Community Gathering Threatens Legal Action

Durban, South Africa, 21 February 2005 - Community people gathered from all parts of South Africa [1], have resolved to take their campaigning against poor landfill site practices to a legal level due to the failure of government to act on the legal violations and other injustices occurring at various landfill sites throughout South Africa.

This was resolved after a three-day workshop hosted by groundWork on “National Civil Society Strategy to Challenge Injustices of Poor Landfill Site practices” [2]. The gathering resolved to work together as an Alliance to challenge poor landfill site practices and agreed to work on a strategy that will focus on: Legal Challenges, Advocacy and Lobbying, Media, Capacity Building, and informing government policy in the proposed Waste Bill that will be publicised for comment shortly. [3]

Moreover, community testimonies provided evidence of the various environmental injustices occurring nationally.

In Everton West, local campaigner Susan Tshabalala, indicates that the area is used as a dumpsite for outside neighbourhoods, despite the fact that the local residents of Everton West do not have waste removal services. More importantly, the site does not have a permit to operate.

Rolf Warber highlighted to the meeting how the local uMngeni Municipality (Kwa Zulu Natal) in conjunction with the Department of Water Affairs have ignored the various transgressions of the permit for the Hilton Landfill Site, and have taken no action. No doubt because the site is owned by government.

In Diepsloot, Gauteng, local communities are resisting attempts by the authorities to develop a landfill site in the residential area. Ontibile Moallusi of the Environmental Justice Networking Forum, is working with residents to alert them of this injustice that will soon be in their neighbourhoods if they do not resist.

Sajida Khan, long time community campaigner presented a very detailed and sad history of the environmental injustice legacy of the eThekwini Municipality’s waste dump in her neighbourhood. This is a classical case of apartheid environmental racism that continues to be perpetuated by a democratic government.

Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudfhasi, indicated in her opening address to the workshop that the proposed Waste Bill will be publicised for comment in the next financial year. This long overdue piece of legislation is welcomed. Bobby Peek of groundWork, warns civil society that “if we do not act to influence the Waste Bill, industry will lobby for incineration and waste imports and seek to weaken legislation. We need to ensure that this Waste Bill is not an industry Bill that will entrench the environmental injustices and racism of the apartheid government.”

End

For more information on the above issue contact:

[1] KZN = Clare Estate, south Durban, Hilton, Pietermaritzburg; Eastern Cape = Port Elizabeth, Sundays River; Gauteng = Johannesburg; Everton West, Diepsloot, Krugersdorp.

[2] See Press Release dated 16 February, here.

[3] Saturday, 19 February 2005

 

National Civil Society Strategy to Challenge Injustices of Poor Landfill Site practices

Advocacy and lobbying

Recognising the reality that community people ten years after democracy have still to live with the injustice posed by poor landfill site management:

The Alliance commits itself to document the injustices of poor landfill site management and to present this information to all relevant government institutions and political representatives and to invite our political leadership to witness for themselves the injustices of poor landfill site management. To support local struggles for reversing poor landfill site managements by developing petitions of support from the broader public. Through the development of appropriate public materials and holding awareness processes the Alliance seeks to create public awareness on poor landfill site management, appropriate legislation, and the failure of our disposal society. Lobbying for less investment in landfill sites and more investment in waste avoidance programmes will be critical.

Waste Bill

Recognising that government has committed to present for public comment the long awaited Waste Bill in the financial year 2005 – 2006:

The alliance commits itself to providing constructive input in the drafting of the Bill. In seeking to develop world class waste management legislation, the alliance is encouraging a review of successful waste management regulations and best practise; specifically with regard to waste avoidance, minimisation, re-use, recycling and disposal. The Alliance endorses the concept of polluter must pay, and that local monitoring committees be given greater powers to ensure that landfill sites are operated according to the legislated minimum requirements. Incinerators and waste importation is vigorously opposed, on the basis of their potential health risks and (untested technology). The subsidisation of recycling schemes and green procurement quotas are specifically promoted in conjunction with awareness initiatives.

Media

Recognising the fact that the media is a critical component of our democracy, and the assumption that government will act if issues are publicised:

The Alliance agrees to work with the media in order that the injustices of poor landfill site practices are recorded and shared with the broader public. The Alliance will work at ensuring that all sectors of media are informed and targeted, especially media that has historically not covered environmental justice issues. Focus must be afforded to media that print in local languages, knock and drops (free community newspapers), and political party websites. The individual Alliance members will use their other networks to ensure that the Alliances messaging is distributed. Important days on the world and national calendars will be used to encourage media reporting on these issues.

Capacity building

Recognising that strong mobilization against the injustices of landfill site and waste practices will be dependent on the public gaining an understanding of these challenges which will occur through methods and process of capacity building:

The Alliance will collate all relevant information that can assist with local people attaining an understanding of the challenges facing us. Through the collation of this information the Alliance will develop appropriate materials that local people can use in their struggles against the environmental injustices of landfill site practices. It is critical that government institutions at all levels are targeted in this capacity building process. Government initiatives, such as Integrated Development Plans, Integrated Waste Management Plans and Agenda 21 etc, must be used to ensure people are skilled in resisting these poor landfill site practices. The Alliance will reach out in this initiative to other social justice groups such as the churches, women’s groups and youth.

Legal challenge

Recognising through the various community testimonies that the law is being knowingly broken:

The Alliance will embark on legal action against government as one of the campaigning tools to reverse the environmental injustices of poor landfill site practices.