ATC221129: Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy on the oversight visit, dated 29 November 2022

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

Report of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy on the oversight visit, dated 29 November 2022


The Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy having conducted an oversite visit to Mpumalanga from 31 October to 4 November 2022 reports as follows:


1. Background and Objectives  


  1.       The Committee has prioritised oversight over the challenges of poor air quality in provinces responsible for power generation, challenges experienced by local government in monitoring air quality, as well as challenges experienced by the Department of minerals and Energy to deal with the challenges of ageing infrastructure and the need to generate sufficient electricity for the country. Further, the committee has as part of its core oversight focus “waste management in the part of local government readiness to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation.” These oversight priorities of the committee form the core of the proposed oversight in Mpumalanga Province. Of particular concern in terms of air quality management is the fact that the DMRE and the DFFE is coming under increasing pressure to remedy the poor air quality of the Highveld Priority Area, while the country faces increasing load-shedding events. The committee needs to be briefed on this challenging situation.


  1.       In terms of local government capacity to fulfil its constitutional mandate, the committee is concerned by both the challenges of effectively monitoring air quality in municipalities, as well as being able to implement Paris Agreement commitments. In terms of Waste management, the committee is concerned about the state of river pollution in the country as a result of failing municipal infrastructure, and the impact it is having on natural resources. 


  1.       While the majority of Portfolio Committee oversight lies either with the supply of energy or the challenge of air pollution as a result of the burning of fossil fuels for energy creation, only the Select Committee is in a position to oversee the interplay of both challenges, as well as representing the challenges local government is experiencing as a result.


  1.       While During parliamentary engagements since 1994, and continuing to the present, members of the NCOP had highlighted information coming from their constituencies indicating that wastewater management infrastructure is failing and having severe impacts on watercourses. The Crocodile River is one of the most polluted rivers in the country, thus an ideal site to focus oversight on. The air quality in Middelburg, Mpumalanga is extremely poor and exceeds maximum allowable levels for pollutants on a weekly basis. The committee has been engaging the DFFE on this matter before and after the DMRE was added to its oversight mandate, but the two committees have never been requested to provide a joint input on the matter in order for the committee to get a full picture of the magnitude facing the country.


  1.       The delegation consisted of the following members of Parliament, Ms TC Modise (Chairperson, ANC), Mr AJ Nyambi (ANC), Ms W Ngwenya (ANC), Ms L Bebee (ANC), Mr I Ntsube (ANC), Ms PT Mamorobela (ANC) Mr CFB Smit (DA), Mr FAB Du Bryn (FF+) and Parliamentary support staff, Mr AA Bawa (Committee Secretary), Mr J Jooste (Researcher), Ms A Zindlani (Committee Assistant) and Ms Y Landu (Media).


Objectives of the Visit  


  1. The oversight focuses on the committee’s identified themes of environmental management (DFFE) as well energy supply at local government level (DMRE). The oversight further endeavors to develop a better understanding of local government challenges with these competencies, and relay these to the National Legislature in line with the mandate of the NCOP. South Africa is in the process of implementing its national declared commitments in terms of the Paris Agreement. Evidence suggests that capacity is not sufficient when considering air quality management, which is a critical component of Paris Agreement implementation. This process will rely heavily on the capacity of local government to implement mitigation and adaptation strategies.


  1. The Committee wishes to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics around a shift to low carbon energy use in South Africa, from a Mpumalanga perspective. The province host a significant number of old-generation power plants, due to the abundance of coal. A significant local economy has developed around the ESKOM infrastructure, as well as associated services.


  1. The country is facing a number of tough energy-related questions in the near future. These revolve around:
  • The cost of maintaining old generation power stations vs the cost of constructing alternative energy sources, inclusive of the fact that the decommissioning of these plants are going to take place in the near future;
  • The continued environmental impact of using coal, as the tightening legal constraints that could ultimately severely restrict DMRE options; and
  • The impact of the inevitable shift away from coal on Mpumalanga, and the ultimate plans of the DMRE and government as a whole to facilitate this transition in an economically responsible manner.


  1. In its oversight focus, the committee has prioritised “Air quality management challenges: Fact-finding visits to determine the actual capacity of local government to monitor air quality in priority areas” as well as “The real state of readiness for local government to develop and implement a Climate Change mitigation and adaptation plan as required by National government”.


  1. The two sites selected for oversight are both examples of some of the worst cases of these challenges faced by local governments. It is therefore important to determine what successes and setbacks have been experienced, and whether this knowledge can be applied to better support all spheres of government in addressing these challenges. 


  1. DAY 1: Site Visit to the Hendrina Power Station and Meeting with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and Steve Tshwete Local Municipality


  1. Hendrina Power Station background


  1. The local and indirect economic impact of the Hendrina Power Plant has been quantified, and it is not insignificant. Obviously, the economic benefits of burning coal has to be offset against the environmental impact of the process, and the negative impact the process has on the quality of life of residents close to the power plant. The reality of the decision to shift away from coal is that the economic impact will be felt in Mpumalanga, and would need to be offset through alternative economic development.


  1. The estimated annual average municipal economic activity created due to the local capital expenditure over the period FY2014/15 to FY2016/17 was in the order of R2 billion. The direct impact accounted for about 34% of the total GDP impact. It is estimated that the capital expenditure by Hendrina Power Station, over the period FY2014/15 to FY2016/17, sustained on average about 6 085 jobs per year in Steve Tshwete Local Municipality (STLM).


  1. Hendrina Power Station provides employment to individuals in the town of Hendrina and from other locations, typically, Emalahleni, Ermelo, Middelburg, Pullenshope, Arnot and Komati. These individuals typically contribute semi –skilled and skilled employment to the power station. The power station currently employs 753 employees.


  1. Hendrina Power Station’s day-to-day operations resulted in total government revenue of R4.5 billion over the period FY2014/15 to FY2016/17. An estimated 58% of this amount comes from Mpumalanga. This amount is associated with direct and indirect tax revenue collected by the national fiscus from companies in Mpumalanga linked with Hendrina Power Station’s day-to-day operational costs. The total income received by households in Mpumalanga over the period FY2014/15 to FY2016/17 was estimated to be in the order of R3.8 billion. Lower income households in the Mpumalanga received an estimated R320 million amounted to about 8.5% of the total household income.


