuring the implementation of and adherence to specific pieces of national environmental legislation.

An overview of the criminal enforcement activities for the 2012/13 period shows that a total of 1818 arrests were made by the Green Scorpions as compared to 1339 in the previous financial year. 1488 criminal dockets were registered during the period in question compared to 1080 in the 2011/12 period.

The report also indicates a slight decrease in the number of convictions obtained nationally, from 82 in 2011/12 to 70 convictions in 2012/13, while the number of acquittals remained stable, increasing from 7 to 8 over the same reporting periods. A total of 993 admission of guilt fines were paid to the value of R 654 250, while in the previous financial year, 759 fines amounting to a total of R 470 080 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. The amount of the fine is based on the nature of the offence as well as what a court would presumably have imposed.

The total value of money paid as a result of the issuing of section 24 G administrative fines as provided for in the National Environmental Management Act more than halved, from about R17.6 million in 2011/12 to about R5.3 million in 2012/13. These fines are paid as a consequence of the illegal commencement of Environmental Impact Assessment and waste management listed activities.

The Department of Environmental Affairs also operates a 24 hour Environmental Crimes and Incidents Hotline. The national complaints and incidents hotline registered 467 complaints and incidents in the 2012/13 financial year, compared to 564 in the previous reporting period. A total of 213 emergency incidents were reported in terms of section 30 of NEMA, with 30 of these being assessed as being minor incidents that were not deemed to pose a serious risk to human health or the environment.

Some of the most prevalent crimes reported include the illegal hunting of rhino in a national park, the unlawful disposal of waste, illegal cutting and collection of wood and driving in a coastal area without a permit.

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 326 in 2011/12 to 417 in 2012/13. The number of final directives and final compliance notices remained stable, increasing marginally from   159 to 160.

The number of facilities inspected for compliance with environmental legislation was reported to be 1321 in the pollution, waste and environmental impact assessment sub-sector, and 1445 in the biodiversity/protected areas subsector. In total 1720 non-compliances were noted in the 2012/13 period.

The 2012/13 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 an improvement in environmental performance in both the cement and refinery sectors, however, the nature of the types of non-compliances will require continuous monitoring in order to ensure that they are being addressed.

In 2012, a total of 668 rhinoceros were illegally hunted in South Africa. Of these 668 rhinos, 425 were illegally hunted in the Kruger National Park (KNP), 59 in Limpopo, 66 in KwaZulu-Natal, 28 in Mpumalanga,  and 77 in the North West.. During the same period, a total of 267 suspected rhino poachers were arrested. Of the 232 arrested suspects, most arrests were done in KNP with 73 arrests, Mpumalanga with 66, Limpopo with 43 and North West with 32.

From the period April 2012 – April 2013, 50 rhino poaching cases were finalised, with 69 accused convicted and 2 acquitted. 36 accused were sentenced to direct imprisonment without the option of a fine, while 23 accused had the case against them withdrawn. 16 accused were convicted for the possession of rhino horn, 8 for the illegal dealing in rhino horn and 20 for the illegal hunting of rhino. 23 accused were convicted for illegal possession of firearms/ammunition, while 25 accused were convicted for trespassing.

In addition to the significant sentences handed down by the courts for rhino poaching, there have also been several cases in the Western Cape and Gauteng, which relate to the illegal possession of elephant ivory where the accused face imprisonment of between 3 and 10 years.  3 cases of the illegal gathering of cycads were finalised in Limpopo and Kwa-Zulu Natal involving a total of 101 cycads plants.

The 2012/13 period also saw the execution of several joint national and provincial operations on illegal sandmining, trade in reptiles and the tanneries and taxidermist industry. The “sandmining blitz” was initiated in response to the pervasive reports of illegal sandmining, especially on the banks of rivers, causing widespread watercourse diversion, habitat fragmentation and eventually ecosystem services losses. Both criminal and administrative enforcement was taken against these offenders in the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and the Free State between the 26th and 28thof February 2013.

Operation Skhumba focused the efforts of the Green Scorpions on the tannery and taxidermy industries in August 2012, and saw officials from national and provincial environmental authorities visit 28 facilities to assess compliance with pollution, waste and biodiversity legislation. During this operation, a number of facilities were found to be without the required authorisations related to waste, atmospheric emissions, hunting and activities related to threatened and protected species.

