Deputy Minister Thomson’s key note address at Greenest Municipality Competition Award ceremony

Elangeni Hotel, Durban, 14 August 2018

Mpumalanga MEC for Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, Vusi Shongwe
eThekwini Executive Mayor Mayor, Cllr Zandile Gumede,
Umlalazi Municipality Mayor, Cllr TB Zulu,
National Assembly Basic Education Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Nomalungelo Ngina
Msunduzi Deputy Mayor, Cllr Thobani Zuma,
Umdoni Deputy Mayor, Cllr Sibongile Khathi,
Harry Gwala Deputy Mayor Cllr Maphasa-Duma
Musina Mayor, Cllr Mihloti Muhlope,
Musina Speaker, Gilbert Netshisaulu,
Musina Chief Whip, Fistos Mafela,
eThekwini Metropolitan Cllr Nkosenhle Madlala
Msunduzi Ward 34 Cllr Mike Amod,
Ray Nkonyeni Cllr Nair/Lubabanyana,
Steve Tshwete MMC J. Matshiane,
Nelson Mandela Bay MMC Lance Grootboom,
Swartland MMC Marlene van Zyl,
Tzaneen Municipality, Cllr Lettie Hlangwane
GMC Panelists
Officials from DEA, COGTA and different municipalities here tonight,
Heads of Department
Senior Government Official here tonight
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Evening,

We are here tonight to celebrate the contribution that you, as local government, are making to climate change and to ensuring our cities are cleaner and greener. Our day started this morning with a clean-up campaign that saw us scattered throughout this beautiful coastal city. All of us playing our part in our simple way to ensure we live in a clean and healthy country and city.

I would also like to welcome you for being here tonight, and thank all of you who have travelled a long way to be here with us. 

Your presence, and that of our councilors and officials who have worked so hard to grow your municipalities’ contribution to the growth of the Waste and Green Economy sectors.

Local government, through district, local and metropolitan municipalities, is at the coalface of service delivery in South Africa.  It is through municipalities that nearly all South Africans have contact with government, be it through the use of electricity and other utilities, travelling on buses, building a house or a new business premises, or disposing of waste. 

The South African Constitution provides for the right of all South Africans to an environment that is not harmful to their health well-being, and to have the environment protected through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.”

Municipalities play a crucial role in building climate resilient communities through planning of new residential areas and urban development, the provision of municipal infrastructure and services, managing water and energy demands and responding to the increasing number of natural disasters affecting urban and rural communities countrywide.  

By integrating climate change requirements into planning, municipalities are able to address the needs of their people in a changing climate.  These can be achieved through the conversion of biogas to energy, provision of sustainable energy to communities, sustainable waste management, green buildings, eco-mobility and sustainable transport, as well as through labour-intensive projects to improve the environment, such as Working for Water to remove alien invasive species and taking care of precious water resources.

Addressing the needs of residents is not limited to South African local government.  At the international climate change talks in Paris in 2017, cities and regions from across the world launched a five-year vision to increase their action to respond to climate change and ensure sustainable future living environments for their people by 2020.  

The Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Focus on Cities recognised that cities and regions are at the heart of their countries’ economic development and generate a large share of global GDP, and are at the frontline of global efforts to protect citizens from the impact of climate change.

It is important to note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that urban areas are responsible for up to 49% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  

Through the transformation of local economic development models, municipalities are able to make a substantial contribution to meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.   

According to the United Nations, humanity is facing the greatest wave of urbanisation in its history, with 60% of the global population expected to live in urban areas by 2030 and 70% by 2050.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, I earlier mentioned the Waste Economy.

The waste sector has been identified as a key role-player in achieving the goal of economic upliftment through job creation, as we work towards reaching the goals contained in the NDP. The waste collection and recycling sector is one of the fastest growing areas in our economy.  Despite a recent total estimated value of R25 billion to the South African economy, the rate of waste recycling in our country has not been fully harnessed. 

In South Africa 90% of waste is still being disposed of in landfills. If the potential to generate wealth from waste is fully utilised, we could see a situation in our country where particularly the poor and marginalised are able to benefit through the creation of jobs, establishment of businesses and cooperatives, and ultimately improvement of their lives.

Moving waste away from landfills provides considerable social, economic and environmental opportunities as we take steps to adapt to climate change, including   job creation and enterprise development. This will not only provide access to valuable resources through the development of the Circular Economy, but provide benefits such as reducing the environmental and social impacts of waste. 

The move towards the development of the green economy through the creation of green jobs is key given the amount of wealth to be found in waste.

The amount of waste we collect and dispose of daily, coupled with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from factories, vehicles and the like is a clear indication of the human influence on the climate system.  The more the climate system is disrupted, the more our communities become at risks.  This is evident from the daily impacts of climate change we experience here in South Africa – the Eastern Cape is presently experiencing serious drought with water cuts and water shedding being experienced in cities such as Port Elizabeth, while other parts of the country have experienced higher rainfall and floods, including higher temperatures.  

South Africa’s commitment to addressing climate change is contained in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which includes ddistinct components on mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation.

