The devil is in the details

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Environmental Affairs, Thomas Hadebe MP, during the Budget Vote on Environmental Affairs.
Honourable Chair,
One of the Department’s key strategic goals or objectives is Outcome 10: protect and enhance our environmental assets and natural resources.
If one looks at the performance of the Department in achieving Outcome 10, worryingly, the devil is in the details. The details reflect an unresponsiveness shown to specific issues of wildlife conservation, pollution abatement and protected areas that seriously need immediate policy or legal framework interventions.
At first glance, the budgetary approach to environmental protection appears to be as fragmented and flawed as the legal approach. The proposed draft regulations on domestic trade in Rhino horn, or part, product or derivative of Rhino horn, is a case in point. On the regulations, the Minister seeks to allow domestic trade on Rhino horn and that is against the decision taken by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) last year.
Even the issues of protected areas management, resource conservation, pollution control and wildlife protection are treated as secondary priorities, with special attention paid only to benefit certain individuals in the short term rather than the broad population of South Africa in the long-run.
Classical examples of this would be that of the North West province’s donation of high value species to a few connected individuals.
The other is the ground breaking decision by the Minister to allow mining in environmentally sensitive areas, like the Mabola Protected Environment in Mpumalanga.
I cannot understand why the Minister allowed the mining in the protected area, which is also a strategic source of water and agriculture.
In no way is it in the Department or surrounding communities’ interest to have a mine near a water source and area that ensures food security for the surrounding communities and country.
These are just a few of the flawed decisions from a number of incidents I would be able to mention if I had more time at my disposal.
When you look at the directorship or management of the companies, the facts are glaring. There is no doubt that the decisions were made in order to reward politically-connected individuals rather than ordinary South Africans.
I would like to quote Pope Francis when he warns us against the destruction of our ecosystem and biodiversity: “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour.”
Honourable Speaker, it is in this context that I am pleased to affirm that the DA is a strong proponent of “sustainable development for all”.
This is what people expect from the Government.
What do we mean by sustainable development for all? It means the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and where no one is left behind in the development.
The DA views the Department of Environmental Affairs as one of the strategic pillars of economic growth.
This Department is tasked with the responsibility to preserve our biodiversity which attracts tourists.
The communities in and around the parks depend entirely on the natural environment for survival and income. It is important that this Department is well resourced to carry out daily conservation programmes and to ensure that species diversity is maintained to support livelihoods, to provide food and support a sustainable fisheries industry.
The fundamental basics that the DA will focus on to strengthen the Environmental Department are:
• The collection of data on threatened species and their habitats and the use thereof to improve the conservation status of these animals and the management of their habitats;
• The implementation and enforcement of environment protection legislation to ensure that the integrity of ecosystems is maintained;
• Focusing on the implementation of an integrated waste management strategy aimed at diverting waste from the landfill through recycling; and
• Sourcing Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding for the projects on sustainable financing of protected areas and land degradation.
This is the DA vision of an inclusive nation, where every citizen can aspire and work harmoniously in creating a better life.
Whilst we recognize that financial resources are limited and trade-offs are unavoidable, we cannot stress enough the importance of mobilising the resources for continued management of our natural environment for future generations.