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Rights and Remedies course – activating activists

15 October 2019 at 11:11 am

Last month The Centre for Environmental Rights held its 2019 Rights & Remedies: A Course for Activist. 15 activists participated in a two-week long course that empowers individuals actively pushing back against destructive industries in their communities and furnishes them with the tools to defend their environmental rights. Since its inception, the course capacitates participants with practical skills, legal knowledge, including the use of statutory remedies, for participants to demand greater compliance as well as to hold government and private sector accountable to the degradation of their environment.

The Centre for Environmental Rights is proud of the course as many of the participants return to their communities equipped, empowered and their spirits lifted to continue to tackle urgent environmental issues in their communities.

The Closing Ceremony

The closing and certificate handover ceremony was attended by the CER staff and a keynote address delivered by Liz McDaid, the 2018 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient. Not only did Liz invigorate and inspire the participants she also called on activists to remain steadfast especially when the battle gets tough against cooperation’s infiltrating their communities.

Remarks from the participants

The CER course has given me a chance to learn about the law. A lifetime weapon that I was afraid to grab, but after learning and growing I realise that I have nothing to be afraid of! The training taught me to open my eyes and ears even wider than before. I can now interrogate the legal and government system.  The certificate means a lot to me and the Khuthala Environmental Care Group and Khuthala Women’s Movement – Nelly Nkosi from Ermelo

The course was a learning process that helped me understand the different acts, the law, and our Constitutional Rights. You have to know the sections and sub-sections to deal with or understand the issues. Everything in the course was detailed and practical. Viva CER viva! – Nomakhosazana Nomnqa (centre)

As an activist, I know how important it is for communities to get adequate training in understanding, protecting and exercising their right to a clean environment, (s 24) as a backbone of all the other environmental legislations. I am very happy now as I have a better understanding of PAIA and know exactly how to use it to request information from any polluting cooperation. This enables communities to make informed decisions when exercising their rights and force authorities to comply. Now I have better understanding of my right to protest – Sipho Khanyi from Kwa Zulu-Natal (New Castle)

The Right and Remedies school is a home away from home that helps youth activists fight for their environmental rights and know their place in fighting against pollution. The course added a lot of value to our lives and equipped us big time! Now I have a better understanding of the law, regulations and other paths we can take to solve the different problems we face in our communities. I know have brothers and sisters across the country who share a common struggle. This course is a gigantic step forward for activists – Nothando Sibiya from Secunda

After attending Rights and Remedies course I feel well equipped. I learnt a lot about the Constitution and its importance as well as the Chapter 9 institutions and how to write a letter to different bodies. The course was important to me as an activist. Now I can start to implement everything I have learnt.  A big “thank you” goes to Matome Kapa and the organising team as well as to CER for caring about activists – Ditiro Majapholo from Phuduhudu Community Organisation in Limpopo

Through the Rights and Remedies course, I can now channel my love and passion for environmental sustainability in a way that is more than just personal development.  I can apply systematic thinking and jump through legal hurdles. Going forward I am more than inspired to pursue a law degree – Nomfundo Mkhaba from Umkomaas, South Coast Kwa-Zulu Natal

Because of the Right and Remedies Course I now have a better understanding of the “Just Transition” and why it is so important for us activist to advocate for it. I feel so empowered now. I know and can exercise my right to protest. I have a better understanding of the Constitution and the different sections that can help me and my community fight off mining companies – Ronald Mhlakaza from Vukani Environmental in Mpumalanga

Rights and Remedies course has empowered me and sharpened my knowledge on how to apply the law when I want to hold companies accountable for not complying with the regulations. Now I have a better understanding of which tools to apply and which government departments to engage. I have a better appreciation for the guidance the Constitution gives us as activists – Zanele Msibi

The Rights and Remedies Course has taught me the importance of saying no to mining companies! I was taught about addressing environmental violations and the importance of quoting relevant sections from the Constitution to strengthen a case. I have so much useful and practical knowledge now, even about requesting access to information and how to submit a PAIA request. I learnt about communication, the importance of presentation and speaking in a way that commands respect and attention from the audience. Surely this information will help my community as well as my organisation. This course has given me hope and strength to say no to coal and to advocate for a fair and equitable just transition – Thokozile Nkosi

The training has enlightened me about environmental laws and other actions that one can take to report as well as to pressure authorities to comply with the relevant laws whenever there’s an environmentally sensitive project taking place. I cannot wait to put into practice everything I have learnt and I will continue to stand up and protect my community against environmental degradation – Sabelo Dladla from Mfolozi Community Environmental in KZN

Rights & Remedies school has equipped us with so much knowledge on all the rights we have as activists and community members. The course has provided me with adequate mechanisms and information on specific Constitutional Acts to use whenever we seek accountability from private entities and government officials – Mpho Naka Tjale from Kopano Formation Mokopane

I am so grateful to this course because now I can make better use of my Constitution. I am more informed about the necessary steps that we must follow if planning to march or protest.  I have a better understanding of the kinds of questions to ask during a Section 4 meeting. I know how to request access to information by submitting a PAIA request.  All thanks to the Rights and Remedies course – Ouma Phala

The newly trained activists will now act as focal points for environmental Rights and Remedies information in their respective communities and as a point of departure each participant has selected a pressing issue in their community which their will be tackling using the remedies the learnt at the course with support and guidance from CER attorneys who have been appointed as their mentors.

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Section 24of 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.

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Contact the National Environmental Crimes & Incidents Hotline (24 hours) or one of the national and provincial hotlines.