Barking up the wrong tree

The efforts of the community to control the hyacinth infestation generated a lot of interest and solicited some compliments from people who thought they saw a reduction in the hyacinth cover on the dam surface. Sadly, all the effort and money invested in the effort hardly created a dent in the infestation. Considerable damage, however, has been affected to the foreshore at the Oewerklub where a pile of rotting, smelly hyacinths and deep ruts of caterpillar and truck tracks are the only evidence of the efforts to demonstrate to the public how the problem could be resolved.
Fact of the matter is that resolving the hyacinth infestation might be too complex for a simple community initiative. Existing legislation makes it clear that the all government entities, i.e. government departments and local authorities, are compelled to maintain a programme for the control of invasive alien species, of which the hyacinth is the most aggressive. This implies that the decision of the Minister of Water and Sanitation to discontinue the Metse A me project, for whatever reason, was illegal and illogical if not replaced by another programme, which it wasn’t.
The question is, did anybody make a proper study of the existing legislation before rushing headlong into efforts to harvest the hyacinths? Was it ascertained whether it was in fact legal to harvest the hyacinths without the consent and participation of the government departments concerned? What exactly were the obligations of the Departments of Water and Sanitation, Environmental Affairs and the Madibeng municipality? What were the liabilities of the people involved?
The popular argument is that “We must do something; we can’t wait for the government.” But the same argument could be used to condone vigilantism.  We let the government get away with not doing its job, while the useful idiots that we are pitch in to do the job ourselves. That’s when officials whose job it is to clean the dam, get away with inane remarks such as “the rich people with their boats can remove the hyacinths themselves.”
Allowing the government entities to get away with not controlling the hyacinth infestation is the same as letting the police get away with not fighting crime. And in both cases the economy suffers.  Hartbeespoort’s economy is desperately dependent on tourism and the hyacinth infestation causes untold damage. Strangely though, the tourism association, which was so vociferous when the Oewerklub decided to ban commercial boating from its premises, is as quiet as a mouse.
The question is, have we been barking up the wrong tree? Instead of asking the public to contribute towards the (illegal) harvesting of hyacinths, shouldn’t the residents of Hartbeespoort who suffer losses as result of the infestation, start a class action against the minister and officials whose neglect causes the losses? There is a law applicable to this situation and they can’t get away with disobeying it simply because their minister says so. Even the minister is not above the law and private prosecution is not as far-fetched as it might seem.

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Still barking up the wrong tree

Willie Meyer

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Still barking up the wrong tree