Aspects concerning the conservation of cultural resources are mainly dealt with in two acts. These are the South African Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) and the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998).
South African Heritage Resources Act
Archaeology, palaeontology and meteorites
Section 35(4) of this act states that no person may, without a permit issued by the responsible heritage resources authority:
- destroy, damage, excavate, alter, deface or otherwise disturb any archaeological or palaeontological site or any meteorite;
- destroy, damage, excavate, remove from its original position, collect or own any archaeological or palaeontological material or object or any meteorite;
- trade in, sell for private gain, export or attempt to export from the Republic any category of archaeological or palaeontological material or object, or any meteorite; or
- bring onto or use at an archaeological or palaeontological site any excavation equipment or any equipment which assists in the detection or recovery of metals or archaeological and palaeontological material or objects, or use such equipment for the recovery of meteorites.
- alter or demolish any structure or part of a structure which is older than 60 years as protected.
The above mentioned may only be disturbed or moved by an archaeologist, after receiving a permit from the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
In terms of Section 36(3) of the National Heritage Resources Act, no person may, without a permit issued by the relevant heritage resources authority:
- destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position of otherwise disturb the grave of a victim of conflict, or any burial ground or part thereof which contains such graves;
- destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position or otherwise disturb any grave or burial ground older than 60 years which is situated outside a formal cemetery administered by a local authority; or
- bring onto or use at a burial ground or grave referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) any excavation, or any equipment which assists in the detection or recovery of metals.
Human remains that are less than 60 years old are subject to provisions of the National Health Act (Act 61 of 2003) and to local regulations.
Exhumation of graves must conform to the standards set out in the Ordinance on Excavations (Ordinance no. 12 of 1980) (replacing the old Transvaal Ordinance no. 7 of 1925). Permission must also be gained from the descendants (where known), the National Department of Health, Provincial Department of Health, Premier of the Province and local police. Furthermore, permission must also be gained from the various landowners (i.e. where the graves are located and where they are to be relocated) before exhumation can take place.
Human remains can only be handled by a registered undertaker or an institution declared under the National Health Act (Act 61 of 2003).
National Environmental Management Act
This act states that a survey and evaluation of cultural resources must be done in areas where development projects, that will change the face of the environment, will be undertaken. The impact of the development on these resources should be determined and proposals for the mitigation thereof are made.