The Department of Environmental Affairs welcomes the signing of the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, 2013 (Act No. 14 of 2013) (NEMLA Act 2013) by the President of South Africa, Hon. Jacob Zuma on 24 July 2013.
The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill, 2012 was tabled in Parliament on 4 May 2012. This was followed by public consultations in August 2012. A substantial number of amendments are aimed at strengthening the implementation of legal requirements and administrative processes to limit the possible abuse of the permit system as it relates to the hunting of rhinoceros.
The purpose of NEMLA Act, 2013 is to make amendments to certain provisions under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, NEM4 (NEM: BA), particularly relating to the challenges regarding the permitting system and the implementation of the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations.
The amendments further seek to make certain textual corrections to the National Environmental Management: Air Quality ActNEM00AQANEM: AQA); the National Environmental Management: Waste NEM, 2008 (NEM: WA); the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Amendment Act, 2009; and the National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, 2008.
With bio prospecting, some of the amendments make certain textual provisions that close a regulatory gap in the biotrading industry and that will facilitate compliance with NEMLA: BA. The NEMLA Act, 2013 also includes a provision allowing for the domestic or subsistence use of indigenous biological resources.
The purpose NEM intention of the NEM: BA is to promote sustainable use of indigenous biological resources and therefore, a legal mechanism has been put in place to exempt users such as traditional healers and traders in Muthi markets from the permissions of Chapter 6 of NEM: BA.
Further provisions allow the Minister through the Gazette Notice to exempt certain categories of commercial or industrial exploitation of indigenous biological resources from the provision of sections 82 and 84 of NEM: BA.
Furthermore, the amendments ensure that listed species are properly regulated. Regardless of whether a species is of high conservation value or not, these amendments seek to regulate all species to prevent over utilisation and the inclusion of such species in the protected categories in future. In addition, the amendments address some of the challenges with the permit system regarding the hunting of listed threatened or protected, and activities involving alien species or listed invasive species.
The permit system has been abused by permit applicants and holders seeking to obtain threatened or protected species permits such as rhinoceros horn. As such, the NEMLA Act, 2013 provides for circumstances under which a permit application or permit may be deferred, refused, cancelled or suspended, thereby strengthening the implementation of legal requirements and administrative processes to limit the possible abuse of the permit system.
The government of South Africa acknowledges that the NEMLA Act, 2013 will not be able to stop rhino poaching which is an organised crime, but it will certainly assist to address activities associated with poaching in the following manners:
Professional hunters and hunting outfitters will be required to register on the national database. Registration of such individuals will be revoked if they facilitate the killing of a rhino or export of horns in a manner deviating from what is stipulated on the permit. The individual will then not be able to obtain a permit or operate as a professional hunter or hunting outfitter in any province, as obtaining the permit is subject to the national registration.
If an individual is under investigation for contravening the NEM: BA, the issuing authority may defer a decision to issue a permit.
The issuing authority may refuse a permit if the activities associated with hunting are likely to have a negative impact on the survival of the species
A permit may be refused or cancelled if the applicant or holder is convicted of an offence in the NEM: BA.
The NEMLA Act proposes that an individual who does not necessarily kill a rhino illegally, but is nevertheless involved in this activity or allows it to be carried out, is also guilty of an offence.
With regard to the invasive species provisions in NEMLA; the amendments now empower the Minister to differentiate between areas of high risk and low risk of invasion and threat to ecosystems, habitats and other species; and between activities that are considered high risk or low risk.
The Minister will be able to list an invasive species and exempt activities involving that species from permit requirements or exempt areas in which permits may not be required for that specific invasive species.
The Minister will also be able to prohibit activities involving invasive species in high risk areas or prohibit high risk activities involving invasive species. This flexibility is required to manage invasive species effectively. The amendments also include emergency provisions to enable the Minister to respond to the threat of NEMLA on in a more pro-active manner. The NEMLA Act has been published for implementation with immediate effect.