Finally, Operation Cold Blood investigated the illegal trade in reptiles in which 118 reptile keepers/pet shops were inspected, primarily in KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and the Free State. This joint operation was aimed at not only assessing compliance with national and provincial legislation, but also to raise awareness of international obligations, for example, the import and export obligations imposed by the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species.

Two court cases that were heard in the 2012/13 period are noteworthy due to the innovative sentences handed down by the adjudicating officers. In the first matter of The State v Golfview Mining, the accused was charged with contravening various provisions of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) and the National Water Act. The accused entered into a plea and sentence agreement, and was sentenced to a fine of R1 million (which was suspended for 5 years on various conditions). In addition to the main sentence, an additional court order was handed down by the Ermelo Regional Court for R1 million to be paid by the accused, respectively, to the Water Research Council, the Environmental Empowerment Services of MDEDT, and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, to be used solely for the purposes of environmental research, awareness, protection and training.

In the second case of the State v York Timbers, the Nelspruit Regional Court, on the 04th April, 2013, granted a confiscation order against York Timbers (Pty) Ltd, ordering the accused to pay R450 000, being the amount that it was alleged to have saved by failing to obtain an environmental authorization prior to the commencement of a listed activity, as required by the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA). Although this type of order, granted under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (POCA), has previously been used to deprive offenders from the benefits obtained in wildlife crimes, this is the first successful application for such an order relating to a contravention of environmental impact assessment legislation in South Africa. 

There has been a 22% increase in the number of EMIs on the national register, from 1399 in 2011/12 to 1705 in 2012/13. Of the 1705 EMIs, 1055 (62%) are field rangers employed at SANParks, Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency. 76% of the national EMI capacity is dedicated to the biodiversity/protected areas subsector, 21% to the pollution, waste and environmental impact assessment subsector and 3% to the integrated coastal management subsector.

A concerted effort was made in 2012/13 to build the capacity of the Inspectorate. 90 officials from across the country received EMI basic training in two sessions held in Nelspruit and Grahamstown. In addition, 88 Environmental Health Practitioners were presented with EMI bridging training through a collaborative effort between the KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Free State environmental authorities and their tertiary education institution counterparts, namely, the Mangosuthu University of Technology, the Cpae Peninsula University of Technology and the Central University of Technology. This initiative is aimed at boosting the compliance and enforcement capacity in the air quality and waste sectors. In addition to the basic training programme, advanced training sessions were delivered to 97 EMIs on the specialised fields of Operational Conflict Management, Administrative Enforcement; and Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.

Continued collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority, the Justice College and the Judicial Officers Association of South Africa resulted in 107 prosecutors and 30 magistrates being made aware of the nature, scope and impacts of environmental crimes and the legislation related thereto.

This coming week, the Inspectorate will hold  its 5th Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Lekgotla, which is themed, “The EMI Evolution: Unlocking the Potential” The theme is aimed at conveying the message that the Inspectorate is a dynamic network of compliance and enforcement officials, which are readily able to adapt to the changing environmental threats that face the country. The theme also recognises that, although significant progress has been made by the Inspectorate in the past 8 years since its inception, there is always room for improvement on key compliance and enforcement activities.

The Department of Environmental Affairs will host the 5th Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Lekgotla at the Arabella Hotel and Spa near Kleinmond in the Western Cape from 11-14 November 2013. This year’s lekgotla follows in the footsteps of 4 similar events in 2006 in KwaZulu Natal, in 2007 in the Free State, in 2009 in the Eastern Cape and in 2012 in Limpopo. These multi-stakeholder events bring together national, provincial and local authorities and other relevant stakeholders, including the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority,  that are involved in environmental compliance and enforcement to discuss topics of common interest, to develop capacity, to make recommendations and to develop strategies to tackle the current challenges facing this sector in South Africa

With the foundation for environmental legislation having firmly been set in South Africa over the past decade, the greatest challenge now is that of implementation and delivery.  Ensuring that such legislation is implemented and achieves its purposes is largely the responsibility of EMIs and the NECER is a collation of their experiences and findings in this work. 

The 2012/13 edition marks the sixth of its kind since the inception of the Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI), also known as the Green Scorpions.  The report highlights the significant efforts of the EMI sector to ensure that the principles of sustainable development and the-polluter-pays principle are practically implemented through the many inspections, investigations and other compliance and enforcement activities that make up the daily routine of EMI officials. The results and impact of this work are evident in the statistics contained in the report, which show the commitment and dedication of the Green Scorpions. 

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

>> Download report 

 

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Albi Modise
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