  1. Total capital expenditure in the whole of Mpumalanga over the period FY2014/15 to FY2016/17 was about R796 million. Approximately R553 million (69%) of this capital expenditure was spent in the rest of the Mpumalanga province and R244 million (31%) was spent in STLM. Operational expenditure in STLM was R2.4 billion in FY2016/17. Over the FY2014/15 to FY2016/17 period, 72% of total Hendrina Power Station operational expenditure in STLM was allocated to goods and services. An average of 49% was spent on coal. Of Hendrina Power Station’s total operational expenditure over the FY2014/15 to FY2016/17 period, 12% was attributed to salaries and wages.


2.2.      ESKOM, together with the DMRE, provided committee members to visit one of the older coal-fired power stations in Mpumalanga. It was important to visit one of these power stations as the ageing generations units form a key challenge in terms of South Africa’s energy mix moving forward. These power stations are also at the centre of legal action against the DFFE due to the poor air quality in areas of the Highveld Priority Area (air quality management priority), and ongoing application of ESKOM for permission to deviate from current and future air quality regulations.


2.2.1.   As an overview of the Hendrina power plant history provided to the committee, the following matters were emphasized:

  • The power station was completed in 1976, with an initial design life of 40 years. During the 1990’s, it underwent a life extension assessment, where it was decided to only decommission the plant between 2020 – 2026.
  • The total generation capacity of the 6 generators still in operation is 1200 MW, which is conservative in modern standards.
  • Crucially, it was decided not to perform a mid-life refurbishment as is typical of power stations of this design. Only limited retro-fitting and upgrades to some infrastructure was performed.
  • A number of factors other than air quality concerns initially influenced planning regarding the shutting down of the plant:
    • The power plant’s coal supply was originally located next to the plant, which made coal supply simple and affordable. As this source became depleted, coal has to be sourced from various locations and trucked to the plant. The volume of coal needed per day is significant, and the cost of transport has made the operation of the plant expensive.
    • The plant was originally going to be decommissioned as Kusile and Medupi units came online. The delays in the completion of especially Medupi has resulted in the need to keep the Hendrina power plant operational.
  • The fact that the power plant was not refurbished at its midlife of operation has resulted in serious reliability problems. Four of the original 10 generators, designed to burn gas, had been run on coal until the generators were beyond repair. The remaining units have known reliability challenges.
  • Even though the power plant is old, the retrofitted air filtration system installed during the limited upgrades has ensured that the power plant has been able to comply with current emission standards. It will not be able to comply with the stricter emission standards soon to be enforced, which creates a significant operational challenge. It is not economically viable to upgrade the power plant any further due to its age and planned decommission date, but delays in the completion of new power plants will likely require the continued operation of the Hendrina power plant. This will create conflict with the Department of Fishery, Forestry and the Environment’s revised air quality standards.


2.2.2.           During the follow-up session at the Steve Tshwete local municipality, the committee received a more detailed briefing on the minimum emission standards of the DFFE, as well as ESKOM’s vision for a Just Energy Transition (JET) by 2035. The ESKOM representative emphasized the following:

  • Since the early 1980’s to the present, ESKOM has been working towards reducing the amount of pollutants released from coal-fired power plants. The process resulted in the decommissioning or retrofitting of existing power plants. As a result, the release of particulate materials (PM) has been reduced by over 80%.
  • Aggressive targets, in line with minimum emission standards, have been set for particulate matter as well as other major greenhouse gasses – Carbon dioxide, Sulfur dioxide and Nitrous dioxide.
  • The DFFE first announced new MES for 2025. While new power plants will be able to adhere to these, ESKOM operates a significant number of older power plants that will not be able to comply. ESKOM sought postponement from the new MES in line with its own decommissioning schedule for the older plants, but on November 2021, the DFFE instructed ESKOM to comply with the new MES.
  • Of the currently operating ESKOM power plants, 4 (Lethabo, Matla, Tutuka and Kendal) will not be able to comply with the stricter MES, while Medupi, Matimba, Duvha and Kriel, are at risk of non-compliance.
  • The impact of the need to comply with new MES standards will result in the loss of about 16 GW of power generated by the four non-compliant plants.


2.2.3.          ESKOM admitted that a more pro-active approach to plant modernisation up to 2021 was needed. The current situation has significant operational and financial constraints that poses significant challenges to ESKOM, but which has potential to impact drastically on energy security:

  • There is not sufficient time to retrofit non-compliant power plants. ESKOM estimates that 14 years will be needed to do this, while the date for compliance is only 3 years from now.
  • The cost of the required retrofitting will not be justifiable, considering how close most of the plants are to decommissioning. Three of the non-compliant plants are to be shut down before the retrofits would be complete, while another three will have to be shut down shortly afterwards. The retrofitting of Flue Gas Desulphurization plants for the eight non-compliant plants are estimated to be R300 bn. Such an expense cannot be justified when the end-of life decommissioning dates of the facilities are so close.
  • The loss of generation capacity will have a direct impact on the South African economy as a result of increased loadshedding and increased tariffs.
  • The closure of power plants will cause a significant number of job and revenue losses in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.
  • The shutdowns will have a significant impact on ESKOM’s balance sheet.
  • As an alternative to the blunt shut-down requirements of meeting air quality standards, ESKOM is proposing the implementation of its Just Energy Transition (JET) plan, which is designed to aggressively curb greenhouse gas emissions, while operating coal power plants to their planned decommission dates. According to ESKOM, this practice will allow sufficient time to bring planned sustainable energy generation projects on board while preventing the sudden loss of generation capacity that enforcing MES would cause.


2.3.      Context


2.3.1.    While the challenge of retrofit budget and timelines are ongoing, COP 27 has seen the formal presentation of South Africa’s Just Energy Transition investment plan to the International Partner Group of potential investors. While the agreement could potentially result in loans and aid to the value of R1.5 trillion, the JET support will not resolve the immediate energy challenge facing the country.


2.3.2.    The slow pace of retrofitting of older generation power plants have resulted in an immediate challenge that will not be fixed by the investment into renewables or the development of new renewable energy facilities. There is a maximum of three years left before all coal power facilities have to comply with new emission standards. Maintaining the status quo in terms of DFFE Minimum Emission Standards and its decision that all power plants have to comply with this requirement has been made with a focus on the air quality challenge that Mpumalanga is facing.


