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Fighting environmental crimes


Environmental protection

Protecting and improving the quality and safety of our environment is one of our critical outcomes aimed at ensuring that the current and future generations will continue to enjoy their constitutionally enshrined right to an environment that is not harmful.

Non-compliance with existing environmental policies and legislation is one of the key challenges DEA seeks to address. The department will continue to implement initiatives aimed at closing the gap between the development of appropriate environmental legislation and compliance thereof. This will amongst other things include investigation and finalisation of reported complaints and incidents and inspection of facilitates.

DEA will continue building appropriate human resource capacity at all spheres of government to ensure that we are able to monitor compliance with and enforce the specific environmental legislation. There will be greater focus in addressing challenges in the area of pollution and waste management. Our work will focus on ensuring that there is less waste disposed at landfill sites and increased waste services and waste management systems.

An effective environmental impact assessment and management system will be put in place to ensure that in future we are able to effectively and proactively manage ,minimise and mitigate against potential negative impacts of significant development activities and development patterns in line with government policy, legislation, goals and strategies.

  • Biodiversity and conservation

The increasing acknowledgement of the role that biodiversity and ecosystem services play in socio-economic development, and the fact that South Africa is the third most biologically diverse country in the world, are at the centre of our efforts towards meeting sustainable development imperatives. Combating any threat to this biodiversity and ecosystem requires our coordinated and harmonised approaches at regional, national and global levels.

In response to the scourge of wildlife crime, such as the recent spate of attacks on the rhino population, the department spearheaded the establishment of both the biodiversity enforcement unit and the multi-stakeholder national wildlife crime reaction unit. Capacity will be increased in an attempt to address the current and future potential wildlife crimes.

  • Oceans and coast

Efforts aimed at the protection and conservation of our oceans and costal environment remain high on our agenda. In consultation with our key stakeholders, our Oceans and Coasts programme will work towards the development and finalisation of a comprehensive oceans management policy and legislation for South Africa and also put in place mechanisms aimed at ensuring that we honour our national and international obligations.

  • Achievements

The department seeks to promote compliance with environmental legislation and to decisively act against transgressors. There has been an increase in voluntary compliance with environmental legislation by industry as a result of departmental compliance and enforcement efforts and this is something that the department would like to promote. The department will also enhance the country’s ability to effectively combat environmental transgressions by increasing the capacity of the environmental inspectorate.

Environmental Management Inspectorate

The DEA, povincial environmental departments and other provincial and municipal organs of the state employ Environmental Management Inspectorates, a network of environmental enforcement officials from various national, provincial and municipal government departments created by National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 2008.

The mandate and functions of EMI

EMI must see to it that environmental legislation is followed and enforced. The EMIs have the powers to:

  • Investigate: question witnesses, inspect and remove articles, take photographs and audiovisual recordings, take samples and remove waste
  • Inspect: enter premises to ascertain whether legislation is being followed and seize evidence of criminal activity
  • Enforce: search premises, containers, vessels, vehicles, aircraft and pack animals; seize evidence and contraband; establish road blocks and make arrests.
  • Administrate: issue compliance notices and admission of guilt fines

The EMIs are not empowered to prosecute cases in court. All cases continue to be handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution. The EMIs therefore work closely with prosecutors country wide to ensure the successful prosecution of offenders.

Roles of EMI in relation to the South African Police Service (SAPS)

The SAPS continues to play a crucial role in enforcing environmental legislation and EMIs work closely with the SAPS in the investigation of environmental crimes. In terms of the National Environment Management Act, all police officers have the powers of an EMI.

Public participation

The department encourages the general public to take responsibility in the protection of the environment, in that there has been an environmental crimes and incident hotline established for members of the public to use to report environmental crimes and incidents happening around their areas - 0800 205 005.


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