Category: Academia

When Race and Social Equity Matters in Nature Conservation in Post-apartheid South Africa

When Race and Social Equity Matters in Nature Conservation in Post-apartheid South Africa

Current academic literature examining race and nature conservation in South Africa has relied mainly on secondary data analysis while neglecting the voices of local communities. This article draws on empirical experience to assess the extent of the impact of race and social equity in conservation, with the aim of promoting sustainable and more inclusive conservation practices in South Africa. Empirical results are drawn from different cases to examine racial equity in conservation. The findings suggest that conservation practices in post-apartheid South Africa are still exclusionary for the majority black population. Promoting more inclusive conservation is complex and requires a broader conservation agenda for more inclusivity and to genuinely tackle issues of poverty. There is a need for conservation groups to also include the previously marginalised in leadership structures and to incorporate indigenous knowledge systems. This will assist in changing the perception of marginalised people that particular persons dominate conservation. The paper further makes specific recommendations on how conservation can become more inclusive across social and race lines.

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Examining civil society social capital relations against mining development for local sustainability

South Africa presents a unique case for mining development and impacts on sustainability because the lines between the mining industry and the state are unclear and due to the increasing inequality between citizens. This questions the potential for citizens to hold mining industries (and government) accountable for environmental abuse. This paper examines the ability of civil society actors to take action against (coal) mining development by way of social capital collective actions in the natural tourist destination in Dullstroom. Semistructured interviews were conducted with various social actors and are reported in this paper. The paper highlights that local responses to engage in social capital against mining development for local sustainability are best understood in relation to the socio‐economic and political positioning of individuals and ethnic groups. Overall, class and race differences, a tough farming environment, and perceptions and priorities of mining versus tourism jobs undermined capacity for social capital to act against mining risks. There is a need for social capital bridging and linking ties to protect the environment for tourism growth and long‐term human‐environment sustainability

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Converging political ecology and environmental justice disciplines for more effective civil society actions against macro-economic risks

Converging political ecology and environmental justice disciplines for more effective civil society actions against macro-economic risks

This paper explores the potential to converge the theory of political ecology with the environmental justice discipline as means to promote more effective civil society actions against macro-economic risks, whilst analysing the case of South Africa. Such a convergence could result in mutual benefit for both arenas that already share a commitment towards justice. Whilst political ecology has focused on theoretical perspectives, which are mostly applied in rural areas, and examined justice in a larger macro-economic framework, environmental justice has been confined to an empirical focus at a local urban level, which is unable to link local struggles to larger political economic frameworks. Additionally, both arenas generally view civil society as coherent entities that act against the state and industry. Both disciplines should re-evaluate geographic scales and reconfigure romanticised understandings of civil society actions in order to attain justice.
Towards a Broader Conceptualisation of Environmental Justice

Towards a Broader Conceptualisation of Environmental Justice

In contemporary South Africa, environmental justice is a critical question for geographers. It is argued in this chapter that whilst new civil society leadership has emerged to address environmental justice concerns in the post-apartheid period, these have not been effective in formulating an emerging ‘environmental justice framework’ by way of a coherent ideology to collectively address social and environmental risks for more effective civil society actions against macroeconomic risks. This chapter explores selected case studies to examine how leadership in social and environmental struggles has unfolded, and for joint actions. Results indicate that leadership for an emerging environmental justice framework is restricted by individualised and self-interested leaderships, undermining engagement for collective actions both within and across the social and environmental arenas. It is observed that leadership will be vital in advancing local struggles, and also ensuring expansion and connection of struggles beyond localities, but will require negotiation between leaderships on convergence.


Environmental justice, Civil society, Leadership, Neoliberalism, Social movements 

Exploring the Impacts of Mining on Tourism Growth and Local Sustainability: The Case of Mapungubwe Heritage Site, Limpopo, South Africa

Mining licenses in post‐apartheid South Africa are being granted by the ruling government in sensitive areas that are important tourism hubs and employment generators. Limited research has been conducted to understand mining impacts on protected environments and tourism sites. This paper will focus on the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site as a tourist attraction in Limpopo to shed light on how mining is impacting on the area and on tourism development and local sustainability. This paper examines the difficulties that have been encountered by the tourism destination and surrounding communities due to the mining licences granted. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with key informants (communities, an employee at the heritage site and a government official) and are reported in this paper. We conclude that mining should not be allowed, with the need to rather safeguard the environment for cultural and environmental purposes. Stakeholder participation needs to be taken seriously by both the mining company and the government.
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Environmental Impact Assessments and public participation: The case of environmental justice and mining development

