In March this year the provincial government proposed the repeal of a long-standing provision in the province’s constitution that allows for the creation of the post. File picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).
In March this year the provincial government proposed the repeal of a long-standing provision in the province’s constitution that allows for the creation of the post. File picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Department says post of Environmental Commissioner for the Western Cape is out of its hands

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Nov 19, 2021

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Cape Town - The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said the controversial issue of the appointment of an Environmental Commissioner for the province was out of its hands.

In March this year the provincial government proposed the repeal of a long-standing provision in the province’s constitution that allows for the creation of the post.

However, a vote to repeal the provision would need a two-thirds majority of 26 votes, and with the DA’s eligible voting members numbering only 23 after the loss of former Transport and Public Works MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, the party would have to convince three opposition members to vote with it.

The issue came up during the standing committee on environmental affairs and development planning’s deliberations on the department’s 2020/2021 annual report.

Committee member Pat Marran (ANC) wanted to know why the annual report stated there was constitutional uncertainty about the office, and yet the creation of the office was in terms of the Western Cape constitution.

Department head Piet Van Zyl said: “I think the position as we have reported to this committee on a number of occasions, is that the process is out of the department’s hands.

“The draft bill was endorsed by the provincial executive council and has been forwarded to the speaker and there have been public hearings conducted around the issue.

“Our position, and thus the reference to constitutional certainty, is that there is a proposed constitutional amendment to the draft submission and that’s all there is to this matter,” Van Zyl said.

In answer to a question by committee chairperson Andricus van der Westhuizen around the issue of potential litigation and court rulings affecting the Land Use Planning Act, Van Zyl mentioned the case between the Green Point Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association and the City.

He said that the judgment may have consequences for the provincial and national planning legislation.

Meanwhile, the department achieved 96% of its targets in the 2020/21 financial year and a clean audit for the eighth year running.

Van Der Westhuizen said: “We welcome the department’s commitment to achieving its targets, especially considering the broad nature of its mandate and in the context of a global pandemic.”

MEC Anton Bredell said: “The department saw major disruption to its normal operations and in addition, saw further budgetary impacts as part of the provincial effort to reallocate funds towards the Covid-19 fight.

“I want to commend the Head of Department, his senior officials and staff for their sterling efforts despite trying conditions over the past year,” Bredell said.

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