2.3.3.    In part, the DFFE’s inflexibility on exemption from Minimum Emissions Standards are not likely to be reversed. Although taken in 2021, a recent (April 2022) High Court ruling has removed the Ministers options to provide exemption on her discretion. For at least 10 years, major polluters such as ESKOM, SASOL and heavy industries in the metal processing field were given exemption from stricter Minimum Emissions Standards.[1] This and preceding leniency/lack of regulations was likely instrumental in supporting ESKOMS position regarding earlier retro-fitting of non-compliant power plants. In the past, a system called “grandfathering” also provided a way out of air quality compliance for ESKOM. The concept operated as follows:

  • The ‘transitional arrangements’ refers to an allowance for old or existing plant to meet particular standards related to old or existing plant (the “existing plant standards”) within a transition period of 5 years and then for them to meet “new plant standards” a further 5 year transition period later.
  • The ‘other special arrangements’ refers to the provision, as described in the 2007 National Framework, that old or existing plant may be granted a postponement of the compliance timeframes contained in the ‘transitional arrangements’ if, and only if, the individual industry’s air emissions are not causing any adverse impacts on the surrounding environment.
  • This clarification is fully aligned with NEMA’s Section 28 ‘duty of care’ provision and it is clear that grandfathering is not a consideration, i.e. the ‘old rules’ do not apply to old or existing plant in perpetuity.


2.3.4.    Grandfathering and regulatory discretion did not go unchallenged though. Before the environmental groups finally took the Department to court, it had been engaging with the Department since the 2015 decision to grant exemption from MES to major polluters in Mpumalanga. In a 2017 publication[2], the group stated:

“...the support provided by DEA for local authorities is not only inadequate, but the NAQO’s controversial decision in early 2015 to grant postponements from compliance with the minimum emission standards (MES) under the Air Quality Act to the biggest polluters in the HPA – Eskom and Sasol – has made it significantly more difficult for air pollution in the HPA to be reduced. At the very least, HPA facilities should comply with the MES, but ideally, local authorities should impose emission limits in atmospheric emission licences (AELs) that are even stricter than the MES.”


2.3.5.    It was based on the concerns raised in the 2017 report that the group finally took legal action in 2019. The High Court has recognised the poor air quality in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Highveld region as a breach of residents’ Constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being. The ruling therefore recognises air pollution as a violation of Constitutional rights. The case was brought to court by environmental justice groups groundWork and Mpumalanga community organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action (Vukani), and represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) as attorneys in 2019, demanding that government clean up the toxic air in the Mpumalanga Highveld.


2.3.6.    The Minister is appealing sections of the ruling – particularly the interpretation of Section 20 of National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (AQA). The Minister states that the interpretation “impermissibly limits” her regulation-making discretion by imposing an obligation on her to prescribe regulations under that section, without due regard to the broad regulation-making powers conferred by the Air Quality Act. This obliges the Minister to prescribe regulations relating to a particular priority area rather than permitting regulations, which apply to all such areas, “thus limiting the minister’s legislative discretion and autonomy”. If the appeal is lost, the DFFE would not be in any position to reverse its instruction to ESKOM to comply with MES, and even if it would consider doing so, the decision is likely to be challenged in court.


2.3.7.    In a nutshell therefore, poor decision-making from ESKOM, past leniency regarding MES and failure of Kusile and Medupi power plants to fill the gap left by the decommission of ageing power plants have created a nearly unsolvable challenge. Either DFFE has to back down from its insistence on compliance with MES moving forward and risk further litigation from environmental groups or successfully appeal the court judgement, or South Africa will face the very real prospect of serious power shortages as non-compliant power plants are forced to shut down.  


2.4.      Background briefing by Nkangala District Municipality


2.4.1.    The municipality provided a broad overview of its capacity to enforce air quality regulations, as well as its municipal-level planning regarding the implementation of the Paris Agreement.


The municipality informed the delegation that it is one of the three Mpumalanga District Municipalities, and is comprised of six local municipality. Three of these fall within the Highveld Priority Area (HPA), which is characterised by high levels of air pollution. The NDM is a licensing Authority as per section 36 of NEMAQA. The District have been responsible for this function since 2013. Within municipal boundaries are the    Kusile, Kendal, Duvha, Arnot, Kriel, Matla, Komati and Hendrina power plants.


The district municipality and each affected local municipality each only has one Air Quality Officer and the following staff component:


Nkangala DM:   1X Divisional Manager, 1X Atmospheric Emission Licencing officer, 3X Environmental Compliance Officers

Emalahleni LM: 1X Manager, 1X Assistant Manager, 2X Environmental Compliance Officer;

Steve Tshwete LM: 1X Environmental Coordinator, 4X Environmental Officer;

Victor Khanyae LM: 1X Environmental Officer


In terms of management and adaptation plans, the following are in place:


  • Steve Tshwete-Implementation
  • Nkangala- Implementation
  • Emalahleni-Implementation
  • Victor Khanye-Draft  AQMP


Air Quality by-laws

  • NDM Air Quality by- laws
  • STLM also has its Air Quality by Law and a vehicle emission strategy
  • Emalahleni has a by law and vehicle emission strategy


In terms of challenges facing the municipal district, the following was highlighted:

  • There is a challenge with capacity within the environmental management departments;
  • NGO’S do not trust the Authority; and
  • Non-compliance by some facilities within the municipality impacts air quality.


2.5.      Steve Tshwete local government


2.5.1.    The Committee delegation received a detailed briefing about the local municipality’s capacity to enforce air quality legislation, as well as preparedness for the implementation of climate change adaptation plans.


The following points from their presentation is highlighted:

  • Steve Tshwete Local Municipality is home to Eskom’s coal-fired power stations, Columbus Stainless Steel and Ferrochrome, and many other mines and industries. This makes it highly susceptible to various types of pollution, especially air pollution that may  contribute to the degradation of the natural surrounding environment;
  • Steve Tshwete local municipality falls under the Highveld Priority Area in terms of ambient air quality;
  • Manufacturing and construction is responsible for the largest portion of Carbon emissions in the municipality by a significant margin. 69% of all carbon emissions are attributed to this sector, while the energy sector is responsible for only 2%. This is the same level of emissions as recorded for agriculture, and half the recorded residential (4%) emissions.
  • There is 1 Municipal Ambient Air Quality monitoring station located in Mhluzi within the STLM, but the management of the station is outsourced.
  • The parameters being monitored are Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Ozone (O3) , Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5), Sulphur dioxide (SO2), and Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • STLM developed an Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). Industries are required to develop emission reduction plans to limit air pollution.
  • The staff component dedicated to the competency is as follows:
    • Air Quality Officer: 1
    • Regional Environmental Officer: 1
    • Environmental Officer: 4
  • Municipal climate Change Mitigation and Adaptations projects include:
    • Municipal Spatial Development Framework
    • Green Building Guidelines
    • STLM Low Emissions Development (LED) Scenarios – 2014
    • STLM Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory – 2012 and 2018
    • STLM Climate Resilience and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) – 2020
    • STLM Environmental Policy
    • STLM Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP)
    • STLM Integrated Waste Management By-Laws
    • Air Quality Management By-Laws
    • STLM Waste Strategy
    • STLM Energy Integrated Plan
    • Installation of PV solar system in municipal building (rooftop)
    • Vehicle emission testing
    • Air quality awareness campaigns
    • Installation of PV systems for non-grid households in Doornkop village