South African democracy witnessed considerable effort to redefine Environmental Impact Assessment regulations to improve participation of citizen’s towards sustainable development of activities. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of participatory processes has generally been mixed and in many cases fallen below expectations, with a lack of empirical evidence especially in South Africa to understand the underlying elements that may contribute to poor public participation in Environmental Impact Assessments. This paper attempts to investigate the participatory inefficiencies of Environmental Impact Assessments for mining development specifically in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga and presents viewpoints from key stakeholders. Results indicate that Environmental Impact Assessments, especially for mining development, are conducted as tokenistic tools to approve developments rather than to genuinely engage with the concerns of interested and affected groups. There is a need for environmental practitioners to be impartial during assessments, including for the independence of government as regulator and enforcer of environmental assessment processes rather than spearheading mining development for economic development. The paper makes recommendations to improve participation of citizen’s during environmental impact assessment processes

Keywords: Environmental Impact Assessments, mining, participating, environmental justice; civil society

Leonard, L. (2017) Environmental Impact Assessments and public participation: The case of environmental justice and mining development, Environmental Assessment Policy and Management  DOI

State Governance, Participation and Mining Development

Despite the advent of democracy witnessing government making considerable progress in developing the legal frameworks to manage mining development and include citizens in decision-making processes, this has largely been unsuccessful. Although it is known that the post-apartheid state may be ineffective in holding mining companies accountable for social and environmental abuse and engaging citizens in decision-making processes, it is unclear what may hamper effective governance and participation by the state. Since the popular tourist destination of Dullstroom, Mpumalanga has become under threat from an increasing number of mining applications for coal (and to a much more limited extent – diamonds), this paper presents viewpoints from key stakeholders to examine the effectiveness of the state to govern mining development and applications, including how the state (and industry) engages in participation with civil society surrounding mining development. Most participation literature has dealt with improving participatory processes rather than exploring the challenges towards successful participation. Investigations reveal a number of complex factors influencing governance and participation such as lack of government human resources, the ruling party promoting mining for social and economic upliftment, collusion between government and industry, and the Department of Mineral Resources domination of decision-making to promote mining limiting co-operative governance

  • Leonard, L. (2016) Governance, participation and mining development, Politikon, DOI: 10.1080/02589346.2016.1245526
  • Mining and/or tourism development for job creation and sustainability

    Mining and/or tourism development for job creation and sustainability

    Although the tourism sector has greater potential for job creation than the mining sector, the debate on which sector may be more sustainable for employment and local social development, has not been extensively researched, especially in the global South. The popular tourist destination of Dullstroom, Mpumalanga has come under threat from an increase in the number of mining applications for coal (and diamonds). Despite opposition to mining from civil society due to the potential destruction of the natural environment and hence tourism job losses, mining applications are being approved by the ruling party in the country. Government and mining companies state that mining will contribute to much needed job creation and social development. Disparity thus exists between mining and tourism development frameworks for sustainable job creation. This research thus presents perspectives from key participants surrounding the sustainability of mining and/or tourism jobs in Dullstroom, including the benefits and challenges for job creation and sustainability offered by both sectors. Investigations reveal that mining should not be allowed in pristine areas such as Dullstroom’s wetlands, biodiversity and conservation and agricultural lands. Besides the short-term jobs offered by mining, the precautionary principle, as suggested in South African regulations, should apply against mining development since there are added threats of serious or irreversible environmental degradation which does not support sustainable tourism development and long-term jobs. However tourism in Dullstroom is also beset with challenges which need to be addressed if tourism is to contribute to sustainable employment for the majority of people.

