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Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson’s speech at the Greenest Municipality Competition awards ceremony

Karibu lodge, Tzaneen, Limpopo province, 28 January 2015


Program Director,
Distinguished Guests,
Officials of the Department, Municipalities & Entities Present,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen



Ndi matsheloni

Today is a special history-making day and I had no slightest hesitation when accepting an invitation to be part of the proceedings. 

Amongst others, what makes this day special is that we have taken a decision to host the awarding of the Greenest Municipalities prizes in all provinces to give it its deserved national status and eThekwini is the first municipality to host it outside Gauteng. 

Today is the turn of Limpopo after we hosted these Awards in KwaZulu-Natal two years ago.

Another first is the showcasing of projects which are aligned with the aims of the Greenest Municipality Competition.  Our decision was influenced by the need to link our vision with practical reality so the people can relate well with our advocacy.  Lastly, and even more important, is that this year’s prize awards were preceded by provincial Greenest Municipality Competition.

With all these developments, we can proudly say that the GMC has come of age.  Every competition culminates in the announcement and conferring of prizes to the outstanding achievers and today marks the winning point of the Greenest Municipality Competition.  For the winning municipalities, this day presents a moment of joyous reflection on the difficult road travelled.  It instils a feeling of pride amongst the winners; especially to those participants who defied all the odds and worked hard to reach the Finishing Line first in a competition which drew many participants.

Ladies and gentlemen; we are here to celebrate and congratulate the winners of the Greenest Municipality Competition which is open for participation by all municipalities in our country.

The biggest winner is our environment.  We hold the competition every year to encourage municipalities to come on-board to contribute their efforts towards protecting nature which refers to a variety of ecosystems.  In practical terms, when nature wins, you and I and millions of other South Africans are the real winners. 

We all depend on nature and an environment in a healthy state will always provide resources to sustain all forms of life and help to boost economic trades.  When an environment is neglected to a point of degradation, the biological life it was sustaining perishes or survival becomes very expensive as human beings and animals’ migration begins in search of environmental resources.   

Ladies and gentlemen, the environment has one simple rule for us; it tells us to take care of it and it will reciprocate by also taking care of us.  We are in a mutual symbiotic relationship which is characterised by interdependence that I can liken to immortal marriage.  Countries which ignored this rule look back with great degree of regrets – they were once mega biodiversity regions but have unfortunately cleared their massive vegetation and wildlife in the quest for development at the expense of nature. 

Coming back to the main objective of this day, I will announce the winning municipalities towards the end of my speech.

When we introduced the Greenest Municipality Competition (GMC), its forerunner was the Cleanest Town Competition (CTC) which focused on the implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy with key elements being Reducing, Recycling and Reusing waste material. 

With Climate Change, human induced climatic conditions with devastating effects such as increased temperatures which are accompanied by thunderstorms and flooding, amongst others, compelled us to expand the scope of the competition to include environmental friendly elements.

Fortunately the subject of Climate Change and its destructive consequences are being given high priority attention.  Governments of the world have been meeting yearly in the past decade to talk and find collective solutions to the global warming problem.  Last year December the conference took place in Lima, Peru.  Later this year, the meeting will take place in Paris, France.

The reality of the matter is that actions to fight and curb this huge problem should start at local government level.  If the municipalities’ Integrated Development Plans (IDP) incorporates measures to address climate change, we can be assured of tackling the problem successfully in the end, no matter how long it will take. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is pleasing to note that the Greater Tzaneen Municipalities has noted the importance of raising awareness and extend the GMC programmes to school learners. 

When you teach learners, you are making a profound statement that the earth belong to all of us, young and old, and require our joint protection for it to continue to sustain us. Learners absorb important lessons to create an aesthetically acceptable environment through flower and vegetable gardens.  They will be receiving their awards today and I would like to congratulate those who have won and encourage the less fortunate to work even harder.

Our department has taken a decision to host our GMC Awards at municipalities which demonstrate greater response to key elements of the competition such as Climate Change, Waste and Energy Management.  During the site visits, we observed at the landfill site and the Environmental Centre the work being done here in the Greater Tzaneen Municipality to promote environmental protection. The general work being done in this municipality has been rewarded on more than two occasions and the decision to host the awards here was taken as a gesture to thank the Greater Tzaneen Municipality for staying true to the environmental protection cause. 

I am aware that our decision enjoys the full support of the Provincial Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism

I would like to encourage other municipalities to adopt the best practices seen here and ensure we live in clean environments which are healthy, carbon dioxide free, which promote energy mix, manage their water resources effectively and whose resilience is strengthened every day to fight onslaught of climate change.