2.6.      Questions from members


Members appreciated the background received and engaged the ESKOM representatives regarding the following:

  • The Committee wished to get clarity why NGOs do not trust ESKOM. The delegation requested that ESKOM elaborate on the challenges experienced;
  • The delegation further expressed their concern about the limited number of environmental officers in the local land district municipalities;
  • The reports of non-compliance towards air quality regulations experienced in the District Municipality was a concern to the delegation. The officials present were asked to elaborate on why action is not taken against perpetrators.
  • What environmental management plans and climate change adaptation plans are in place in the municipality?
  • The delegation asked that ESKOM clarify which power plants are non-compliant and why. The delegation wished to know whether sufficient maintenance is planned at these stations and whether the Komati power plant has been the first of the older power plants to be decommissioned.
  • The delegation requested further details regarding the decommissioning of the Komati power plant, details requested include the public participation process followed during the SIA, the EIA performed and a full review of the process followed to implement the repurposing programme that will be implemented at Komati.



2.7.      Responses to questions


In response to questions from the delegation, the municipality and ESKOM officials provided the following feedback:

  • The exemption from MES for some of the older power plants located within the municipal boundary is still in place, although it is being reviewed. This creates ambiguity in terms of minimum emission regulations enforced within the municipality.
  • The municipality is struggling with compliance enforcement as it has an extremely limited budget allocation for this function. It is not possible to fund sufficient staff to perform adequate environmental enforcement duties. At present, the District municipality only has 3 environmental officers, and it took three years to have the posts approved. There is no funding available for any additional appointments.
  • The District municipality has developed a draft Environmental Management Plan (EMP), but it will only go into force when the plan is approved during a scheduled sitting of the Council.
  • ESKOM clarified that the possibility of further extending the operation life of any of the older power plants would simply not be economically viable due to the massive capital input that would be required to make these compliant to current and future MES. The power plants are polluting the environment and as they are of an older design era, thus are just not efficient to operate. The cost implications and the need to comply with commitments made towards implementing the Paris Agreement simply excludes the option of extending operational life on these plants.
  • The maintenance of older power stations cannot be justified indefinitely as the JET has as its main aim to reduce polluting emissions that are responsible for significant health impacts. The only option with older power plants is the retro-fitting of more modern CO2 capture capacity, which is simply too expensive. 




  1. Day 2: Meeting with the Emalahleni Local Municipality


3.1.      Presentation by Emalahleni local municipality


3.1.1.    The Municipality was requested to present on its capacity to enforce air quality regulations, as well as develop and implement Paris Agreement Adaptation Plans. The following key points from the municipality’s presentation is highlighted:

  • In terms of air quality monitoring and enforcement, the municipality has the following in place:
    • An Air Quality Management Plan, developed in 2019;
    • A Climate Change Strategy, completed in 2022;
    • An Integrated Environmental Management Framework, completed in 2008 and overdue for review;
    • A Vehicle Emission Control And Testing Strategy, completed in 2021; and
    • Air Quality Management bylaws, Promulgated in 2017 and due for review.
  • In terms of Climate Change, the municipality has completed the development of a Climate Change Strategy (current financial year).


3.1.2.    As requested, the municipality unpacked its environmental management challenges to the committee. Challenges impacting air quality in the municipality included:

  • The municipality is highly industrialised, with a heavy dependence on the coal value cycle, including mining and value-adding;
  • The municipality has the highest number of power plants in the country. Most of these are old-generation coal-fired plants;
  • Over 51% of the economy is further dependent on mining activity. Mining is the second-largest contributor to emissions in the municipality;
  • A high degree of waste burning taking place in informal settlements; and
  • The transport of coal from mines using heavy trucks rather than a rail l network, increases dust particles and greenhouse gas release.
  • The municipality has a challenge both with illegal mining, as well as with mining activity approved by the DMRE encroaching on residential areas. At present, there is limited interaction between the DMRE and the local authority, and thus the latter is not always aware of Environmental Authorisations being issued until after the fact. Residents are under the impression that the local government is aware of the process, and this is where complaints and petitions are directed. Where possible, the municipality attempts to ensure that it is able to comment on mining applications before the DMRE and where necessary, apply for interdicts against mining operations. This is a costly and expensive exercise.


3.1.3.    The Local Authority spent some time elaborating on actions it had taken in implementing its Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP), followed by a summary of challenges it experiences during this activity. These include:

  • A shortage of resources for the implementation of AQMP, especially the personnel  and funding required to purchase low cost sensors;
  • Lack of funding to implement Waste-to-energy projects;
  • Using the Local Government Climate Change Support (CCS), the municipality was able to source funding from an international donor, which was used to develop a Climate Change Vulnerability and Response Plan. The Plan’s purpose is to identify key climate change indictors where the municipality may be at risk to the impact of Climate Change.


3.1.4.    During the CCS development stage, the municipality was able to identify the following challenges:

  • Delays in finalising the municipal SDF impacts on planning;
  • The municipality lacks critical resources such as a GIS system;
  • Silo mentality within the municipal departments hamper integrated planning;
  • The municipality is service supply-driven, resulting in reduced prioritisation of planning and modelling requirements;
  • Budgetary limitations prevent the acquisition of key resources;
  • Inability to finance projects through municipal income streams (revenue stream limitations)
  • Limited grant allocation to prioritise projects; and
  • Lack of institutional capacity to manage high-impact climate change mitigation and adaptation projects, coupled with poor institutional arrangements.


3.1.5.    Finally, the Municipality provided a detailed summary of its Climate Change Response Actions. These focused on:

  • Supply side energy management;
  • Demand-side energy management;
  • Supply side water management,
  • Demand side water management
  • Management of the physical l environment;
  • Disaster management;
  • Roads and Transport; and
  • Other key issues.


