Municipal Courts and Environmental Justice in South African Local Government

Keywords: Municipal courts, magistrates' courts, courts' role, access to justice, developmental local government, environmental justice

Abstract

Environmental injustice is part and parcel of the fundamentals of international and domestic environmental law. In South Africa, section 2(4)(c) of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 (NEMA) establishes environmental justice (EJ) as part of the environmental management principles to direct decision-making. This is particularly relevant because of the country’s legacy of continuing environmental injustices and inequalities, especially concerning natural-resource dependent services and benefits. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 further establishes a developmental local government (DLG) of which the objects are to ensure a safe and healthy environment, sustainable delivery of services, promotion of social and economic development as well as public participation in decision-making. These objects are complemented by section 24 environmental right in the Bill of Rights. 

Municipal service delivery of water and sanitation, electricity, land matters and municipal health, should supplement, not compromise the state of local communities' environment and access should be equal. The absence of the latter may result in the form of environmental injustice as has been described by authors such as Bullard, McDonald and Schlosberg. In the event of service delivery-related environmental injustices, it is to be expected that communities must have remedial options available.  One of which may be accessible to the judicial system.  

Therefore, this paper focuses on and explains the role that Municipal Courts specifically may play in fortifying the relationship between municipal service delivery and improved grass-root level environmental justice in South Africa. The underlying question is whether such courts can be agents of (environmental) change where local communities are exposed to environmental harm as a consequence of the failure of municipal services or the environmentally harmful actions of other community members or local industries. 

References

Bibliography
Literature
Agyeman J and Evans B ꞌꞌ'Just Sustainability': The Emerging Discourse of Environmental Justice in Britain?ꞌꞌ 2004 Geogr J 155-164

Albertyn C "Specialized Arbitration and Mediation" in Pretorius P (ed) Dispute Resolution (Juta Cape Town 2003) ch 7

Beall J, Crankshaw O and Parnell S ꞌꞌVictims, Villains and Fixers: The Urban Environment and Johannesburg's Poorꞌꞌ 2010 JSAS 833-855

Bendeman H "Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the Workplace: The South African Experience" 2007 African Journal of Conflict Resolution 137-161

Brand J ꞌꞌThe Nature of the Arbitration Processꞌꞌ in Pretorius P (ed) Dispute Resolution (Juta Cape Town 2015) ch 6

Chemhuru M ꞌꞌThe Paradox of Global Environmental Justice: Appealing to the Distributive Justice Framework for the Global Southꞌꞌ 2019 SAJP 30-39

Clough E ꞌꞌEnvironmental Justice and Fracking: A Reviewꞌꞌ 2018 Curr Opin Environ Sci Health 14-18

Currie I and De Waal J The Bill of Rights Handbook 6th ed (Juta Cape Town 2013)

Debbané A and Keil R ''Multiple Disconnections: Environmental Justice and Urban Water in Canada and South Africa'' 2004 Space and Polity 209-225

De Jong M ꞌꞌArbitration of Family Separation Issues – A Useful Adjunct to Mediation and the Court Processꞌꞌ 2014 PELJ 2355-2410

Department of Constitutional Development The White Paper on Local Government (The Department Pretoria 1998)

De Visser J ꞌꞌDevelopmental Local Government in South Africa: Institutional Fault Linesꞌꞌ 2009 CJLG 7-25

De Visser J and Christmas A ꞌꞌBridging the Gap between Theory and Practice: Reviewing the Functions and Powers of Local Government in South Africaꞌꞌ 2009 CJLG 107-119

De Vos P and Freedman W (eds) South African Constitutional Law in Context (Oxford University Press Cape Town 2014)

Draai E and Taylor D ꞌꞌPublic Participation for Effective Service Delivery: A Local Government Perspectiveꞌꞌ 2009 J Public Adm 112-122

Dugard J ꞌꞌCourts and the Poor in South Africa: A Critique of Systemic Judicial Failures to Advance Transformative Justiceꞌꞌ 2008 SAJHR 214-238

Dugard J and Alcaro A ꞌꞌLet's Work Together: Environmental and Socioeconomic Rights in the Courtsꞌꞌ 2013 SAJHR 14-31