The environment sector is mandated to ensure environmental sustainability in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa through the National Environmental Management Act and other relevant international agreements. Furthermore, the national and provincial spheres of government have a responsibility in terms of Section 54 of the Constitution to support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions. In support of municipalities the environment sector has implemented several interventions, participated in a number of engagements directly with municipalities and through other stakeholders.

We have continuous engagements and consultations with municipalities and have since established an incoherent manner of the implementation of the programmes.  In 2009, a Local Government Indaba on Environment discussed broader issues relating to environmental sustainability within municipalities and amongst others agreed on a key recommendation which says: “National, Provincial and Local Government should act on a common set of environmental sector priorities to ensure maximum impact and collective implementation”.

As a direct response to this recommendation and other subsequent engagements, the Environmental Sector has developed a five year Local Government Support Strategy for the Environment Sector, 2014-2019.  The annual implementation for 2014/15 is currently being implemented and by the end of the financial year 100% of commitments should be implemented. Our Environmental Sector continues to provide hands-on support to municipalities with officials permanently deployed to all District Municipalities. Just to reiterate my earlier point, these officials support municipalities along the five goals of the Strategy namely: Environmental Governance, Integrated Planning, Natural Resource Management, Green Economy and Climate Change. They also play an important role in managing the Departmental programmes and projects designed to address environmental issues and to address socio-economic challenges through job creation.

Ladies and gentlemen, our Department is providing support to municipalities and I’m saddened to note that the number of participating municipalities has dropped down to 85 from the 111 when we awarded the GMC prizes in 2013. South Africa has a total of 278 municipalities which include Metropolitan and District Municipalities and participation by only 85 municipalities is not grossly unfair. This implies the residents of the non-participating municipalities are going to be deprived of the benefits envisaged in this competition and other programmes of the department. The breakdown of the participation paints an undesirable picture for the objectives of Environmental Sector Strategy for the period 2014/19.

The provinces which have participated are as follows: Kwa-Zulu Natal fifteen (15), Eastern Cape six (6), Limpopo twenty-five (25), Western Cape seventeen (17), Mpumalanga eighteen (18) and Gauteng two (2). The Free State, Northern Cape and North West provinces didn’t participate. This is a cause for great concern and I will schedule meetings with my counterparts to discuss this and get them back on-board.

The Awarding of Prizes

Ladies and gentlemen, we have now reached the point which brought us here, the announcement of the fourth Greenest Municipality Competition.  The GMC is overseen and managed by a panel of adjudicators to ensure high level standards are followed for efficiency and fairness.

The Panel of Adjudicators have spent an average of three (3) days at each participating municipality to ensure adequate coverage of all areas of the competition. The prize is tied to implementation of Waste, Climate Change and Green Economy related job creation projects. Funding the competition is of greater strategic importance as it helps galvanize municipalities to initiate projects that address their integrated development plans (IDPs) and forged links with our Extended Public Works Programme mandate of creating temporary employment and offering skills development opportunities.

Before I announce the prize winners, I would like to request the Programme Director to provide the way forward on how this process should unfold.

I’ll announce the winners from the Second Runner-Up, First Runner-Up and the overall Winner of the Local and the Metropolitan Municipality Category.

Local Municipality Category


Position Prizes Money Winning Municipality
1. The Overall Winner R3, 5 Million Mogalakwena
2. First Runner Up R3 Million uMhlathuze
3. Second Runner Up R2, 5 Million Nkomazi

Metropolitan Municipality Category


Position Prizes Money Winning Municipality
1. The Overall Winner R3, 5 Million City of Johannesburg
2. First Runner Up R3 Million Nelson Mandela Bay
3. Second Runner Up R2, 5 Million Buffalo City

Ladies and gentlemen, as conclude, I want to reiterate the need for all municipalities to get involved for the betterment of our people.  If there are challenges from non-participating municipalities, we should discuss them, find solutions and move forward together.

It is often said that history is cruel and doesn’t remember the losers.  In my world, those who participated and unfortunately couldn’t win should actually consider themselves as winners.  In my experience of life, losing participants are always the most dangerous when they prepare for subsequent competitions.  They normally go back to the drawing board, thoroughly analyse their shortcomings, assess the strengths of the winners and then develop a winning formula for the future. 

Today’s winners must watch out as today’s losers may become tomorrow’s winners.

Anyone who is complacent in their job does so at their own peril

I thank you