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The International Comparative Legal Guide to Environment & Climate Change Law 2014 Edition

4 March 2014
– 2 Minute Read


What is the basis of environmental policy in South Africa and which agencies/bodies administer and enforce environmental law?

The environmental right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (“the Constitution”) and relevant national and provincial legislation are the basis for environmental policy. The Constitution provides that “the Environment” is a functional area of concurrent national and provincial legislative competence. The following government departments are involved in administration and enforcement of environmental laws, namely the:

  • Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (“DWEA”);
  • Department of Mineral Resources (“DMR”); Department of Energy (“DoE”);
  • and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

At provincial level, environmental directorates in the nine provincial governments are responsible for the administration and enforcement of environmental law in the relevant province.

What approach do such agencies/bodies take to the enforcement of environmental law?

In the first instance, the departments involved in administration and enforcement of environmental law have created specialist enforcement directorates or designated officials as inspectors. The enforcement directorates/inspectors mainly use administrative and criminal measures to enforce environmental laws. The relevant directorates/inspectors are becoming increasingly active in the enforcement of environmental laws.

To what extent are public authorities required to provide environment-related information to interested persons (including members of the public)?

Access to information held by the State is governed by the Constitution and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000. Every person is entitled to access information held by the State. Although the State has grounds to refuse access, unless disclosure of the record would reveal imminent and serious public safety or environmental risk, disclosure is mandatory.