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Environmental movement in South Africa

Environmental movement in South Africa

The environmental movement in South Africa traces its history from the early beginnings of conservation, to the rise of radicalism and activism amongst local ecologists. Before the Chernobyl disaster and the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were very few green activist groups in the country. Koeberg Alert and the Dolphin Action and Protection Group are probably two of the oldest post-conservation groups.

While most early conservationists, with few exceptions, implicated themselves in the apartheid system[citation needed], groups such as Earthlife Africa were consciously aware of their role as nurturers of freedom and human rights as well as the rights of the earth and animal kingdom. The Cape Town Ecology Group for example, openly campaigned for political freedoms with a platform that "ecologised politics and politicised ecology".[1]

During apartheid while political parties were banned, environmental groups served as an outlet for activism and political expression. In Durban, the Environmental Justice Network, sprung up alongside ant-apartheid issues that affected the environment as well as the rights of workers. While many radical environmentalists were later absorbed into the governing African National Congress, some toyed with the formation of a political party that would represent green interests.


Apartheid Era

Post-Apartheid Era

  • 1994: After South Africa's first democratic election, environmental rights submitted for debate to the Constitutional Assembly.
  • 1995: eThekwini ECOPEACE founded
  • 1996: South Africa's Bill of Rights proclaims: "Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being."
  • 1997: The ANC government moves to provide lead-free petrol as one of its first pro-environment policies
  • 1998: The Truth Commission hears about asbestos-related deaths from mining
  • 1999: Groundwork (GW), a non-profit, environmental justice service and development organization founded by 3 ex-EJNF activists
  • 2000: South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)formed; eThekwini ECOPEACE wins one seat in the eThekwini Municipal Council, the first time a Green Party of any sort in South Africa has won at the polls
  • 2002: Rio+10 World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg; Earthlife launches the People’s Environmental Centre, the Greenhouse.
  • 2003: Asbestos Relief Trust (ART) set up, and the Kgalagadi Relief Trust (KRT), both of which evaluate claims and provide compensation for qualified claimants. A media statement, indicates that the ban on the use of asbestos and asbestos-related materials was "well overdue." National Energy Caucus founded.
  • 2004: Marthinus van Schalkwyk appointed as Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
  • 2006: Eskom, South Africa's national energy utility issues energy-saving lightbulbs to consumers as part of a "demand-side" energy-reduction campaign.
    • Dept of Environmental Affairs and Tourism holds hearings on nuclear power. First evidence of contamination and worker-related deaths caused b exposure to radiation.
  • 2009: South Africa participates in the Copenhagen Climate Change round.
  • 2010: SA Government announces mothballing of PBMR
  • 2011: South Africa hosts COP17 in Durban, a new framework emerges.

See also


  1. ^ Lewis, D R, "Ending the Apartheid of the Environment", South, Southside Environment, 7–13 March 1991, p19
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lewis, D R, "Environment and Economics go together?", South Environment, Sept 19-25, 1991, p20