3.2.      Questions posed by the delegation


The committee members thanked the municipality for the detailed presentation, and required further clarity on the following matters:

  • In terms of waste management, has the municipality considered implementing methane capture projects at any of the landfill sites it operates?
  • Does the municipality have any plans in place to combat the pollution of rivers as a result of leaks/breakdowns at wastewater treatment facilities?
  • It would appear as if it is necessary that meetings are co-ordinated between the municipal authority and the DMRE. It is a concern that authorisation for mining activity is given within the boundaries of residential areas. There is also a need for engagement between the community and the municipality in order to explain roles and responsibilities during authorisation. It is the opinion of the committee that mining licenses should not be issued if the human impact is not properly investigated.
  • The delegation proposed that the municipality should investigate the options open to them to include more community awareness projects at their Centre for Excellence and Innovation, especially in terms of solid waste recovery;
  •  The delegation requested that the municipality clarify what community awareness programmes it has implemented to educate the community in terms of the challenges of Climate Change;
  • In terms of vehicle emissions testing, the delegation wished to know how the municipality selects vehicles for testing and what type of vehicle are focused on.
  • The delegation noted that the municipal presentation does not assign a high pollution level to energy generation, and lists mining as the second biggest contributor to air pollution in the District. Clarity was sought as to which industry contributed the largest percentage to air pollution;
  • The delegation wished to know if non-compliance with air quality regulations is a challenge in terms of enforcement capacity as well. Non-compliance should be combatted through the enforcement of regulations.


3.3.      Responses from the municipal representatives


  • The municipality informed the committee that it does run community awareness engagements w.r.t Climate Change, but will be able to increase these if it is felt that it is necessary to do so;
  • The municipality is supported by national DFFE in terms of how landfill sites need to be managed and budgeted for;
  • In terms of Air Quality management, the District Municipality is responsible for issuing emissions licenses, but the local municipality does receive support in terms of:
    • Developing and implementing Air Quality management;
    • Training for capturing and verifying data, as well as emissions inventory development;
    • Joint inspection and enforcement support
  • The municipality echoed the delegation’s sentiment that a single forum containing all parties involved in mining regulation and air quality management is represented.
  • The municipality clarified that ESKOM is interacting with the municipality in terms of its emission licenses;
  • In terms of air quality data, the municipality stated that it uses ESKOM’s air quality monitoring reports, which has been produced for over 30 years;
  • In terms of the municipal Climate Change Response Plan, the municipality highlighted that it is in  the process of developing an adaptation plan but that it would want to integrate it with other local and district municipal plans before finalisation;
  • The municipality normally follows up on sewerage spill reports from the public. If there are currently any that it is not aware of, it will follow up and respond;
  • The mayor clarified that there are periodic meetings between her officer and the Executive of the DMRE, and that some assistance in n resolving mining authorisations given within local municipal boundaries have been received. There are currently 47 mines within the municipal boundary, with especially small-scale operations mushrooming. She further highlighted that very often, mining operations within or close to settlements are illegal activity, which creates a fire risk and major pollution problems;
  • The municipality implements environmental plans and awareness campaigns, but these are always constrained by budget allocation. In terms of the latter, the municipality aims to integrate its efforts with those of civic organisations in order to improve public awareness;
  • The delegation was informed that no particular category of vehicle is singled out for emissions testing. Random enforcement activities are undertaken, with those in contravention of regulations fined, and vehicles that are significantly non-compliant impounded;
  • The municipality was of the opinion that ESKOM should engage with it in greater detail regarding JET plans and the potential impact of these, as well as dealing with the significant challenge the municipality has regarding non-payment of electricity bills within the community.


  1. Day 3. Site Visit to the Crocodile River and Meeting with the Department of Water Services (DWS), the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment and the Inkomati – Usuthu Catchment Management Agency


  1.  Crocodile River Water Pollution background


  1. The recent fact-finding visit to Jagersfontein laid bare the challenges that the DFFE has in terms of managing the potential impacts of mining activity. Regulatory fragmentation has resulted in a convoluted and complicated management environment in which the DFFE has little control over the activity of creating, using and managing tailing dams, which ultimately can have a significant impact on the environment.


  1. Similar situation may well exist in other environmental management areas. In the case of this oversight, the Committee will be briefed by the DFFE regarding the competency of freshwater management. Pollution as a result of the impact of human activity on the water quality of important river ecosystems is a major concern in South Africa. The crocodile river in Mpumalanga have the potential to have a major impact on the ecology of the Kruger National Park, as it forms the southern boundary. Threats to the biodiversity and river ecosystem integrity will impact on the mandate of the DFFE, thus it is critical to determine whether the current policy provides sufficient capacity for a capacitated department to play a preventative role in terms of river pollution.


  1. At present, DFFE is not mandated to manage water in the country, as can be seen from the diagram presented below. Water resources management and regulation is the sole mandate of the DWS. The water services (bulk water supply and sanitation (wastewater treatment) is a concurrent function between Department and Municipalities. Municipalities are mainly responsible for water reticulation to households as well as collection and treatment of wastewater (sewage). This function is sometimes carried out by service providers appointed by municipalities. The department set the standards and norms for water and wastewater management at municipal level.  The bulk water supply is the sole responsibility of the Department through water boards. Water boards then sell the potable water to municipalities to reticulate to their customers. DWS only get involved in reticulation and wastewater treatment when a municipality is not authorised as a water service authority or does not have capacity or failing water services act to intervene).


  1. Water catchments are supposed to be managed by Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs). These are mandated to manage and regulate use and development of water resources on behalf of the department e.g. verifying and validating water use in their catchments or water management area; water quality monitoring (pollution control) and enforce effluent quality standards on anyone that discharges into rivers. Municipalities are also required to conduct water quality assessments. There are currently two CMAs and the plan is to have 9 CMAs in total covering all water management areas in SA.


4.2.      On Thursday, the delegation met with the Department of Water and Sanitation, The Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency, and SANBI to discuss river pollution challenges experienced in the municipality. The delegation originally requested additional input from the DFFE regarding the impact of river pollution on aquatic biodiversity and National Parks, but this briefing could not take place.


4.2.1.   During initial site visits, municipal officials briefed the delegation about the state of wastewater treatment facilities within the municipality. The facilities visited were in reasonable order, but aspects of the discharged water caused concern among the delegates. There appeared to be some contradictions between the statements of the officers and observations made. Presentations received at the municipality after the site visits partially clarified where the contrast could have originated.