    Link to full article: Local Economy 31(1-3):249-263 – 2016

    Examining the quality of carbon trading as pathway to environmental justice or recipe for disaster

    The Kyoto Protocol is an international arrangement setting goals for thirty-seven industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Development Mechanism as a flexibility mechanism defined in the Kyoto Protocol offers emission reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units which may be traded in emissions trading schemes. The purpose is to support industrialised countries in attaining compliance with part of their quantified emission curb and reduction obligations but without emission reductions in their own countries. The Bisasar landfill in Durban was opened in 1980 during the Apartheid era in the largely Indian residential area of Clare Estate. Although the new democratic government promised to close the landfill in 1994, it still remains operational – mainly due to the Clean Development Mechanism project adopted by government. In an attempt to examine the effectiveness of carbon trading schemes to reduce emissions, this paper examines literature on how the carbon trading project at the landfill has progressed since its inception. Empirical work with key social actors since 2007 is drawn upon coupled with recent literature to examine how government’s ‘model’ quality project has unfolded. Evidence suggests that the state has failed to acknowledge that the carbon trading project stimulates waste accumulation in order to secure methane for carbon credits. Far from addressing climate change, the scheme intensifies local environmental and health risks and ignores livelihoods while reestablishing Apartheid-era racial conflicts. There is an urgent need for government to explore alternatives to landfills and carbon trading projects which will offer sustainable jobs and robust recycling interventions.
    Keywords: Bisasar landfill, carbon trading, resource recovery, environmental justice

    Leonard, L. (2015) Examining the quality of carbon trading as pathway to environmental justice or recipe for disaster at the Bisasar landfill in Durban, South Africa, Journal for Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance 1: 125-137

    Book Review: The Handbook of Civil Society in Africa

    The ‘Handbook of Civil Society in Africa’ is a timely contribution to the discussion on civil society on the continent. It presents a unique conceptualization of civil society within contemporary Africa. The aim of the book as noted by Obadare is to reflect on the diversity of African discourses on civil society and map the contours of thematic and regional analyses. The volume pays attention to the evolution of civil society in Africa and its applications across a variety of contexts and historical moments. Obadare notes that much of the angle of civil society analysis trends to be national as opposed to continental, with cross-national studies and comparisons remaining few. The chapters (with the exception of seven chapters in section two: Regional Perspectives) are said take the entire continent as their primary unit of analysis. The editor highlights that the civil society field has been largely dominated by non-government organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CSOs) and sundry formal organizations. In this volume there is a deliberate attempt to expand the range of issues and problems typically analysed using the language of civil society. The volume uniquely does this by incorporating contributions from a diversity of scholars (although not all writers come from African backgrounds but work extensively on Africa civil society issues). A distinct contribution of the book is that it moves away from the commonly understood conceptions of civil society within the Europe-American context to present civil society and its diversity within the African context.

    Notwithstanding pertinent contributions on African civil society (and taking into account the volumes dedication to the core principle of difference and variety) it nevertheless would have been useful to have had some sort of analytical integration or confluence across most of the volume to map the more or less common elements that emerge amongst the diversity of texts themselves. The reader is simply left to make sense of what is presented. However, a unique contribution arising within the volume (besides the commonly understood notion of Western civil society acting against authoritarian regimes) is the self-reflection surrounding the limitations of African civil society itself for advancing democracy in Africa – from transparency and accountability of CSOs in Ghana, to co-option by CSOs into government in Uganda, divisions between secular and Islamic actors during the Arab spring, the cautiousness about over-romanticizing the positive contributions of African civil society, conflicts within Zimbabwean civil society and urban civics, civil society and conflict in West Africa, and CSO deficiencies in responding to HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa to name a few. Thus, the volume does a great job in describing the ‘forms and features of actually existing civil society’ on the continent. Excluding section two on regional perspectives, not all contributions are continental or cross national in focus such as for popular organisations in South Africa. Although there are key contributions to civil society emerging from the non-formal civil society level such as from civil societies in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria; religious groupings across Africa; CSOs and the state in East Africa; unorganized civil society in Southern Africa, and sexual struggles in Africa amongst others, literature is at times dominated by organized civil society such as NGOs in Africa – surrounding well-known themes such as NGO accountability or NGOs in partnership for development. Despite some of these minor points, the book is fairly well organised and rich in its contribution towards understanding African civil society. It will no doubt be a valuable resource to academics, students, think-tank organisations and anyone wanting to understand contemporary debates on African civil society.

    (2015) The Journal of Modern African Studies, 53, pp 131-132. doi:10.1017/S0022278X15000051