Legal training arms environmental activists

LEPHALALE — A workshop hosted by Earthlife Africa (ELA) and the Centre of Environmental Rights (CER) about legal issues was recently held in Lephalale.

FLTR: Ditiro Majapholo, Hilda Marutla, Rachel Nyambe and Betty Tau

Matome Kapa, a lawyer from CER, explained the South African constitution, the Bill of Rights, and laws specifically written to protect the environment like NEMA (National Environmental Management Act) and the laws concerning air and water quality, etcetera.

“All South Africans have the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing 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 the use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development,” reads section 24 of the SA constitution.
 Kapa believes that by using the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, people can be enabled to appeal to government and big corporations not to put development before people.

The workshop group, consisting of people from Steenbokpan, Marapong, Onverwacht, Seleka and Shongoane, practised the art of letter writing, completing appeal forms, using information correctly and applying sections of the law to enable them to get their plight across.

Thabo Sibeku of ELA Johannesburg said: “People are sometimes blinded by the promises of jobs and do not realise what impacts huge coal projects have on their lives and the lives of their families. In Lephalale, people are suffering from the effects of air pollution, water is scarce and there are huge socio-economic problems in the area. It’s good for them to open their eyes and realise what is happening around them. It is even better that they learn to use the law the help protect the environment and the people who live in it.”

“We are so happy to learn more. It is scary to realise that government and big business only listen when you speak in legal terms. But we now have some tools to help us in the fight to save our environment for ourselves and our children’s children,” said one of the activists.

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