4.2.2.   During the presentation of City of Mbombela, it was highlighted that the wastewater treatment facilities operated, with the exception of the White River treatment works, had received high green drop[3] scores, but that these were not high enough to consider the treatment works to be working optimally. The following details were provided:


  • None of the WWTWs complied with the 90% score excellence standard for effluent quality
  • None of the systems had updated W 2 RAPs in place or implemented the lack thereof leaving a gap in the ability to plan and cost key interventions needed to achieve compliance and best management practice
  • All WWTWs classified their final sludge but lacked evidence of conformance against the national sludge disposal guidelines
  • None of the plants were sensitive towards the benefits of reuse and carbon saving opportunities
  • Information and inspection of sewer networks and pump stations were limited and should form part of the engineering inspection services in future


4.2.3.   The Inkomati-Usuthu CMA further expanded on the inputs from  the municipality, highlighting that high levels of sewerage contamination in the Crocodile River is not only attributable to the municipal wastewater treatment facilities. The CMA presented details of all the challenges the river catchment faces, including:


  • Unauthorised water use(s)
  • Intimidation of staff when conducting inspection/investigation
  • Parties impatient with application process
  • Landless miners unable to apply for authorization
  • Mushrooming of informal settlements
  • Illegal mining (Gold Sand)
  • Tribal authorities issuing sand mining permits
  • Unauthorized WWTW Discharging partially treated effluent
  • Industries and mines not complying to conditions of the Water Use License (WUL)
  • Flooded pits, Decant from abundant mines Expired WUL
  • Lack of legal understanding by communities due to social challenges
  • Abandoned mines attracting prospective illegal mining activities
  • Illegal mining activities and sewage overflow having a negative impact on tourism industry in the province
  • Failure by authorities to formalize some of illegal mining activities to create jobs


4.2.4.   As a result, the river basin around Mbombela is classified as a Microbial Water Quality Hotspot Area, with non-compliant and unacceptable levels of microbial counts in water tested. This is the result of:

  • WWTWs effluent discharges downstream of the discharge points.
  • Raw sewer overflowing manholes and pump stations


4.2.5.   The Lower Crocodile River also experiences nutrient enrichment as a result of agricultural activities (Sugar cane). The CMA finished off the presentation summarising challenges and interventions for the Crocodile River basin


4.2.6.   Challenges:

  • Land use activities that pose water quality challenges (non point and point source pollution) in the Catchment;
  • Agricultural activities (pesticides, fertilizers) and irrigation returns flow;
  • Residential areas (urban and rural townships) e.g. storm water run off, poor sanitation services and illegal waste dumping especially disposable nappies;
  • Sewer infrastructure (e.g. non compliant treated effluent from WWTWs, overflowing sewer manholes and pump station)
  • Industries such as Mining and Mills (toxins from processing plants; decants and improper management and closure of mine dumps).



4.2.7.               Interventions:

  • Enforcement on non-compliant activities;
  • Embark on development of strategies /or plans for implementation for restoration of water quality using the provisions of the NWA and regulations;
  • Cooperation and coordination with other spheres of government especially Local government as the biggest contributor of microbial and nutrients pollution


4.2.8.   Key focus areas

  • Ensure protection and use of water resources;
  • Ensure compliance to International Obligations;
  • Ensure enforcement on non compliance activities;
  • Continue to participate in Joint Operations with other enforcement stakeholders;
  • Investigation and prosecution of big polluters and big illegal miners;
  • Continue to conduct monitoring and engaging with noncomplying stakeholders;
  • Development and implementation of guilt fines.


4.3.      Questions and responses


The delegation welcomed the interaction during site visits and expressed their appreciation in terms of the presentations received. The following suggestions / clarity-seeking questions were put to the Municipality and CMA officials:


  • The delegation pointed out the differences between discussions at the sites and the briefing received from both the Municipality as well as the CMA. It was concerning that management of the treatment plants were adamant that they do not release effluent into the rivers, although some of the outflows were visibly running cloudy water back towards the river. It was also stated that a recent upgrade to the system is causing bottlenecks in the system that need to be addressed.
  • During the site visit, the delegation was informed that a large manganese plant was responsible for polluting the river through large volume metal discharges. Farmers in the area are also complaining about the impact of the pollution. The delegation wanted to know if this has been investigated and if found to be accurate, whether it has or will be addressed. 
  • The committee found the green drop reporting confusing – wastewater treatment works received relatively high scores but do not receive green drop status. The delegation wanted this clarified and also reiterated that the DWS and DFFE had a responsibility to enforce environmental regulations if these are not adhered to.
  • The delegation was concerned about levels of community engagement focusing on water resource conservation. The fact that informal settlements, small-scale mining and illegal mining were also having an impact on the river needed to be addressed. Buy-in from the community is essential to improve the situation. The municipality was asked if environmental officers regularly visit these pollution hotspots.
  • The delegation wanted to know why the municipality’s wastewater treatment works were struggling to reach green drop status, and who was responsible for intimidating their inspectorate, as this has to be addressed immediately. If needed, a thorough investigation of the situation is required.
  • The delegation noted the low green drop score of the White River WWTW with concern. There was a significant difference between this and the rest of the municipality’s facilities and the committee felt that the cause of this need to be clarified. The delegation also wanted to know what support the WWTW is receiving/will receive to improve the situation.


4.4.      Responses from the CMA and municipality


  • The Municipality stated that plant maintenance is a greater challenge than capacity, and will discuss quarterly performance with the operators of the facilities.
  • The municipality further clarified that it is experiencing greater challenges from informal settlements and Zama-Zamas, and that the formal WWTW are frequently blamed for effluent pollution.
  • In terms of the green drop status and performance of WWTW, the municipality stated that apart from the White river facility, there is a very small margin between the current scores received and the score needed to attain green drop status. The municipality was confident that this classification will soon be reached and were therefore not extremely concern about the operation of the municipal WWTW. The CMA expanded on the response, stating that directives in terms of non-compliance have only been directed at two of the municipality’s facilities.
  • The MEC stated that they were not aware of any complaints about Manganese Metal Company (MMC) and Delta EMD, but will investigate the matter. On this matter, the CMA reported that they will always respond to complaints received about pollution incidents, but do not have the capacity to monitor the entire Crocodile River in order to detect problems.
  • In terms of community awareness, the municipality elaborated on its adopt-a-river programme, designed to increase community awareness and involvement in river management.
  • The CMA and municipality clarified that the intimidation challenges it faces is largely coming from Zama-Zamas illegally mining sand in the area.


  1. Short note on the rationale of requesting a briefing from the DFFE regarding the impacts of the pollution of the Crocodile River


5.1.      Background to the oversight approach


5.1.1.    During the Committee’s recent fact-finding mission to the Jagersfontein disaster area, it became apparent that there were many fragmented mandates between different departments, and that there was evidence of the departments operating in silos rather than practicing effective inter-departmental cooperation.


