Category: Featured

Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Governance: A Sub-Saharan African Perspective

Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Governance: A Sub-Saharan African Perspective

(1st Edition 2022)

By Eromose Ebhuoma, Llewellyn Leonard |

Sustainable Development Goal Series

The impact of climate change has adversely compromised the livelihoods of African communities who are overwhelmingly dependent on the natural environment for food security. Indigenous Knowledge Systems is a way for African people to adapt to climate change and secure their livelihoods by uniquely applying their ancient knowledge systems. The book provides critical discussions on the linkages between indigenous knowledge, climate change, and governance. Using primarily political and participatory methods, the book explores cases within the region in order to enhance our understanding about the importance of indigenous knowledge systems to combat climate change and the factors that undermine indigenous knowledge from featuring predominately in climate change mitigation and governance.

There are numerous types of land-related conflicts ranging from ownership, access, use and management. The chapters in this volume capture the strategies put in place by Indigenous peoples in different geographical regions across Southern Africa to adapt and build their resilience to climatic risks, including how collaborations with scientific knowledge have cascaded into building people’s resilience to climatic risks. This volume critically tackles the underlying issues of governance, power and epistemic injustice that influence the exclusion of Indigenous peoples in climate change decision-making at local and national levels.

The geographic spread of this book is wide and covers cases from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho as well as regional cases from West, Central, East and Southern Africa. Key insights from this book illuminate issues that could contribute meaningfully towards the actualisation of the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (climate action) in sub-Saharan Africa. This is primarily because Indigenous peoples and climate action are inextricably linked due to their overwhelming dependence on the natural environment for their livelihood.

Industrial scientific expertise and civil society engagement

Industrial scientific expertise and civil society engagement

Although the significance of scientific expertise is often proposed and empirically illustrated in academic literature, it is still unclear how environmental expertise becomes authoritative, and how its legitimacy can be challenged. In order to understand the interplay between scientific expertise and civil society engagement, this paper examines how industrial scientific expertise has worked with surrounding communities and civil society to inform scientific decisions, and for the co-creation of scientific knowledge formations. A particular case is analysed, that of the South Durban Industrial Basin in KwaZulu-Natal. This area comprises a mixed use of residential areas juxtaposed with heavy industries. Scientific expertise, especially within the industrial sectors, is therefore important in the prevention, alleviation and management of risks to residents, society and the environment. The study finds that there is poor engagement between scientific expertise with communities and civil society, not least when it comes to environmental issues. A reason for this is poor governance, enforcement and leadership with an overriding objective of industrial expansion for economic development by both government and industry. Another reason is that, with a few exceptions, the communities have mainly been concerned about socio-economic issues. This has resulted in a double bind, where scientific expertise and government have not shared environmental information with civil society at the same as the civil society, has not on the whole requested it.

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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Communities, mining corporations and corruption in South Africa

Communities, mining corporations and corruption in South Africa

During the apartheid era in South Africa, the mining industry operated without restraint and had undue influence over government decision-making. This created an environment where companies maximised profits at the expense of people and the environment.

To establish whether this is still the case I did research in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga and St. Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal. Dullstroom has a strong agri-tourism sector and is well known for its natural environment, particularly flyfishing. These attributes are now under threat from coal mining license applications. St Lucia is located near South Africa’s coastal border with Mozambique. It’s near the Great St Lucia Wetland Park, a world heritage site.

My research shows that some mining corporations still have influence over mining development in post-apartheid South Africa, although to a lesser degree. The study found that mining corporations, national and local government had a close relationship. Mining companies were strong arming government on how mining developments in the sector should happen.

Mining houses and development

The research found that corruption, poor governance and lax compliance were rife in Dullstroom. Generally, mining corporations often employed government officials to get mining licenses approved. Political connections enabled corruption between mining companies and government.

Practices like this have undermined laws that were passed after 1994 to control the negative effects of mining. For example, the National Environmental Management Act stipulates that development shouldn’t be allowed if it will lead to irreversible environmental degradation. And the South African Constitution makes provision for two rights potentially affected by mining. These are the right to a healthy environment and the right to having the environment protected.

The introduction of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution also enshrines the right of communities to express their dissatisfaction and challenge mining laws and regulations.

A number of communities have used these rights to take action against government and corporate malpractice.

One example is a civil society coalition’s successful defence of a protected area in Mabola in the north of the country.

