One step closer to accountability
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and the Ratepayers' and Residents' Associations in Milnerton welcome the appeal decision by the Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, MEC Anton Bredell.
On 21 September 2020, the Western Cape Government’s Directorate: Environmental Law Enforcement (Green Scorpions) issued The City of Cape Town with a directive, ordering the City to remedy the state of the Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon.
Subsequently, the City lodged an appeal against the terms and timelines stipulated in the directive on 20 October 2020. MEC Anton Bredell had to decide on the merits of the City’s appeal and delivered a comprehensive and hard-hitting decision on 21 January 2021.
“Since the inception of this project in January 2020, we have seen significant traction and commend the oversight authorities in their diligent investigation into the Milnerton pollution issue,” says OUTA’s Senior Legal Project Manager, Andrea Korff.
In his appeal decision, Bredell indicated that the directive issued against the City still stands, but that he would modify some of the measures and timeframes stipulated in the directive in terms of section 43(11)(a) of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA).
Bredell concurred with the Green Scorpions that the current state of pollution within the Diep River and Milnerton Lagoon is not only causing significant pollution in the aquatic and coastal environment, but also impacts negatively on the health and well-being of the public and residents along the Diep River Catchment and Milnerton Lagoon areas. Bredell agrees that this requires urgent action and intervention and necessitated a directive against the City.
He specifically stated that it will be “tantamount to a dereliction of the DEA & DP’s duty” if the pollution is allowed to continue, stating that their duty is to “enforce compliance where there is non-compliance in order to protect the environment”.
“It is incumbent on the DEA & DP to investigate a compliant which alleges non-compliance with the provisions of NEMA and enforce the applicable legislation where it is necessary, as is in this case,” according to Bredell.
Korff says the significance of this appeal decision is that the City of Cape Town must comply with the measures and timeframes specified in both the appeal decision and directive. “If the City does not comply, they could be held criminally liable for their non-compliance.”
OUTA says that although the appeal decision is a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go in order to restore the environment. “We are hopeful that the directive which is now officially of force and effect, will apply pressure on the City to execute their duty sufficiently and to finally take responsibility for their negligent actions,” says Korff.
OUTA will continue to monitor the water quality being discharged within the Diep River Estuary and will continue to apply pressure on authorities to hold the City accountable.
Voice note available here