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Centre for Environmental Rights - Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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About the Centre

Accessing CER services

Who qualifies for the Centre’s services?

The Centre for Environmental Rights engages in strategic litigation, advocacy, and supports community groups in defending their right to a healthy environment though training and other support initiatives. However, not everyone qualifies for the free legal advice and representation of the CER. In accordance with Law Society requirements, and as read with our Case Selection Criteria (see below), we will only consider cases where the person or organisation requesting advice is unable:

  • to afford to engage the services of private environmental attorneys; or
  • reasonably to access the resources required to engage such services (this last requirement particularly applies to non-public interest organisations).

What types of cases does the Centre take on?

The requirements for cases that the CER will consider taking on are set out in our Case Selection Criteria.

What can you do yourself?

The following is basic self-help information to assist you to address your environmental concerns.

How to lay a complaint of an environmental violation:

  • Phone the Department of Environmental Affairs’ toll-free hotline on 0800 205 005. Once a matter is reported to the hotline (which can be done without giving your name or contact details), either it will be investigated by the Environmental Management Inspectorate (also called the Green Scorpions) or referred to another department (such as the Department of Mineral Resources, if the complaint relates to a mining company). You should be provided with a reference number for your call. Keep a copy of that reference number for any follow up on the matter.
  • Send an email to NEMAcomplaints@dmr.gov.za if your complaint relates to a mining company not complying with its licences or environmental laws and/or committing an environmental crime.
  • Phone the Department of Water and Sanitation’s call centre on 0800 200 200 if your complaint relates to the pollution of a water resource, or phone the Department of Water and Sanitation’s fraud and corruption hotline on 0800 701 701 if your complaint relates to fraudulent activities.
  • Make sure that you provide as much detail as possible on the violation, including the correct address and exact location of where the violation has occurred.
  • Follow up on the matter regularly after you have lodged the complaint.

How to access public and private information concerning environmental issues:

In terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA), all state departments and private companies of a certain size are required to publish a PAIA Manual which, amongst other things, must set out which categories of records are automatically available from that public or private body without having to formally submit a request for access to information in terms of the PAIA. The first thing which you should therefore do when looking for a particular record is to find the PAIA Manual for the relevant state or private body (this document should be on their website, but a general internet search is often quicker).

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), for instance, has committed to making a wide range of information automatically available, including copies of environmental authorisations, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, and Biodiversity Act permits. Members of the public can email Phumzile Sabeka (PSabeka@environment.gov.za) at the DEA for copies of these licences in relation to specific facilities. Similarly, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has committed to making copies of water use licence applications, water use licences, and audit and compliance reports available to the public automatically. Members of the public can email Puseletso Loselo (LoseloP@dws.gov.za) at the DWS for copies of these documents.

Should the information which you seek not be automatically available, you can submit a formal request for access to information. These are relatively simple to prepare. The South African History Archives (SAHA) has prepared a useful guide on how to submit a request in terms of the PAIA.  To access this guide, and other useful information on the PAIA, visit SAHA’s website. Also see the CER’s Quick Guide to Using PAIA under our Transparency Programme.”

Find out more about South Africa’s environmental law:

Please see the CER’s virtual library of environmental law at http://cer.org.za/virtual-library. For free access to a large database of South Africa’s law, including environmental law, see http://www.saflii.org.

Please also see:

Other non-profit organisations that provide or facilitate access to pro bono environmental law services

Private attorneys specialising in Environmental Law

If you or your organisation does not quality for pro bono legal services, you can approach one of the following reputable attorneys with expertise in environmental law:

Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, 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.

Report a Violation

National Environmental Crimes & Incidents Hotline (24 hours): 0800 205 005

In addition, there are a number of national and provincial hotlines that may be useful.

Contact us

  • Telephone:+27 21 447 1647
  • Fax:+27 86 730 9098
  • Email:info@cer.org.za
  • Address:Second Floor, Springtime Studios, 1 Scott Road, Observatory, 7925, Cape Town
  • Map:View map