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City of Ekurhuleni Municipality v New Star Technology CC and Zhibing Yuan

23 September 2022

The judgment of the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Johannesburg is available here.

  • Judge: Mia J
  • Judgment delivered: 23 September 2022
  • Outcome: Waste recycling company New Star interdicted from continuing with activities that require various environmental authorisation.

Summary:

Upon receiving a complaint regarding water pollution, air pollution, flies and bad smells emanating from a waste recycling facility, an environmental management inspector (EMI) conducted a site inspection and discovered that a waste recycling company (New Star) was conducting multiple listed activities and operating without the required atmospheric emission licence (AEL) and waste management licence in contravention of various environmental laws.

The EMI indicated their intention to issue a compliance notice. New Star indicated that it did not have the required authorisations but would apply for them. The EMI later issued a compliance notice requiring the company to cease activities, remove process waste and waste water on site and submit a report regarding its safe disposal.  A few months later, the EMI inspected the premises and determined that New Star had shown ‘conspicuous disregard of the law’ by ‘continuing unabated with unauthorised activities in contravention of the environmental laws.’ As a result, the Applicant applied for an interdict to prevent the contraventions continuing.

New Star argued that the Municipality was not competent to obtain the interdict (not empowered to launch the application) and that the MEC should have been joined in the litigation. The director of New Star,  Zhibing Yuan, also argued that he should not have been cited a party in his personal capacity in the litigation as no application to pierce the corporate veil had been made.

The court dismissed both these points in limine after examining the locus standi provisions in s32 of NEMA.

The court found that the requirements for an interdict were met and ordered that New Star be prohibited from operating without at AEL, Waste Management Licence or conducting activities regulated by various waste Norms and Standards. In the event that New Star did not comply, the court ordered that the Municipality be authorized (with the assistance of the sheriff and police or private security) to remove items and illegal structures used to conduct the listed activities.