5.1.2.    The management of specific mine and reclamation activities is not the only example of multiple departments being responsible for the monitoring and enforcement role in activities that eventually impact on the environment. As will be demonstrated below, the management of water resources and the biodiversity within rivers and wetlands are managed by two departments with what appears to be mutually exclusive mandates. In terms of the DFFE, this creates significant impact on the management of aquatic biodiversity, as it is not mandated to manage the water in which the species occurs.


5.1.3.    The Mpumalanga oversight focus was designed to highlight this challenge in terms of the Crocodile River. The upper reaches of the river is affected by agriculture, mining and human settlements. Water quality is degraded until the river flows into the Kruger National Park. At this point, water quality affects the ecology of the river inside the Park, but the DFFE has no mandate to address the challenge. The Crocodile River site visit was designed to allow the DFFE to present its perspective regarding this challenge, but the Department declined the opportunity to present to the committee. This is unfortunate, as aquatic ecosystems and the species occurring in them are heavily impacted by human activity.


5.2.      Cause for the prioritisation of Crocodile River pollution


5.2.1.    Exclusionary mandates and silo mentality risk in managing water resources    


The following example presented focuses only on fish species:

There are approximately 120 species of fish occurring in South Africa freshwaters of which about 28 are recognised as threatened in the IUCN’s Red Data list (this is 23% of all South African freshwater fish species). In general, threats to aquatic systems have been increasing and this is reflected in a trend of increasing numbers of species included in the IUCN listings and the levels of these estimated threats (Skelton 1987 & 2001). Despite this, very few of South Africa’s threatened freshwater fishes have dedicated conservation programmes aimed at realistically reducing threats and down-listing their conservation status.[4]


5.2.2.    Conversely, South Africa has rich and varied aquatic environments. South Africa has 23 RAMSAR sites. A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, also known as "The Convention on Wetlands" an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975.  South Africa is a party to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat of 1971 (also referred to as the Ramsar Convention).


5.2.3.    While Article 3(1) of the Ramsar Convention makes provision for the wise use of wetlands, which is defined as the "maintenance of the ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development". The Conference of the Parties has agreed on inherent weaknesses that could lead to the hampering of wise use. These weaknesses include, but are not limited to:

  • authorities working in isolation;
  • the lack of communication between public and private sectors or technical personnel (environmental impact assessment specialists).


5.2.4.    Within the enabling provisions of South Africa's EIA regulations, reference is made to "water source", "water resource", "wetland" and "ecosystem". All these terms are read to include a wetland. However, whereas the terms "water source", "water resource" and "wetland" are defined in the National Water Act 36 of 1998 (NWA), an "ecosystem" is defined in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA), and "water source" is defined in the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act 43 of 1983 (CARA). Furthermore, the administration of the NWA is with the Department of Water and Sanitation, while NEMBA is with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, and CARA is with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. This multiplicity, combined with the application of the various specific environmental management acts (SEMAs), complicates the manner in which an EIA application is considered. This is so in that the national environmental framework casts the net wide in identifying the competent authority, but also in its effect on wise use decision making on activities pertaining to wetlands. In light of the aforementioned, this article aims to address the shortfalls and make recommendations that promote wise use.[5]


5.2.5.    It is in relation to these types of challenges that the engagement with DFFE would have been important. The conservation requirements of aquatic ecosystems and species is of such importance that there simply cannot be any room for a silo-approach to duties that may or may not fall within a department’s mandate.


5.3.      Overview of the mandate and operations of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment


5.3.1.    Studying the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s Mandate, starting at the constitution of South Africa and then working down to key legislation, there appears to be a refinement of focus to the detriment of aspects of the environment:


5.3.2.    Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act No. 108 of 1996), which affords everyone the right to:

  1. an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
  2. to have the environment[6] protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures.


5.3.3.    The DFFE interprets this mandate to require that it manage, protect and conserve South Africa’s environment and natural resources, but somehow, this mandate has become detached from water, which is both a natural resource and a crucial part of the environment.


5.3.4.    In its Annual Reports, the DFFE states “to give effect to this constitutional environmental right and the need for sound environmental management and sustainable development, the DFFE has over a period of time developed a comprehensive environmental management legislative/regulatory framework. This regulatory framework comprises acts of parliament (environmental laws), regulations, policies, norms and standards, and other regulatory tools that are aimed at promoting sound environmental management practices in order to protect and conserve the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.”


5.3.5.    Further, the Department states: “In addition to the development, implementation and ongoing review of a progressive regulatory framework for sound environmental management, other critical environmental management interventions by the DFFE include raising awareness on key environment issues and promoting a culture of environmental activism among ordinary citizens, building capacity within the sector, and establishing and strengthening national, regional and global partnerships to address common environmental challenges.”


5.3.6.    After the DFFE indicated that they will not be joining the Crocodile River site visit as they did not consider the topic as part of their mandate, the invitation to participate in the oversight was extended to the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), one of the Department’s entities. SANBI releases annual assessments under its Freshwater Biodiversity Programme, working together with the CSIR and the Department of Water and Sanitation. It was explained to SANBI that water management was not considered to be a DFFE responsibility, but that the impacts of river pollution has implications for the work of SANBI in terms of biodiversity management, and that the committee would appreciate any inputs from the entity. The mandate and role of SANBI, of which relevant functions are listed below, served as motivation to extend the invitation.


5.3.7.    SANBI’s mandate comes from the National Environmental Management Biodiversity (NEMBA) Act No. 10 of 2004: The mandate is to explore, reveal, celebrate and champion biodiversity for the benefit and enjoyment of all South Africans, which includes managing the National Botanical and Zoological Gardens as ‘windows’ to South Africa’s biodiversity for enjoyment and education.


(1) The Institute:

  1. must monitor and report regularly to the Minister on
  2. the status of the Republic’s biodiversity
  3. the conservation status of all listed threatened or protected species and listed ecosystems; and
  4. the status of all listed invasive species;


m.  must coordinate and implement programmes for

  1. the rehabilitation of ecosystems; and
  2. the prevention, control or eradication of listed invasive species;


The Institute must

  1. assist the Minister and others involved in the preparation of the National Biodiversity Framework, a bioregional plan or a biodiversity management plan to comply with subsection (1); and
  2. make recommendations to organs of state or municipalities referred to in subsection (2); align their plans referred to in that subsection with the National Biodiversity Framework and any applicable bioregional plan.


