Let’s work together: Environmental and socio-economic rights in the courts

Authors Jackie Dugard, Anna Alcaro

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: Co-founder and former executive director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI); visiting senior fellow at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand; Fulbright fellow who spent a year in Johannesburg (August 2011 to August 2012) interning at SERI
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 29 Issue 1, 2013, p. 14 – 31


Under apartheid poor (black) people and the environment were viewed as antithetical. Poor communities were forcibly relocated to establish or expand game reserves and a range of militaristic interventions were imposed to ‘protect nature’, often at the expense of human rights. [fn1] The environment was overwhelmingly associated as the preserve of the (white) middle class and was preoccupied with saving plants and animals. Under the post-apartheid dispensation, broad environmental rights are constitutionally-entrenched alongside socio-economic rights. But, to what extent does this imply an amicable, or even an established relationship between environmental and socio-economic rights? This article seeks to begin to answer this question by examining first, the kinds of issues taken up and mobilisation pursued by nascent environmental justice movements such as the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance; and, second, the limits and opportunities of environmental litigation pursued by such movements to date. footnote 1: R Wynberg & D Fig ‘Realising Environmental Rights: Civil Action, Leverage Rights, and Litigation’ in M Langford, B Cousins, J Dugard & T Madlingozi (eds) Symbols or Substance: The Role and Impact of Socio-Economic Rights Strategies in South Africa (Forthcoming 2013) 5.