Fulfilment of South Africa's constitutional environmental right in the local government sphere
Du Plessis, Alida Anél
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Claims related to the environment increasingly permeate the domain of human and fundamental rights. It is widely accepted that a direct functional relationship exists between the pursuit of environmental aims generally, and the protection of environmental rights. By and large, this relation compelled 'the environment' to have become a prominent contemporary focus point in legal thought, discourse and adjudication. Since local government operates closer to citizens than any other level of government, it is obvious that it may be expected of it to also play an important role in the management and regulation of matters that affect the environment. In the main, this study questions the extent to which the South African legal framework facilitates local government progress in the decentralised fulfilment of the section 24 environmental right in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. Firstly, this thesis provides a theoretical literature review of a number of approaches to, categories of and different perspectives on environmental rights in general. As part of this review a number of generic elements is identified for the fulfilment of constitutional environmental provisions, generally. The literature review attends also to the notions of local environmental governance and 'local politics of pollution', amongst other concepts related to local government. Secondly, this thesis (by employing the comparative research method and by using the generic elements for fulfilment of constitutional environmental provisions as benchmarks) critically considers the Constitution or Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1949 (Grundgesety and relevant developments in Germany with reference to the European context and a local government case study on the municipality of Heidelberg. It considers also the Constitution of Namibia of 1990 and relevant developments in Namibia with reference to the African and Southern African contexts and a case study on the Walvis Bay municipality. The South African position is subsequently analysed, first with a focus on section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, environmental law and related developments, then shifting the focus to the constitutional provisions on local government, local government law, related developments and the case of the Drakenstein Local Municipality. Thirdly, based on the lessons learned from and lacunae identified in all three of the countries considered, this study concludes with a set of recommendations for the South African context.
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