5.3.8.    It is the opinion of the committee secretariat that the mandate of the DFFE, starting at the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, clearly indicates that the department has a constitutionally mandated responsibility to ensure a healthy and safe environment, even if subordinate legislation removes its active management thereof. This mandate becomes conflicted with the separation of water resource management from the DFFE, but it does not imply that the impacts of poor water management does not create challenges for the department or its entities, nor that it exempts the DFFE from its constitutionally mandated responsibilities.


5.3.9.    Poor water management further affects international agreements and commitments towards freshwater ecosystem conservation and the conservation of endangered species across our SADC boundaries.


5.4.      Conclusion

It is the opinion of the committee secretariat that this approach of seeking out Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR) and Co-operative Government (CG) challenges created by conflicting mandates (constitutional and legislated) is worth persisting with. What was potentially under-estimated was the need further interaction with relevant Departments in order to clarify the approach and to consider any inputs the Departments may have regarding this manner of doing oversight. With a Select Committee with a portfolio such as this committee’s, it is simply not possible to address identified challenges only when it involves a single department and falls entirely within that department’s mandate. Almost none of the challenges identified in strategic planning has this characteristic. Most challenges involve multiple departments, or conflicts between national and provincial competencies. It is exactly for this purpose that these challenges need to be identified and addressed, since it is part of the mandate of the NCOP to identify Inter-Governmental Relations and Co-operate Governance challenges and present these matters at the National Legislature.


  1. Recommendations and Resolutions


  • The delegation noted with concern that the budget allocation for both District and Local municipalities appeared to be insufficient to allow for the appointment of sufficient Environmental specialists or to perform the tasks required of this municipal function. The budget constraints also extend to the required equipment and IT resources required to perform specific duties within the air quality monitoring and enforcement sphere. One area where this comes to the fore is the fact that the municipalities rely on ESKOM air quality data for some of its reporting. While the delegation is not assuming that the data is unreliable, it is problematic that the industry monitored for compliance is the one supplying the evidence for enforcement. The committee recommends that during its engagements with the relevant parliamentary committees, Cogta and Treasury, the challenges the municipalities are is facing in terms of budget allocations for local government competencies such as air quality management and enforcement is highlighted.
  • The reports of non-compliance towards air quality regulations experienced in the District Municipality was a concern to the delegation. The municipality is located within the Highveld Priority area, and as such, the enforcement of air quality regulations is of critical importance. The committee recommends that, after the municipality is requested to provide details on the polluting industries, the National Department is engaged in order to determine how the local sphere of government can be assisted to improve enforcement.
  • The delegation requested further details regarding the decommissioning of the Komati power plant, details requested include the public participation process followed during the SIA, the EIA performed and a full review of the process followed to implement the repurposing programme that will be implemented at Komati.
  • There is a need for a greater understanding of the energy generation cost implications of complying with commitments made towards implementing the Paris Agreement. It is also important to develop a detailed understanding of the interactions between the DFFE and the DMRE on the topic. Even considering the fact that ESKOM could have applied more foresight towards the midlife refurbishment of some of its power plants, it would appear as if the need to comply with stricter minimum emissions standards was always going to result in either significant costs or loss of generating capacity. The JET appears to have extremely tight timelines attached to it, or alternatively, the DMRE did not commit fully to its undertakings from the onset, creating the potential energy challenge that would result in the forced shutdown of older power stations without alternative plants in operation. The committee resolves to engage both departments on this matter.
  • The committee was informed that the maintenance of older power stations cannot be justified. The only option with older power plants that will allow these to operate within stricter emission standards is the retro-fitting of more modern CO2 capture capacity, which ESKOM states is simply too expensive to implement. ESKOM remains challenged with completing new generating units and being unable to comply with stricter emissions standards. It is difficult to comprehend that this situation had not been predictable, with timeous adjustments made to the IRP in order to compensate for the approaching bottleneck. The committee resolves to engage the DMRE and relevant stakeholders on the topic in order to generate a better understanding of the matter.   
  • The committee resolves to assist in co-ordinating meetings between Emalahleni municipal leadership and the DMRE to improve transparency related to the authorisation of mining activity within or close to residential zones. There is also a need for engagement between the community and the municipality in order to explain roles and responsibilities during authorisation. It is the further the opinion of the committee that mining licenses should not be issued if the human impact is not properly investigated, and there is a need to engage with the DMRE to determine what checks and balances is in place to ensure detailed engagement with affected parties.
  • The committee is concerned about the fact that a large proportion of pollution risk is reported to be caused by illegal mining activities and informal settlements within river drainage areas. The committee resolves to engage with relevant departments and NCOP committees in order to seek a more effective solution for situation.
  • The committee is of the opinion that greater clarity should be sought regarding the potential pollution risks associated with the activities of Manganese Metal Company (MMC) and Delta EMD. On this matter, the CMA also reported that they will always respond to complaints received about pollution incidents, but do not have the capacity to monitor the entire Crocodile River in order to detect problems. The committee is concerned about the fact that neither the CMA nor the municipal leadership appear to have detailed knowledge of past complaints about the risk of pollution from this facility, and resolves to request greater details about the matter from all role-players.
  • As with the earlier engagements with local government on their air quality management and enforcement mandate, the committee is concerned that Mbombela municipality stated that plant maintenance is a challenge. Urban settlements are growing, while wastewater treatment facilities are ageing and in need of upgrading and maintenance. The committee recommends that during its engagements with the relevant parliamentary committees, Cogta and Treasury, the challenges that municipalities are is facing in terms of budget allocations for local government competencies such as wastewater treatment and water quality monitoring is discussed.


Report to be considered.


[1]As reported on in a 2019 Committee brief entitled “Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries: Briefing on Air Quality Management in Air Quality Priority Areas and challenges associated with this activity.” - 8 October 2019

[2] Centre for Environmental Rights, BROKEN PROMISES The Failure of the Highveld Priority Area. October 2017

[3] The Green Drop Report provides an analysis of the current state of affairs of wastewater infrastructure and management in the country and also looks at the state of municipal wastewater treatment.

[4] IR Bills and ND Impson (2013) Conservation Biology of Endangered Freshwater Fishes – Linking Conservation of Endangered Freshwater Fishes with River Conservation, Focusing on the Cederberg.  WRC Report No. KV 305/12

[5] Bramley Jemain Lemine (2020) Developing a strategy for efficient environmental authorisation of activities affecting wetlands in South Africa: towards a wise-use approach. Obiter vol.41 n.1 Port Elizabeth. 


[6] Environment in this sense is not impaired by any legislation limiting mandates. Environment is the natural environment in its entirety.