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Society | Environment - Nature

South Africa sets up new environmental court

afrol News, 24 February - The South African government has set up its second court dedicated only to fight environmental crimes. The curt, which today was launched in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, in particular will be dedicated to poaching in the country's southern waters, facilitating the establishment of more marine parks.

The South African government's efforts to protect the country's marine resources have been given a further boost as the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mohammed Valli Moosa, today launched South Africa's second environmental court in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. The Minister announced a "war on poaching syndicates" in the region.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Moosa said the court will substantially strengthen government's fight against poachers: "My department has committed a significant amount of resources to this province, and will further provide an additional prosecutor, training for the prosecutor and magistrate and certain equipment as required by this court. We are determined to break these syndicates destroying our country's valuable resources."

Referring to the designation of two new Marine Protected Areas in the Eastern Cape province within the next 90 days - one along the Pondoland coast and another around Bird Island - Minister Moosa said that this further indicated government's commitment to preserve the Eastern Cape province's coastal beauty and marine resources.

Minister Moosa and the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, Penuell Maduna, launched Africa's first environmental court in March last year in Hermanus, Western Cape. The formation of specialised environmental courts was initiated "to ensure a speedy trial for environmental offenders, particularly those who squander the country's abalone stock," the Ministry of Environmental Affairs said in a statement today.

In its first year of existence the Hermanus court, according to the Ministry, has proved highly successful. It has heard 74 cases and had 51 successful prosecutions - marking a 70 percent success rate. Prior to the two departments setting up the environmental court, the success rate in prosecuting marine related offences hovered near the 10 percent mark as these cases would have easily gone on for a period of two years before being finalised.

- Having specialised courts with suitably qualified prosecutors and magistrates with the necessary expertise are ensuring much quicker disposal of cases, leading to more convictions and stringent sentences, the Ministry's statement says.

At the launch in Port Elizabeth, Minister Moosa thanked "ordinary South Africans" living along the coast who have taken it upon themselves to assist government in its war against marine offenders. "These are the people who report incidents of poaching, without whom we would not have achieved this level of success in prosecuting the offenders," he said.

- It is indeed a demonstration that South Africans want to join forces with government to protect our nation's resources and ensure the sustainability of marine life," Minister Moosa concluded.

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