In South Africa, mining and other polluting industries are often perceived as major contributors to the South African economy and thus considered important to the economy and of national interest. However, these industries also have the most damaging impacts on people. They pollute water, air, and soil, and can disrupt farming activities and overall community life. Communities throughout South Africa struggle to defend their rights to their land, environment and resources when faced with mining in their community. Although mining companies promise jobs and development, rarely do communities reap these promised benefits.
One of the vital challenges communities face is the lack of information about their rights and the law that applies to safeguard their environment. The South African environmental legal framework and governance is complex. Many different laws apply and the framework is governed by three national government departments as well as Provincial and municipal governments. As a result, affected communities often struggle to access relevant information to enforce their rights.
Communities lack access to government especially when their rights are violated. They have limited knowledge or the means to call for government assistance or to ask government to hold industries and polluting companies to account. When communities succeed in raising their voices they are often met with threats and intimidation.
The Activist Support & Training programme exists to turn the tide and challenge the status quo that hinders the realisation of environmental justice in South Africa through training, networking, enforcing compliance with laws and securing environmental activist spaces.