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S. Africa: Govt dragging its feet in litigation while people continue to be affected by pollution levels

‘State ‘dragging its feet’ in watershed Mpumalanga pollution case’ 7 October 2020

The government is “inexplicably dragging its feet” in its response to the landmark Deadly Air court case while harmful levels of pollution continue to affect people living on the Mpumalanga Highveld. In June last year, environmental justice group groundWork and Mpumalanga organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), launched the litigation in the high court in Pretoria, demanding that the government clean up the pollution on the Highveld.

…The government’s response to the case has been sluggish, says Timothy Lloyd, an attorney at the CER. “It’s frustrating that we are 16 months on from launching the case and although the government respondents are belatedly opposing the application, which was expected, we still do not have their answer to the allegations in the application,” he says. “Lockdown restrictions aside, they are inexplicably dragging their feet while the harmful levels of air pollution continue to affect people’s lives on a daily basis.”

…The case, he notes, is of national importance. “The applicants do not only bring this application in their own interest but also they protect the constitutional rights of the residents in the Highveld Priority Area and the public at large. Given that people living and working in the Highveld Priority Area continue to breathe ambient air that is harmful to their health and well-being, there is an evident degree of urgency. This necessitates a just and equitable conclusion as soon as reasonably possible,” he wrote. Promise Mabilo, of Vukani, said she believes the government is failing the people most affected by the air pollution. “They are ignoring us and maybe they think the case is not worth it because if it was something important to them, they would have responded long ago.”