Clean air and the quality of life

Share their story

Mbali Baduza, 30

Legal researcher at Section27 and deputy-secretary of the South African Climate Justice Coalition
Section27

After graduating from Rhodes University in 2014 with a BA in political science, an honours in international relations and an LLB, Mbali Baduza worked as a candidate attorney at Lawyers for Human Rights, under the refugee and migrant programme and the land and housing unit, managing the Upington satellite office.

Baduza joined Section27 in 2020, as a legal researcher under the health rights programme. “My role as a researcher and activist entails proactively exploring research areas relating to law and human rights — preparing research reports and articles for publication. I am involved with developing advocacy campaigns, drafting court papers and making submissions on proposed policy, legislation, and international frameworks and conventions. I also conduct rights education workshops and develop partnerships locally, regionally and internationally with other human rights organisations,” she says.

Section27 has four priority work areas that use tools of activism such as research, litigation and advocacy to address key issues. “Section27 has resolved to expand the nature of our work to include the intersections between climate justice, health and education. We have joined the Climate Justice Coalition, and have agreed to work together on advocating, educating, training and mobilising around a just transition and transformative climate justice agenda,” Baduza explains.

The organisation also works with partners to advocate for government participation and better prioritisation of human rights-based funding for the following: health and education; the right to basic education guaranteed by section 29 of the Constitution; the prevention of sexual violence and corporal punishment; the provision of safe, hygienic sanitation facilities; learner and teacher support materials; and sufficient classrooms. Beyond education, Section27 advocates affordable, better quality public and private health systems.

“We seek to hold accountable the institutions and public officials that exist to serve the people,” summarises Baduza.

“We work towards building a society where our work is not necessary any more. As long as we are necessary, we will continue to work faithfully and diligently to promote the realisation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution.”

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Sithabiso Mndaba, 26

Sithabiso Mndaba, 26

Chairperson
Siyamthanda Community Services

Sithabiso Mndaba is the chairperson of Siyamthanda Community Services, an NPO that creates an enabling environment for collaborations that drive tangible impacts in communities.

During level five lockdown, Mndaba realised that the uMhlathuze Local Municipality was not able to adequately service the community in which it operated. Taking the initiative, he began with a clean-up, enlisting the help of volunteers. Clearing the litter and other waste was not the sole target of their efforts. Mndaba also cut grass and trimmed foliage in an attempt to beautify his community. With this ethos in mind, Siyamthanda was formed.

Mndaba’s approach to community work centres on empowerment. This extends to the day-to-day work that Siyamthanda engages in and the networks Mndabais building with other NGOs within the sector.

He believes that the maintenance and improvement of the physical location of his community will preserve and enrich both the community and their land.

Future Siyamthanda projects include a series of educational drives to encourage better community management. Mndaba aims to educate his community about proper waste disposal. Following this, he plans to expand Siyamthanda’s role from clean-up to landscaping.

Mental preparation, focus and full support of your colleagues, family and friends is the most important advice that Mndaba can give to anyone trying to make it within his field. To be an environmentalist, one needs to be hands-on, and this kind of approach will invariably lead to interactions with many people. Mndaba’s values will lead the way.

“Everything starts in the mind, so we are looking to initiate a project where we can start teaching kids about sustainability and keeping our environments clean.”

Tshiamo Seape | mg.co.za
Michelle Ludwig, 47

Michelle Ludwig, 47

Chief operating officer and director of education
GreenED

GreenED is an online education resource for professionals and students who want to learn about sustainable, climate resilient design in the built environment and green rating certifications. The platform offers online courses and webinars for continuing professional development credits and Green Star building-related training.

The platform was officially started in 2017 and was developed by Michelle Ludwig along with fellow architects Marloes Reinink and Karen Eicker. “We’ve been senior green building consultants for many years, and realised that we wanted to start educating, because there’s a noted gap in the skills market,” Ludwig says. “There’s always been a big gap for education for green design and green certification.”

Courses on offer at GreenED include subjects ranging from green interiors to net zero water. “We’ve had good feedback and have been very pleased with the production value and quality — something that was missing in the continuing professional development market,” Ludwig says. “The uptake on our live webinars over the last year has gone from 60 to 300 participants.”

The team already offers guest lectures at different universities, and they are looking to package semester courses to address the higher education market. “We also see municipal government departments and facilities managers as an audience with the view of educating them on what they need to know about green design in order to run a building efficiently,” says Ludwig, “and aligning this with the broader sustainable development goals.”

GreenEd is mentoring and training the next generation in competent green design, as well as partnering with green building councils in other African countries, including Ghana and Kenya.

The platform offers online courses and webinars for continuing professional development credits and Green Star building-related training.

