Budget debate on Environmental Affairs

By: Mbongeleni Joshua Mazibuko; IFP MPL
Member: KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Environmental Affairs Portfolio Committee
Tuesday, 02 June 2020

I participate in this debate against the background of the very tragic Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged humanity worldwide. Among many lessons taught by the Covid-19, is that our lives are intertwined with the environment.

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically declared to us that without water; without food production and vegetation in general, we are doomed. It has dramatically reminded us that some of our answers to diseases lie in the roots, branches and leaves of the very trees that we take for granted.

CHALLENGES TO DEPT AND COMMITTEE

All this tells humanity that unless we wake up and ensure the conservation of the environment we are facing a ghastly future.

It is for this reason that the IFP mourns the economic conditions that have imposed cuts because they impact negatively on the Department and these Hon. Members.

CRUELTY AGAINST ANIMALS

Hon. Speaker; the IFP applauds the Department’s involvement in the noble fight against rhino and elephant poaching. However, we wish to state that rhinos and elephants may not be the only animals that are threatened by unscrupulous humans.

Last July, an organisation known as Ban Animal Trading South Africa (BATSA), staged protest action against the Vodacom Durban July. They based their protest on the allegations that horses that participate in the VDJ live in very horrific conditions.

I also had a meeting with the Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL). My discussions with its General Manager, Mr David Rogers, gave me the impression that cruelty against animals seems to be rife in institutions where animals are bred for profit; and this includes dogs that are bred for sale or for dog-fighting games.

INDUSTRIAL NONCOMPLIANCE

Again Hon. Speaker, a few days ago, Mr Lucky Shabalala of Sisonke Environmental Justice Network (SEJN ) in Newcastle, sent me a message asking that I must table before the Hon. MEC and this House that industries are still not honest with regards to complying with Environmental Impact Assessment. He went on state that even when they engage in consultations it becomes clear that they are not serious.

And about a day or two ago, I received a message from Shanice Firmin of South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. She related an experienced suffering of communities of Treasure Beach, Bluff, Austerville and Merebank which happened on May 10, 2020, because of being subjected to toxic air pollution emanating from Engen Refinery. And she is calling for an investigation on why the call centre was not manned.

In addition to these reports, Hon. Speaker, there is the question of mining companies which mine in traditional areas. Some of them are only concerned with extracting the wealth with no care for the surrounding communities. When their objectives have been achieved, they leave the area in an environmental mess.

We highlight these issues Hon. Speaker because we wish to urge the Department and the Environmental Affairs Portfolio Committee – of which I am a Member – to get very close to these issues. We cannot allow pursuits for profit to ignore the basic ethical forms of behaviour. Because we here, shoulder the mandate given by the citizens to ensure that all forms of environmental heritage are preserved for future generations. In fact, I was reminded of the reason why the Founder of Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi spoke vehemently against what he called “unfettered capitalism.”

CITIZENS’ “I-DON’T CARE” ATTITUDES

Hon. Speaker, we as ordinary citizens of this Province are also to blame for the state of the environment. It is shocking to see old men and women displaying an “I-don’t-care” attitude by throwing away plastic bags, cans etc. just randomly. They just do not care about the consequences of their actions. Others do so in the presence of their kids. And thus, they are planting such inhuman tendencies in their off-spring.

Some Municipalities too, demonstrate their disrespect for the environment by promulgating by-laws which they have no political will to enforce. Hence some of our cities and towns are like dumping sites. I am here remined of Cato Manor/Mayville. This area is a disaster waiting to happen.

While on this subject, we would wish to hear from the MEC on the issues that Hon. Ntombela touched on regarding Willowton Factory and Umdloti River. It may not be today; maybe at the Portfolio Committee level.

We must urgently intensify and escalate campaigns to instil in our people respect for the environment. Above that, the Department must intensify engagements with Municipalities and urge them to prioritise environmental conservation programs. And indeed, there must be no shying away from using the carrot and stick approach, if needs be.

Let us all fight to rid KwaZulu-Natal of all threats to the natural beauty that we received as a gift from God. If we do not do so, Armageddon is facing us in the face!