The Magaliesberg has enjoyed a protected status since 1977 which has prevented the range being spoiled by visually intrusive or inappropriate development. And so it was until 2008 when the view towards the west was marred by the erection of Kgaswane Country Lodge, inside the protected area.
The three-storey high buildings fail to blend in with the natural environment. The architectural style is intrusive and the visual impact is high. And the development is within the Protected Environment.
The Magaliesberg Protection Association (MPA) was established in 1975 with the purpose of conserving the range. In spite of good environmental legislation, strategic planning in the form of an Environmental Management Framework, and the efforts of the MPA, this development exists.
MPA approaches the Supreme Court of Appeal
Not only did Kgaswane Country Lodge fail to obtain authorisation, but the Environmental Impact Assessment on which the rectification was based, was riddled with inaccuracies and errors.
Nonetheless, the environmental authorities in North West permitted the development to continue.
Taking up its role as Guardian of the Magaliesberg, the MPA challenged the decision to allow the developer to apply for rectification. The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) provides for "rectification" (S24G) when a development has taken place or commenced without the required environmental authorisation.
The Judge did not permit the errors in the EIA to be challenged in court. The Judge sealed the fate of the application with questions that gave some insight into the official viewpoint: she asked advocate for the MPA, Peter Lazarus, why his pleadings kept on referring to the environment and not to the economy and jobs.
As long as the Judiciary has no appreciation for the few areas defined as sensitive in South Africa, our environmental safety net fails.
Where are the regulations?
But the biggest failing rests with the environmental authorities of North West who have not carried out their mandated responsibilities with regard to this extraordinary treasure. If regulations governing the Magaliesberg Protected Area had been in place, the Judge would have no choice but to rule on whether there was compliance or not. The authorisation would be simple – does the proposed development fit or not.
Why are the regulations still not in place? How does the application for listing a Biosphere Reserve with UNESCO proceed with certainty that the core area is adequately protected?