Neo Khanyile | mg.co.za
John Coetzee, 67

John Coetzee, 67

Founder, owner and chief executive
Green Worx Cleaning Solutions

As founder, owner and chief executive of Green Worx Cleaning Solutions, John Coetzee is a heavyweight in South Africa’s green cleaning sector. With the promise “we do more than clean your conscience”, his business prides itself on transparency, research and ethical product development — to which its long list of certifications and awards attest. Indeed, Green Worx is a leading eco-accredited biotechnology company both in South Africa and on the continent.

Wary of “greenwashing” — misleading consumers with ambiguous claims — Coetzee’s Green Worx is the culmination of years of dedication to developing hygiene solutions that pair environmental awareness with science. Whereas most widely available cleaning products are made with harsh chemicals, Green Worx’s award-winning formulas use enzymes and probiotics to offer effective solutions that are tough on grime and gentle on the environment.

Prompted by the ongoing global health crisis, Coetzee and his research team compared bio enzyme alternatives to standard sanitising products. Their findings suggest that, while most alcohol-based products are active for only minutes — from the moment the solution is applied to when it dries — probiotic alternatives remain effective for days after application, extending lasting protection against virus contamination.

In addition to championing the effectiveness of ecofriendly cleaning solutions, Coetzee emphasises the relatively low cost of his products compared to most conventional petrochemical brands. Making sustainable products financially accessible is central to his vision. Asked what continues to motivate him in his work, Coetzee cites his business’s contribution to “the climate change requirements of the country” — the national policy mandating net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Using green cleaning products, he says, offers an inexpensive way to effect large-scale change in both domestic and industrial settings.

In creating hygiene solutions that are sustainable, that meet market demands and outperform generic alternatives, Green Worx empowers individuals, companies and industries to meaningfully reduce their impact on the environment. As to his advice for young people looking to implement change in their communities, Coetzee says: “Dream big, act bigger — always look to being cleaner, greener, smarter.”

With the promise “we do more than clean your conscience”, his business prides itself on transparency, research and ethical product development — to which its long list of certifications and awards attest.

Lucienne Bestall | mg.co.za
Centre for Environmental Rights

Centre for Environmental Rights

Centre for Environmental Rights

Established in 2009 by a collective of eight nonprofit civil society organisations, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) is a nonprofit organisation that helps communities and civil society organisations advocate and litigate for environmental justice. The aim of the CER is to defend people’s right to an environment that isn’t detrimental to their health and the health of future generations.

According to section 24 of the Constitution, everyone has the right to an environment that isn’t harmful to their health or wellbeing. Protecting environmental rights means ensuring that considerations of profit and personal gain do not lead to the flouting and noncompliance of environmental protection laws.

In a country that frequently under-invests in enforcement, it is often up to communities and civil society organisations to hold businesses and industries with the power to do major environmental damage accountable. Providing legal assistance in these situations is the CER’s mandate.

Notable CER successes include preventing a coal mine from being built in a protected area in Mpumalanga, overturning a state decision to not disclose greenhouse gas emissions data submitted by corporations, and winning an appeal against a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation defamation suit brought by a mining company against CER attorneys and associated activists.

The CER has also trained more than 60 community environmental justice activists over the past four years at their Environmental Rights and Remedies School, and it runs an ongoing campaign encouraging divestment from fossil fuels by finance institutions. The power to hold government and corporations accountable depends on an active civil society, and if we are to protect our environment, we must never stop mobilising for climate justice.

Civil society has both the right and the power to use environmental laws to hold government and corporations to their legal obligations.

Anita Makgetla | mg.co.za
Olivia Rumble, 37

Olivia Rumble, 37

Director
Climate Legal

Olivia Rumble is an admitted attorney of the high courts of Johannesburg and Cape Town, and holds a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Stellenbosch University, as well as an LLB and LLM from the University of Cape Town.

She and Andrew Gilder, also an admitted attorney with 17 years of legal experience, are the directors of Climate Legal, a consultancy firm that works with government, industry and civil society to support the development of climate legislation and policy in South Africa.

Their work is made easy because South Africa is so advanced when it comes to climate change plans, agendas, policies, strategies and frameworks. “The country has been incubating climate policy since at least 2000 and, as a result, our plans and policies are relatively mature. We are in a welcome space of fine-tuning them, engaging with barriers to implementation, mainstreaming them across other instruments and costing their implementation,” says Rumble.

Rumble and Gilder also co-drafted and co-edited a book on South African carbon tax with Mansoor Park and Geoff Stiles. It was released last year, and an updated version was published in October. “The book unpacks the complexity around carbon tax — which was implemented last year — and tries to situate the tax within a wider policy and environmental legal framework, making it more accessible to practitioners,” says Rumble.

Up next is a book on climate change law and policy in the Southern African Development Community, as Rumble and Gilder believe we need greater global awareness of the impressive climate change legal and policy responses being developed in Africa.

“The country has been incubating climate policy since at least 2000 and, as a result, our plans and policies are relatively mature.”

Buntu Ngcuka | mg.co.za