But in other instances mining companies have found ways to circumvent community resistance. One route has been to get licenses approved by bypassing proper consultation processes with residents by influencing community leaders. For example, a community campaign against Indian mining giant Jindal, to prospect for iron ore in northern KwaZulu-Natal saw traditional leaders intimidating community members who were opposed to the development. Community members accused traditional leaders of giving Jindal permission to prospect on their land without consulting them.

Mining companies have also used the fact that people living in communities earmarked for mining are poor, and most don’t have jobs. In the Sakhelwe township in Dullstroom, the offer of jobs was to create divisions within the area. Similarly in St Lucia the local mining company promised local residents jobs and bursaries for tertiary education to get community members on their side.

Why civil society matters

The influence of companies has placed a strain on South Africa’s participatory model of democracy. This should involve the government, residents and the civic community. Local communities are often not consulted meaningfully during mining development processed.

For now it seems that the strategies being used by civil society organisations may be the best prospect for ensuring mining companies, and the government, are forced to apply the law.

There have already been some notable successes. In Xolebeni in the Eastern Cape the community has forced the mining company to stop a proposed development. The court judgment called for thorough consultation with the community prior to any granting of mining rights.

Groups such as these are gaining political momentum and support. For now, they provide the best potential for an enabling political settlement and for deliberative democracy.

It remains to be seen if these victories will have a wider impact on the future of mining in the country. A big question mark still hangs over whether the government, and the leadership of the African National Congress, will continue to be dictated to by corporations.

The signs aren’t good. The mining industry has welcomed the election of new leaders to run the ANC, signalling that it offers a new dawn for collaboration.

It also remains to be seen how civil society and local communities are able to organise and respond to any risks over mining development. This includes how local leaders will engage with their constituencies over future mining developments.



Why there’s resistance to coal mining at a world heritage site in South Africa

Why there’s resistance to coal mining at a world heritage site in South Africa

There are fears that new mining operations in the north east of South Africa could threaten communities, tourism and the environment.

Plans to resume coal mining operations at the Mapungubwe Unesco World Heritage Site in Limpopo have been halted and it’s uncertain when mining operations will resume. What’s known is that the government is currently considering approving new mining applications in the province, with some possibly approved already. A rich coal seam runs from Zimbabwe to South Africa through the area.
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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

Dullstroom mining development hindering environmental sustainability

Poor participatory processes during Environmental Impact Assessments and weak governance over mining development in Mpumalanga is causing loss of environmentally sensitive tourism and conservation areas.

This is according to a series of recent published journal articles conducted by the University of Johannesburg’s Department of Tourism. The research which investigated governance processes and participation during Environmental Impact Assessments for mining development in the Dullstroom, Mpumalanga region – known for its natural environment – noted 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.

The research notes that despite the advent of democracy which witnessed 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. According to Professor Llewellyn Leonard from the University of Johannesburg who led the research into mining development in Mpumalanga noted that, ‘despite improvements in environmental regulations it is unfortunate that our research suggests that mining development in post-apartheid South Africa is conducted as a priority by the Department of Mineral Resources for economic development with a disregard over environmental protection and democratic processes to engage with citizens.’

Peter Arderne, a director at Dullstroom Trout Farm said that there was a need for better enforcement of regulations, but that the capacity of government was limited with both the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Water Resources being under-resourced and unable to carry out their functions effectively. Arderne noted that, ‘local communities and civil society groups have to put a lot of pressure on government to get them to enforce the legislation.’

According, to Peter St Clair, a resident in Dullstroom and chairman of the Dullstroom Ratepayers Association, referring to the mining Environmental Impact Assessments conducted in the area, ‘The EIA process is vital because it gives everybody the opportunity to comment but generally the mining companies and consultants abuse the process and do not consult properly nor do they give the proper notifications to get the process approved.’

Dr Koos Pretorius of the Escarpment Environmental Protection Group (EEPOG) which opposes mining development in important biodiversity areas said that, ‘there is a need for mining consultants to not view the public participation process as a box ticking exercise just to get their mining application approved. There is a need to genuinely engage with public concerns and address these during public consultations.’

The research conducted by the University of Johannesburg revealed a number of other complex factors that influenced governance and participation for mining development 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 to name a few.

Regarding Environmental Impact Assessments more specifically, the research suggests that there is a need for environmental consultants to be impartial during assessments, including the independence of government as regulator and enforcer of environmental assessment processes rather than spearheading mining development for economic development. This would better ensure protection of environmental heritage and environmental sustainability for future generations as enshrined in the South African constitution. No government officials contacted during the research responded to interview requests to assist with data collection.

News24 Media Release, 13 March 2017: Mining development and environmental sustainability