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National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998)

Chapter 7 : Compliance, Enforcement and Protection

Part 1 : Environmental Hazards, access to information and protection of whistleblowers

31. Access to Environmental Information and Protection of Whistle-Blowers


(1) [Section 31(1) deleted by the National Environmental Laws Amendment Act, 2009 (Act No. 14 of 2009)].


(2) [Section 31(2) deleted by the National Environmental Laws Amendment Act, 2009 (Act No. 14 of 2009)].


(3) [Section 31(3) deleted by the National Environmental Laws Amendment Act, 2009 (Act No. 14 of 2009)].


(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, no person is civilly or criminally liable or may be dismissed, disciplined, prejudiced or harassed on account of having disclosed any information, if the person in good faith reasonably believed at the time of the disclosure that he or she was disclosing evidence of an environmental risk and the disclosure was made in accordance with subsection (5);


(5) Subsection (4) applies only if the person concerned—
(a) disclosed the information concerned to—
(i) a committee of Parliament or of a provincial legislature;
(ii) an organ of state responsible for protecting any aspect of the environment or emergency services;
(iii) the Public Protector
(iv) the Human Rights Commission;
(v) any attorney-general or his or her successor;
(vi) more than one of the bodies or persons referred to in subparagraphs (i) to (v);
(b) disclosed the information concerned to one or more news media and on clear and convincing grounds believed at the time of the disclosure—
(i) that the disclosure was necessary to avert an imminent and serious threat to the environment, to ensure that the threat to the environment was properly and timeously investigated or to protect himself or herself against serious or irreparable harm from reprisals; or
(ii) giving due weight to the importance of open, accountable and participatory administration, that the public interest in disclosure of the information clearly outweighed any need for non-disclosure;
(c) disclosed the information concerned substantially in accordance with any applicable external or internal procedure, other than the procedure contemplated in paragraph (a) or (b), for reporting or otherwise remedying the matter concerned; or
(d) disclosed information which, before the time of the disclosure of the information, had become available to the public, whether in the Republic or elsewhere.


(6) Subsection (4) applies whether or not the person disclosing the information concerned has used or exhausted any other applicable external or internal procedure to report or otherwise remedy the matter concerned.


(7) No person may advantage or promise to advantage any person for not exercising his or her right in terms of subsection (4).


(8) No person may threaten to take any action contemplated by subsection (4) against a person because that person has exercised or intends to exercise his or her right in terms of subsection (4).