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Green Scorpions - Environmental Management Inspectorate

Author: Claire Tucker and Wandisile Mandlana - Bowman Gilfillan

( Article Type: Explanation )


Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) commonly called Green Scorpions are a network of environmental enforcement officials from different government departments. This includes The Department of Environmental Affairs, provincial environmental departments and other provincial and municipal organs of the state.

They are appointed in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 2008.

The mandate and functions of EMI


According to the DEA website, “EMI must see to it that environmental legislation is followed and enforced. The EMIs have the powers to:

Investigate: question witnesses, inspect and remove articles, take photographs and audiovisual recordings, take samples and remove waste

Inspect: enter premises to ascertain whether legislation is being followed and seize evidence of criminal activity

Enforce: search premises, containers, vessels, vehicles, aircraft and pack animals; seize evidence and contraband; establish road blocks and make arrests.

Administrate: issue compliance notices and admission of guilt fines

The EMIs are not empowered to prosecute cases in court. All cases continue to be handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution. The EMIs therefore work closely with prosecutors country wide to ensure the successful prosecution of offenders.


Roles of EMI in relation to the South African Police Service

The South African Police Service continues to play a crucial role in enforcing environmental legislation and EMIs work closely with the SAPS in the investigation of environmental crimes. In terms of the National Environment Management Act, all police officers have the powers of an EMI.”


Companies and the EMI

The biggest exposure most companies have is from technical non-compliances with conditions imposed in an Environmental Authorisation (often called RoDs) issued in terms of NEMA or similar permit conditions, such as the conditions contained in a Waste Management License issued in terms of the National Environmental Management, Waste Act, 2008 and others.

For this reason it is important to carefully design an environmental management programme to ensure awareness and ongoing compliance with each of the conditions in any authorization which the company has. A further exposure is undertaking a listed activity without an environmental authorization.

There have been a number of changes to the activities which are listed over the years and it is important for companies to keep up to date with these changes and reexamine their operations from time to time, especially when undertaking any sort of expansion at an existing activity.


Issue of a Compliance Notice

Where a company is failing to comply with a permit condition or with some other provisions of an environmental statute, a compliance notice may be issued by the DEA. When issuing a compliance notice, the DEA does not have to believe there is any actual harm to the environment from the transgression but simply that there is non-compliance with a technical, legally binding requirement.


Issue of a Directive

The DEA also has power to issue a directive. Unlike a compliance notice the authorities may only issue a directive if they believe that actions by the company are actually causing pollution or other damage or degradation to the environment. The obligation in the statutes is to take reasonable measures to avoid such pollution or damage.

A directive may result in the closure of operations. 

For general information on EMIs and their contact details: visit


0800 205 005