Du Plessis AA "Public Participation, Good Environmental Governance and Fulfilment of Environmental Rights" 2008 PELJ 1-34

Du Plessis AA "'Local environmental governance' and the role of local government in realising Section 24 of the South African Constitution" 2010 Stell LR 265-297

Du Plessis AA ꞌꞌThe Readiness of South African Law and Policy for the Pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal 11ꞌꞌ 2017 LDD 239-262

Du Plessis AA and Fuo ON "Governing Authorities in the Same Boat and a Tale of Two Schedules: Marius Nel v Hessequa Local Municipality (2015)" 2017 CJLG 71-82

Du Plessis AA and Nel JG ''An Introduction'' in Du Plessis AA (ed) Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa (Juta Cape Town 2015) ch 1

Feris L "Constitutional Environmental Rights: An Under-utilised Resource" 2008 SAJHR 29-49

Flynn E Disabled Justice? Access to Justice and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Routledge London 2017)

Friedman ML ꞌꞌAccess to Justice: Some Historical Commentsꞌꞌ 2010 Fordham Urb LJ 3-15

Fuo ON ''Role of Courts in Interpreting Local Government's Environmental Powers in South Africa'' 2016 CJLG 17-35

Gellers JC and Cheatham T "Sustainable Development Goals and Environmental Justice: Realization through Disaggregation?" 2019 Wis Int'l LJ 276-297

Griffin L et al ꞌꞌEnvironmental Justice and Resilience in the Urban Global South: An Emerging Agendaꞌꞌ in Allen A, Griffin L and Johnson C (eds) Environmental Justice and Urban Resilience in the Global South (Palgrave Macmillan New York 2017) 1-11

Johnson D, Pete S and Du Plessis M Jurisprudence: A South African Perspective (LexisNexis Butterworths Durban 2001)

Kibugi R ꞌꞌEnhanced access to environmental justice in Kenyaꞌꞌ in Benidickson J et.al (eds) Environmental Law and Sustainability After Rio, (Edward Elgar Cheltenham 2011) ch 10

King P and Rendell C ꞌꞌPublic Participation and Water Use Rightsꞌꞌ 2015 PELJ 944-968

Kotzé LJ and Du Plessis AA ''Some Brief Observations on Fifteen Years of Environmental Rights Jurisprudence in South Africa'' 2010 J Ct Innovation 157-176

Linde H "Establishing a Municipal Court Case Study: Stellenbosch Municipality" 2003 Local Government Bulletin 1-3

Llewellyn L ꞌꞌBridging Social and Environmental Risks: The Potential for an Emerging Environmental Justice Framework in South Africaꞌꞌ 2018 J Contemp Afr Stud 23-38

McDonald DA (ed) Environmental Justice in South Africa (Ohio University Press Athens, Ohio 2002)

McLeod-Kilmurray H ꞌꞌLowering Barriers to Judicial Enforcement: Civil Procedure and Environmental Ethicsꞌꞌ in Paddock L et al (eds) Compliance and Enforcement in Environmental Law (Edward Elgar Cheltenham 2011) ch 12

Morrow K ꞌꞌThe courts and public participation in environmental decision-makingꞌꞌ in Benidickson J et.al (eds) Environmental Law and Sustainability After Rio, (Edward Elgar Cheltenham 2011) ch 9

Mrema EM and Häntschel M "Access to Justice and Sustainable Development – How can Environmental Access Rights Achieve Sustainable Development for All?" 2015 ABDR 17-38

Munalula MM ꞌꞌSeeking a Gender-equitable Customary System of Distributive Justice: The Case of the Lozi of Western Zambiaꞌꞌ 2014 SADCLJ 81-95

Murcott M ''The Role of Environmental Justice in Socio-economic Rights Litigation'' 2015 SALJ 875-908

Nealer EJ ꞌꞌAccess to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Decision-makingꞌꞌ 2005 J Public Adm 469-483

Newton DE Environmental Justice 2nd ed (ABC Clio Oxford 2009)

Preston BJ ꞌꞌThe Effectiveness of the Law in Providing Access to Environmental Justice: An Introductionꞌꞌ in Martin P et al (eds) The Search for Environmental Justice (Edward Elgar Cheltenham 2015) ch 2

