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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

Resource Manual on Trafficking in Persons for Judicial Officers sees the light
2012-03-27

 

Judge Connie Mocumi, President of the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ), during the launch of the Resource Manual on Trafficking in Persons for Judicial Officers.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs
27 March 2012

On Human Rights Day the Department of Criminal and Medical Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted the launch of the Resource Manual on Trafficking in Persons for Judicial Officers compiled by the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ).

The manual, which will be used by members of the South African judiciary, will equip officials in adjudicating the multifaceted crime of human trafficking.

“Presiding officers must be sensitised about the complexity of the crime. Human trafficking has many faces and presents itself in different ways. A person may for example be trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, the removal of body parts, as well as forced marriages. Expert knowledge is needed to handle these cases effectively in court,” said Dr Kruger, also responsible for the human trafficking initiative in the Unit for Children's Rights at the UFS.

Prior to the launch, a total number of 300 judicial officers, including six judges from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) received training on human trafficking. After receiving this training, the officers were sensitised to scrutinise domestic violence cases as well as inter-country adoption cases in order to identify possible human trafficking activities.

As keynote speaker at the launch, Dr Beatri Kruger from the Department of Criminal and Medical Law at the UFS, said that human traffickers were running operations like a well-oiled machine. They have abundant and sophisticated resources and often bribe corrupt officials to further their criminal activities. In South Africa, people combating human trafficking struggle with a lack of resources as well as comprehensive legislation. Most cases are prosecuted under the Children’s Act and the Sexual Offences Amendment Act of 2007. Unfortunately, this legislation still leaves a gap in the prosecuting of perpetrators. Only trafficking cases where where children are trafficked can be prosecuted under the Children’s Act. In terms of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act perpetrators can be prosecuted for trafficking persons for sexual exploitation only, and not for labour of other forms of trafficking. Therefore the comprehensive Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill 2010 needs to be finalised to cover all forms of trafficking.

There are more slaves today than at any time in the history of humankind. “To combat this serious problem, we need to follow a holistic approach,” said Dr Kruger. This includes prevention (raising awareness), effective prosecution and suitable punishment, the protection of victims, and partnering with all relevant stakeholders, including people in the communities. Community members are often whistle blowers of this crime.

The President of the SAC-IAWJ, Judge Connie Mocumi, handed copies of the manual, a three-year project, to judicial officers present at the launch. The manual covers, among others, the definition of trafficking in persons, trafficking in persons in South Africa and the Southern African region, a legislative framework, victims’ rights and criminal proceedings.

“It is critical that judicial officers appreciate the phenomenon of trafficking in persons in its broader socio-economic context. Therein lays the ability to deal competently with the often-nuanced manifestation of this scourge. The incapacity to recognise these nuances can deny victims access to justice. In that regard, the manual, amongst others, is to become an important empowering adjudication tool for judicial officers,” said Judge Mocumi.

More copies will be printed and be ready for distribution by the beginning of May this year.

Judge Belinda van Heerden, who also attended the launch, said: “There is progress on the judicial and legislative front to bring wrongdoers to book. This manual will go a long way in giving judicial officers insight into the problem.”

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