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2022/23 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report shows a significant increase in the reporting of environmental crimes by South Africans

12 December 2023


Although there is greater awareness of environmental crimes amongst the general public, the impact of these crimes on South Africa and its citizens remains a cause for concern. The 2022/23 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report (NECER) showcases the successes and challenges experienced by the Environmental Management Inspectorate, known as the Green Scorpions.

Addressing environmental crimes in South Africa continues to require cohesive intervention at all levels of government to effectively address increasingly complex matters, ranging from the pollution of water and air to the smuggling of threatened and other key species locally and internationally. Amid the rising risks associated with environmental crimes, the Green Scorpions serve as government’s response to ensure the implementation of innovative and effective strategies to address activities causing environmental harm.

As highlighted in 2022, the opportunity exists to extend government’s implementation of these strategies through, for example, the design of an “all of government compliance and enforcement model” informed by lessons learnt from past experiences and which considers the reduction in resources available within the government institutions making up the Inspectorate.

The Green Scorpions were created through the National Environmental Management Act 17 years ago, pulling together existing efforts in the green (biodiversity and protected areas), brown (pollution, waste and impact assessment) and blue (integrated coastal management) subsectors into a single, cohesive and effective compliance and enforcement framework. Since its establishment, the Inspectorate has worked under an increasingly challenging environment that is continuously changing. It is therefore important that the 2022/23 NECER report be studied with an aim to seek future solutions to existing and new threats that may arise.

As an indication of the increase in public awareness of green, brown and blue crimes in South Africa, the 2022/23 financial year saw a 52% rise in the number of complaints reported through various channels to the national, provincial and municipal departments, as well as to state-owned entities. The majority of these complaints relate to illegal dumping, waste, water pollution and poaching incidents. There was a fluctuation in the reporting of certain types of incidents. For example, the number of reports on poaching increased to 387, followed by a significant increase in illegal dumping and waste complaints from 46 to 146, and reports of contraventions relating to water pollution from 51 to 155 in 2022/23.

The report shows positive conviction results with an 55% increase from 58 to 91 successful convictions. In addition, we are seeing more fitting sentences being handed down for environmental crimes committed, such as sentences of 63 years imprisonment without the option of a fine for a rhino poaching-related case; and a R10 million fine handed down to a municipality for pollution and waste offences. The collaboration between the Inspectorate and the different key role players is pivotal in achieving these successes.

There was a 7% decrease in the number of criminal dockets registered, from 952 in 2021/22 to 885 in 2022/23 while the number of dockets handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) also decreased by 6% in the year under review from 391 to 359. The total number of admission of guilt fines issued increased slightly from 1091 to 1211 over the reporting period, reflecting an 11% annual increase. However, the total value of admission of guilt fines paid decreased from R408 730 to R308 750. The NECER report reflects an increase in the number of plea and sentence agreements concluded, rising from 6 in 2021/22 to 18 in 2022/23. The Green Scorpions arrested 662 people for a variety of environmental offences in the reporting year.

The report indicates a 6% decrease in the overall number of Environmental Management Inspectors (“EMIs”) nationally, although there was an increase of 6% (130) in the number of field rangers who protect the natural resources in the country’s network of protected areas. As of 31 March 2023, the Inspectorate was made up of a total of 3215 EMIs, comprising of 2829 from national and provincial authorities and 386 from municipalities.

The number of proactive inspections increased by 61% in the past financial year to 3226, while the number of reactive inspections decreased by 45% to 1084. The report indicates that 4330 facilities were inspected of which 52% (2235) were against brown legislative requirements, 42% (1836) were in the green sub-sector and 6% (259) were related to blue issues. The total number of non-compliances found during inspections increased from 4987 in 2021/22 to 5421 in 2022/23, with 3400 in the brown, 1785 in the green and 236 in the blue sectors. In the 2022/23 financial year, a total of 4128 inspection reports were finalised – an increase of 11% on the previous year.

Despite the increase in environmental criminal activities and challenges related to capacity and resources, the Green Scorpions continue to play their role in giving effect to Section 24 of the Constitution by protecting the environment in a manner that it is not detrimental to the health and well-being of the country’s citizens.

Access the » National Environmental Compliane and Enforcement (NECER) report [PDF - 4.2 mb]

For media queries, contact: 
Peter Mbelengwa: 
082 611 8197




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