The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA), can be regarded as our most important piece of national biodiversity legislation. From a cycad trade perspective, it provides us with the legal foundation (supported by regulations) to enforce CITES in South Africa, and to regulate the trade in threatened and protected species (which includes cycads). Noteworthy are the objectives of NEMBA, as they set the tone for cycad conservation in South Africa, NEMBA strives to: 

  1. provide for-
    1. the management and conservation of biological diversity within South Africa and of the components of such biological diversity;
    2. the use of indigenous biological resources in a sustainable manner; and
    3. the fair and equitable sharing among stakeholders of benefits arising from bio-prospecting involving indigenous biological resources;
  2. give effect to ratified international agreements relating to biodiversity which are binding on South Africa (e.g. CITES). 
  3. provide for co-operative governance in biodiversity management and conservation; and
  4. provide for a Scientific Authority, namely the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to assist in achieving the objectives of NEMBA.  SANBI has many functions and must report to and advise the Minister on matters such as the status of South Africa's biodiversity.

Section 56 of NEMBA provides that the Minister of Environmental Affairs may publish a list of species that are threatened or in need of protection. Such a list was published in 2007 and became effective in 2008 and is due to be updated in the near future. In terms of this list all cycads (with the exception of Encephalartos ferrox and Encephalartos cycadifolius) are listed as threatened or in need of protection. Very importantly NEMBA, in section 57, provides that restricted activities (as enumerated in section 1 of NEMBA) involving threatened or protected species may only be undertaken under a permit issued for that activity. Section 57 of NEMBA also enables the Minister of Environmental Affairs to prohibit a restricted activity if such activity may negatively impact the survival of the species. On 14 May 2012 the Minister issued such a prohibition (prohibition notice).

Persons found guilty of offences related to cycads as enumerated in section 101 of NEMBA are liable for the following penalties (section 102 of NEMBA): a fine (equal three times the commercial value of the cycad or 10 million rand, whichever is greater), a jail sentence not exceeding 10 years or both.
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