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Johannesburg - \Antoinette Ferreira is often accused of having a vendetta. But her only bitterness is directed at “selfish and greedy” eco-criminals who are destroying South Africa’s precious natural resources.
And if she could, Ferreira, a senior state advocate at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who specialises in fighting environmental crimes, would ensure every transgressor was imprisoned for serious offences.
“I’m a firm believer in natural justice,” she told the Saturday Star. “Environmental criminals don’t regard themselves as criminals. They’re selfish and greedy. It’s all about the money. They come into court with big gun lawyers who… just want to frustrate proceedings. It’s these cases that take so long to finalise.”
Like the case against officials in the Matjhabeng municipality in the Free State, which dumped sewage from the Odendaalsrus wastewater treatment plant in Welkom in 2008. The case is still dragging on.
This week she was back in court for this case, which she described as the most difficult of her career. “The biggest challenge is manpower.
“These water cases are extremely difficult to prosecute because it’s against another organ of state… But you can’t prosecute another organ of state because of co-operative governance so you have to prosecute municipal managers in their private capacity.”
She often feels like “a lone voice in the desert”, but remembers she is working for “those without a voice”. She adds: “The NPA has given us a lot of support with environmental crime; it’s of high priority and there are dedicated prosecutors in every province.”