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Empowering communities to defend their environmental rights

10 September 2019 at 4:18 pm

Last week, the Centre for Environmental Rights commenced its 2019 Rights & Remedies: A Course for Activists. The course is designed to empower participants from rural and urban areas who bear the environmental and socio-economic brunt of polluting industries operating close to their homes and places of work.

The objective of the two-week course is to give participants the knowledge, practical skills and tools – including legal remedies – that they need in order to assert and defend their environmental rights.

The 15 participants were selected based on criteria that included their active involvement in defending the right to a healthy environment for their communities.  From Limpopo, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, this year’s participants hail from civil society organisations such as the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation, the Women of Change Organisation, and the Mfolozi Community Environmental Organisation.

In the opening sessions, as participants introduced themselves and gave brief overviews of the issues they confront, mining, pollution, health impacts and lack of environmental information were some of the major concerns in the room. The participants are keen to learn from the course facilitators and each other, and they are eager to take that learning back to their communities.  The participants want to implement much-needed solutions and strategies to challenge corporations that are violating their right to a healthy environment, and to hold the government to account for facilitating these violations, instead of holding polluters accountable.

Convened by Matome Kapa, attorney at the CER and head of its Activist Support & Training Project, and coordinator for the steering committee of the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network (MEJCON-SA), the course is one way CER responds to the needs of communities across the country. The course, as well as CER’s support for MEJCON-SA, builds on CER’s work with community partners that ensures that communities inform our work and strategies  to keep these relevant and responsive to communities’ needs.

Since 2017, the course has equipped activists with information and legal mechanisms to ensure that the immense power of corporations is challenged by those who are most affected by their polluting operations. This is all the more important in a context where our government is failing adequately to monitor or enforce compliance with environmental laws.  CER is proud of this course and continues to share essential information and tools to support, grow and sustain South Africa’s environmental justice network.


Ukunikeza imiphakathi amandla okuvikela amalungelo abo ezemvlo

Ngesonto elidlule, iCentre for Environmental Rights iqale isikole sayo sa2019, iRights and Remedies yezishoshovu. Lesi sikole sidalelwe ukupha amandla nezimfanelo kulabo abayinxenye yalesisikole, abaphuma ezidaweni zasemakhaya nasemadolobheni okuyibona ababhekana nokungcola okubangwa izimboni eziseduze namakhayo abo nasemisebenzini yabo.

Injongo yalesisikole esizoba amasonto amabili ukunika amalunga alesisikole ulwazi, amathuluzi, okubalwa kuwo amathuluzi omthetho, abawadingayo ukuze bakwazi ukumela nokuvikela amalungelo abo.

Lamalunga awu15 akhethwe ngenxa yeqaza abalidlalayo emphakathini yabo ekuvikeleni amalungelo ezemvelo. Amalunga akulonyaka asuka ezidaweni zaseLimpopo, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga nase Gauteng. Baphuma ezinhlangananweni ezinjenge Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation, iWomen of Change Organisation, neMfolozi Community Environmental Organisation.

Ngenkathi amalunga ezazisa ngeseshini yokuvula, beveza kafishane izinkinga abalilwisana nazo, izimayini, ukungcola, ukugula nokuncishwa ulwazi, lezi ezinye zezinto abazibala ezibahluphayo. Amalunga azimisele ngokufunda kulabo abazobe befundisa nokufundisana phakathi kwabo, bazimisele futhi ngokuthatha abakufundile bakubuyisele emphakathini yabo. Amalunga afuna ukusebenzisa izixazululo namasu adingekayo ukuze bakwazi ukulwa nalezi zinkampani ezinkulu ezicindezela ilungelo labo lwezemvelo, bafuna nokuwubophezela uhulumeni ukuthi uziphendulele ngoba uvuma ukuthi lezizinkampani zingakwuhloniphi umthetho ekubeni fanele engabe bayaqinisekisa ukuthi abangcolisayo bayaziphendulela.

Umhlanganisi uMatome Kapa, ongummeli waseCER nomphathi weActivist Support and Training Project, no-coordinator wekomidi iMining and Environmental Justice Community Network (MEJCON-SA). Lesisikole ezinye zezindlela iCER eziphendulela ngayo kwizidingo zemiphakathi yaseNingizimu Afrika. Isikole, nokuseka iMEJCON, ezinye zezindlela iCER eqhubeza ngayo umsebenzi wayo nemiphakathi iphinde iqinisekise ukuthi imiphakathi iyona eyazisa umsebenzi wayo namasu ukuze uhambelane nezidingo zemiphakathi.

Lokhu saqala lesisikole ngo2017, izishoshovu zakwazi ukuhloma ngolwazi nangamthuluzi omthetho, ukuqinisekisa ukuthi ukulwisana namandla ezinkampani ezinkulu, kwenziwa ilabo abathinteka kakhulu ngokungcola kwemisebenzi yazo. Lokhu kubaluleke kakhulu ngenxa yokuthi uhulumeni wethu uyahluleka ukuqapha nokuqophelela ukuqaphelwa nokulandwelwa kwemithetho yezemvelo.  ICER iyaziqhenya ngalesisikole futhi iyaqhubeka nokwaba ulwazi namathuluzi okweseka, ukukhulisa, nokuqhubeza ubumbano lobulungiswa kwezemvelo eNingizimu Afrika.

Amalunga asePalamende eKapa

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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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0800 205 005

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