Pretorius P ꞌꞌIntroduction and Overviewꞌꞌ in Pretorius P (ed) Dispute Resolution (Juta Cape Town 2015) ch 1

Qumbu BB The Role of Courts in Promoting Water Security in South Africa (LLM-dissertation North-West University 2019)

Rautenbach IM ꞌꞌIntroduction to the Bill of Rightsꞌꞌ in Constitutional and Administrative Law Commentary, The Bill of Rights Compendium (LexisNexis Online Database 2018)

Schlosberg D Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature (Oxford University Press Oxford 2009)

Schlosberg D ꞌꞌTheorising Environmental Justice: The Expanding Sphere of a Discourseꞌꞌ 2013 Journal of Environmental Politics 37-55

Scott D and Oelofse C ꞌꞌSocial and Environmental Justice in South African Cities: Including 'Invisible Stakeholders' in Environmental Assessment Proceduresꞌꞌ 2004 JEPM 445-467

Soyapi CB The Role of the Judiciary in Advancing the Right to a Healthy Environment: Eastern and Southern African Perspectives (LLD-thesis North-West University 2018)

Steytler NC and De Visser J Local Government Law of South Africa (LexisNexis Durban 2007 (online))

United Nations Development Programme Programming for Justice: Access for All - A Practitioner’s Guide to a Human Rights-based Approach to Access to Justice (UNDP Bangkok 2005)

Van der Waldt G ꞌꞌMunicipal Service Delivery and the Environmentꞌꞌ in Du Plessis AA Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa (Juta Cape Town 2015) ch 2

White R Crimes against Nature: Environmental Criminology and Ecological Justice (Willan Devon 2008)

Wiese T Alternative Dispute Resolution in South Africa: Negotiation, Mediation, Arbitration and Ombudsmen (Juta Cape Town 2016)

Case law
Concorde Plastics (Pty) Ltd v NUMSA 1997 11 BCLR 1624 (LAC)
Fedsure Life Assurance Ltd v Greater Johannesburg Transitional Metropolitan Council 1999 1 SA 374 (CC)
Fuel Retailers Association of Southern Africa v Director-General Environmental Management, Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Mpumalanga Province 2007 10 BCLR 1059 (CC)
Khanyisa Community Development Organisation v Director: Development Management: Region 2, Western Cape Department of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development 2020 2 All SA 485 (WCC)
Lesapo v North West Agricultural Bank 2000 1 SA 409 (CC)
Le Sueur v Ethekwini Municipality 2013 ZAKZPHC 6 (30 January 2013)
Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa v Minister of Environmental Affairs 2019 1 SA 491 (GP)
Nedbank v Thobejane 2018 4 SA 694 (GP)
Thint Holdings (Southern Africa) (Pty) Ltd v National Director of Public Prosecutions: Zuma v National Director of Public Prosecution 2009 3 BCLR 309 (CC)
Legislation
Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act 46 of 1998
Arbitration Act 42 of 1965
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977
Local Government: Municipal Finance Management Act 56 of 2003
Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998
Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000
Magistrates' Court Act 32 of 1944
National Building Regulations and Standards Act 103 of 1977
National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998
National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004
National Environmental Management: Waste Act 59 of 2008
National Prosecuting Authority Act 32 of 1998
Promotion of Access to Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000
Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act 16 of 2013
Government publications
GN 75 in GG 5479 of 20 August 1999
International instruments
Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (1998)
Internet sources

Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Date Unknown Home Page https://online.aarto.gov.za/#/ accessed 7 April 2021

Anon 2021 Green Light for Municipal Court https://www.mosselbayadvertiser.com/news/News/General/20674/Green-light-for-municipal-court accessed 7 April 2021

Anon 2015 Municipal Court for George Approved https://www.georgeherald.com/News/Article/General/municipal-court-for-george-approved-20170711 accessed 7 April 2021
AGSA 2019 https://www.agsa.co.za/Reporting/MFMAReports/2017-2018MFMA.aspx
Auditor-General South Africa 2019 2017-2018 MFMA Report https://www.agsa.co.za/Reporting/MFMAReports/2017-2018MFMA.aspx accessed 7 April 2021