Municipalities, in particular, play an important role in the public transport strategy through the introduction of Accelerated Modal Upgrading and Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks such as the Bus Rapid Transport networks, as well as waste management, which includes measures to divert municipal waste away from landfills and biogas and combined heat or power generation from waste water.

As a sustainable development model, the Circular Economy keeps resources at their highest possible level of value at all times thus eliminating waste. By focusing on the development of the waste economy many more jobs can be created in the formal and informal sectors through the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Waste programme.

Buy-back centres for waste and waste recycling plants where waste pickers and citizens send their waste are all situated in municipalities, the key institutions for implementing our country’s waste management strategies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are here this evening to celebrate those municipalities that have knuckled down and made significant strides in greening their environments, thus improving the health and well-being of their residents and their immediate environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, international studies have revealed that we have manufactured enough plastic since the Second World War to cover the entire Earth in cling film.  The versatile, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant, strong, and relatively inexpensive nature of plastic are the attractive qualities that lead to an insatiable appetite and over-consumption of plastic goods.

The studies show that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste.

Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps and their impact is highly damaging especially for our marine ecosystems where it is predicted that by 2050, nearly all seabirds will have plastic in their stomachs.

Already, 9 out of 10 of the birds have some of the substance in their digestive tracts according to the scientific studies. Therefore it’s important for our local governments to actively step up efforts to address this challenge. However, this is not a local government problem, it is our problem that we have to tackle head-on.

In a South African study of debris sampled along the South African coast, plastic items were found to be by far the most abundant, comprising 99% of coastal litter.

Closer to home in Durban harbor, mangrove swamps used to be buzzing with life as multitudes of colourful crabs and other creatures scurried about on the muddy forest floor. However, when marine scientists visited the Durban harbor around the middle of 2017, they were astonished to find not a single crab in a section of mangroves near the Bluff Yacht Club. The reason?

The biologically rich environment has been smothered by a thick layer of plastic and other litter. It’s in our hands to, as this collective, reverse this unfortunate situation.

As many of you are aware, the Greenest Municipality Competition (GMC) started its life as the Cleanest Town Competition (CTC) with a primary focus to implement the National Waste Management Strategy. The key elements were Reducing, Recycling and Reusing waste material.

Although the initial competition was fairly successful in achieving its primary objectives, development within the greening movement required modifications of the concept to embody elements outside the waste management category.

The incorporation of the new elements came with a new name -- the Greenest Municipality Competition (GMC) – and focuses on addressing environmental protection, social upliftment and economic growth.  

I am encouraged by the fact that more and more South African municipalities are embracing the green economy by implementing long term sustainability policies and strategies in partnership with local communities. This is an important development for our country because it demonstrates an increasing awareness and realization that our prosperity as a country is inextricably connected to the well-being of our environment.

A review of the 2018 Greenest Municipality Competition confirms that municipalities are making progress in implementing measures towards greening.  The major driving force behind greening appears to be in response to a growing demand for municipal services that are costly, and to provide these services to residents who are increasingly struggling to pay for the services rendered.

Payment for services appears to be an issue for most municipalities evaluated this year, and going green has meant encouraging residents to be efficient alongside efforts by the municipalities at corporate level doing their bit to lead by example.  This is evident from initiatives undertaken by municipalities to go green, including the installation of automated sensor lighting, twin flush toilet systems, LED luminance light for both street lighting and traffic control, installation of solar systems, development of waterless gardens, water reuse, waste recycling.

As you know, every competition culminates in the announcement and conferring of prizes to the outstanding achievers and today marks the announcement of the best performing municipalities for the 2017/18 financial cycle. The biggest winner of this competition is our natural environment.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have now come to the highlight of the evening:  the announcement of the winners for the 7th Greenest Municipality Competition.

Before we hand over the awards, I would like to point out that the GMC was overseen and managed by a panel of adjudicators to ensure a high standard, efficiency and fairness.

The Panel of Adjudicators has spent sufficient time at each participating municipality to ensure adequate coverage of all areas of the competition. These were waste and water management, energy efficiency and conservation, landscaping, tree planting and beautification, public participation and community empowerment, leadership and institutional arrangements.

The funds for the prizes of the awards were sourced from Environmental Programmes & Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) of the Department and the recipient municipalities will receive the awards in a form of an EPWP project to the value of the award. This of great strategic importance as it encourages municipalities to initiate projects that address environmental issues within their IDPs and links with the objectives of EPIP of creating better environment management practices, creating temporary job opportunities, skills development and SMME development.

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

  1. Starting with the Local Municipality category:
    • The Second Runner up Umlazi Local Municipality
    • The First Runner up is Tzaneen Local Municipality
    • The Overall Winner for the category Local Municipality is Swartland
  2. I now proceed to the Metro category:
    • The Second Runner up is Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality
    • The First Runner up is the City of Cape Town
    • The Overall Winner for the metro category is the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we conclude, I would like to encourage all South African municipalities to get involved, to respond to climate change.  By doing this you will be improving the lives of all our people. 

I would like to congratulate all the winners and participants once again for all their efforts in making this competition the success that it is.  Your contributions, no matter how small you think they are, are in reality making a huge contribution to our country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate and adapt to climate change and to sustainable development.

I thank you.