Administrative penalties as a tool for resolving South Africa’s environmental compliance and enforcement woes

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

South Africa’s environmental resources are in serious decline, despite the constitutional environmental right, and multiple environmental protection laws. A predominant reason for this is that the criminal sanction is the default method of environmental enforcement. Even if prosecutors succeed in proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the fines imposed are too low to deter environmental violations. This dissertation proposes the introduction of an administrative penalty system into SA environmental law, as this system has had positive compliance impacts in numerous jurisdictions. Administrative penalties in the Netherlands and United Kingdom (the roots of SA’s civil and common law systems, respectively) are evaluated to identify best practices for administrative penalties. In SA’s environmental regime, there is an ‘administrative fine’ contained in section 24G of the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998. This is not a true administrative penalty, nor does it comply with the recommended best practices. Section 24G should either be deleted or substantially improved to meet its obligation of protecting the environment. Given the significant potential of administrative penalties to improve environmental compliance and enforcement, practical suggestions are made regarding their introduction into SA environmental law as a means to halt the current widespread non-compliance with environmental legislation.

Includes bibliographical references.