City of Cape Town 2021 Municipal Courts https://www.capetown.gov.za/
Family%20and%20home/See-all-city-facilities/Our-service-facilities/Municipal%20courts accessed 7 April 2021

City of Tshwane 2015 Municipal Courts http://www.tshwane.gov.za/
sites/Departments/Corporate%20and%20Shared%20Services/LegalServices/MunicipalCourts/Pages/Municipal-Courts.aspx accessed 7 April 2021

City of Tshwane 2015 Municipal Court Listing http://www.tshwane.gov.za/
sites/residents/Services/MunicipalityCourts/Pages/Municipal-Court-Listing.aspx accessed 7 April 2021

City of Tshwane 2018 Promulgated By-laws http://www.tshwane.gov.za/
sites/Business/Bylaws/Pages/Promulgated-By-Laws.aspx accessed 7 April 2021

Cox A 2005 Joburg Municipal Court Fails to take Up Slack https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/joburg-municipal-court-fails-to-take-up-slack-251108 accessed 7 April 2021

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development 2014 Minister Michael Masutha Launches Rationalisation of Courts as Part of Access to Justice, 28 Nov https://www.gov.za/minister-launch-rationalisation-courts-part-access-justice# accessed 7 April 2021

DoJ & CD 2016 Introduction of the Stellenbosch Additional Court: https://www.justice.gov.za/m_speeches/2016/20160513_StellenboschCourt.html accessed 7 April 2021

Emfuleni Local Municipality 2011 Municipal Courts http://www.emfuleni.gov.za/index.php/gallery/5-municipal-courts/municipal-courts4 accessed 7 April 2021

eThekwini Municipality 2011 Municipal Courts http://www.durban.gov.za/
City_Government/Administration/city_manager/LegalServices/Pages/Municipal-Courts.aspx accessed 7 April 2021

George Local Municipality 2021 George Municipal Court committed to service despite stringent Covid regulations: https://www.george.gov.za/
george-municipal-court-committed-to-service-despite-stringent-covid-regulations/ accessed 7 April 2021

Gowa M 2017 R4m Municipal Court on Cards https://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2017-05-23-r4m-municipal-court-on-cards/ accessed 7 April 2021

Johannesburg Innercity Partnership 2017 Municipal courts launching in Johannesburg: https://www.jicp.org.za/news/joburg-municipal-courts-launching-in-johannesburg/ accessed 7 April 2021

Legal Dictionary 2016 Distributive Justice https://legaldictionary.net/
distributive-justice/ accessed 7 April 2021

Maiese M 2013 (2020 update) Distributive Justice https://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/distributive-justice accessed 7 April 2021

Merriam Webster 2021 Double Jeopardy https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/double%20jeopardy accessed 7 April 2021

Municipal Demarcation Board 2020 FAQ http://www.demarcation.org.za/index.php/faq/ accessed 7 April 2021

Ngqakamba S 2018 Tavern Owner Sentenced to 2 Years in Jail for Noise Pollution in Neighbourhood https://www.news24.com/news24/SouthAfrica/

News/tavern-owner-sentenced-to-2-years-in-jail-for-noise-pollution-in-neighbourhood-20180810 accessed 7 April 2021

South African Human Rights Commission Date Unknown Being Able to Access Justice is a Human Right https://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/
Access%20to%20Justice%20Pamphlet.pdf accessed 7 April 2021

Staff Reporter Mail and Guardian 2015 Being able to access justice is a human right https://mg.co.za/article/2015-02-19-being-able-to-access-justice-is-a-human-right/ accessed 7 April 2021

Statistics South Africa 2015 Living Conditions of Households in South Africa http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0310/P03102014.pdf accessed 7 April 2021

Statistics South Africa 2017 General Household Survey http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0318/P03182017.pdf accessed 7 April 2021

World Bank 2021 South Africa: Overview https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southafrica/overview accessed 7 April 2021
Views
  • Abstract 131
  • Pdf 67
  • Xml 17
  • epub 1
Views and downloads are with effect from 11 January 2018
Published
2021-07-08
Section
SARChi CLES Series on Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability