Lowveld environmentalists praised at awards

SAPS Skukuza Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit's Capt Francois Vermaak.

WHITE RIVER – SAPS Skukuza’s commitment to combatting crime related to endangered species landed it a sought-after national award last week. The Environmental Management Inspectorate (EMI) Awards was held on Thursday night at Ingwenyama Conference & Sports Resort at the end of the four-day annual national Environment Compliance and Enforcement Lekgotla.

SAPS Skukuza Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit won an excellence award for its outstanding contribution to the investigation of environmental crime. The unit had a 98-per cent success rate in more than 1 000 cases in one year.

ALSO READ: Environmental crimes and issues discussed at lekgotla

Capt Francois Vermaak received the award from the head of the Green Scorpions, Ishaam Abader.

Louis Loock and Nico Oosthuizen also won an award, together with the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, for their outstanding support to the EMI after they won the landmark court case to protect Barberton Nature Reserve from exploitation by mines. The judgement has set a precedent for other environmental cases in the country. Deputy minister of environmental affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson, said in her speech at the awards that the task of conserving the environment was by no means easy. “People everywhere are becoming conscious of extreme weather conditions, water shortages, deforestation, the illegal exploitation of resources, endangered species, and loss of biodiversity, depleted fish stocks and degraded air quality.

Louis Loock and Nico Oosthuizen.

“The environment lies at the core of all we do as a country. Therefore, as you work to protect our environment, you are also working to protect our health, our communities, our families and our nation. It is you who have worked so diligently to safeguard the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we live on.”

The deputy minister said it was pleasing to note that the Green Scorpions were doing everything in their power to ensure the fulfilment of this mandate. Furthermore, the launch of the National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report 2016/17 entailed a transparent and critical analysis of the performance of the Environmental Management Inspectorate, and would be distributed to all public- and private-sector stakeholders.

ALSO READ: No environmental assessments done for months

“I am pleased that the relationships with SAPS, the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, SARS, the FIC and SSA is being sustained and growing from strength to strength. I would like to urge all of you to continue in the same vein, to build even stronger ties with the justice system and other law-enforcement agencies which ensure a whole-government approach to fighting environmental crime – aligned to the new priority policing goal adopted by Interpol during its General Assembly in September.”

Head of the Green Scorpions, Ishaam Abader.

Thomson concluded that they recognised the men and women who dedicated their daily lives to ensuring that our constitutional right to a healthy environment was made a reality for all citizens of South Africa. “Through their unrelenting pursuance of compliance to the law, these individuals which we honoured tonight have given their best in executing the core functions that lie at the heart of the Environmental Management Inspectorate.”

Tereasa Dias

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